Author Topic: Powder Horns and Humidity?  (Read 1032 times)

Offline Hunterdude

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Powder Horns and Humidity?
« on: January 13, 2022, 02:05:42 AM »
I want to purchase or make a smallish powder horn for my .32 squirrel rifle. I am wondering if there are features or design elements that will allow the powder to stay dry in the horn long term? Rain proof of course, but thinking about powder stored in horn for up to a year....can a horn keep powder fresh in high humidity conditions? Is opening the horn to load in humid weather a non issue?

Offline MuskratMike

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2022, 02:10:49 AM »
My horns hang in my garage along with their corresponding bags and accruements. Some of the horns have 3F powder in them that's been there for a couple of years. If you horn is airtight and plugged well you should be okay, but I will let someone like Tim Crosby give you a much more educated answer.
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
Keep your eyes on the skyline, your flint sharp and powder dry.

Offline Daryl

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2022, 03:27:40 AM »
Just sitting in the horn works for me.
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2022, 07:39:03 AM »
Properly made BP with the correct ingredients will not absorb significant water from the air. Not enough to effect performance. If it did how could the  worlds navys in the age of sail keep their guns firing? Make it water tight and stop worrying.
Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrantĒ. James Madison

Offline Jeff Murray

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2022, 08:42:13 AM »
 I  "reactivated" an old horn for a hunting trip that held powder at least 10 years old.  No problem.  Shot fast and to the same point of aim off the bench.  If your horn will hold water when plugged, it will also keep it out when plugged.

Offline Mike from OK

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2022, 10:48:06 AM »
I am assuming that clumps in powder are a good indicator of absorption of moisture via humidity... Is that correct?

I have removed the lid from 1 lb jugs of (previously opened) powder and had some clumps. But I have never had that issue with powder stored in horns... Or it wasn't readily apparent anyway. I know for a fact that I have a horn of Goex OE 3f that I haven't used in well over a year that seems to be unaffected.

Just my experience.

Mike

Offline Tim Crosby

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2022, 01:40:29 PM »
 What everyone has said has been similar to my experiences. I have a horn that was my Dad's, he passed in '91, it's been hanging on a rack since and the powder will pour just as good as it did then.
I would just make sure it is air tight.

  Tim

Offline Daryl

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2022, 08:16:25 PM »
I am assuming that clumps in powder are a good indicator of absorption of moisture via humidity... Is that correct?

I have removed the lid from 1 lb jugs of (previously opened) powder and had some clumps. But I have never had that issue with powder stored in horns... Or it wasn't readily apparent anyway. I know for a fact that I have a horn of Goex OE 3f that I haven't used in well over a year that seems to be unaffected.

Just my experience.

Mike

Clumps could mean absorbed moisture enough to make the powder wet to stick together, then dried and thus clumps. I had this in the 5 pound drum of American Deadshot I came across in the 1970's. Apparently that powder company blew up in 1898, thus this powder had some age.  It had clumps of hard dry shiny grains. I easily broke them with my fingers - best powder I had shot up until that time and even to today - best powder EVER. It did have a few chunks of rust from the can, as well, but I sifted those out with a screen.
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V

Offline Dunc NZ

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2022, 01:42:24 PM »
 I wonder if horns are slightly porous and "breath " keeping powder dry, or at least at a low moisture content . Elephant powder had a high water content and when stored in horns would shrink in volume slightly , or in my basement they did

Online Tim Ault

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2022, 03:35:10 PM »
Iíve been following this thread as I always had the same question , itís been mentioned to make sure itís air tight , how would you go about testing that it is air tight ?

Offline Mike from OK

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2022, 04:22:19 PM »
Iíve been following this thread as I always had the same question , itís been mentioned to make sure itís air tight , how would you go about testing that it is air tight ?

After verifying the horn is empty... Unplug the spout and blow in it like playing a trumpet. You'll hear the air hiss out if it's not tight.

Mike

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2022, 08:13:16 PM »
With black powder you will expect to see about a .5% moisture content fresh from the can. The moisture being in the skin of the grains in the film of charcoal minerals and potassium nitrate forming the skin on the created created by drying and polishing.  If the powder grains do not have a thick coating of graphite this clumping together might occur.  This is typical behavior for all solids that have a crystalline structure.  Think of table salt you buy that has an "anti-blocking" agent added before packaging.  Without that anti-blocking agent the salt tends to form hard lumps that are fused together.  Just a trace of water on the surfaces of the grains will cause them to bound.  Normally black powder grains will clump but not fuse together solid.  With powder horns watch the seam between the wood top and the horn.  With expansion and contraction of the wood plug you can get tiny gaps between the wood plug and the horn on opposite sides.    I would sometimes go around that seam with some beeswax to seal it.  The horn itself transfers almost no moisture into the hollow core.  Horn will soften in water but is not overly permeable.  Most horn has a density higher than that of water so it is not more than slightly permeable.  Tight fitting spout plug and sealed horn cap gives very long protection to the contents of the horn.

Offline Marcruger

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2022, 09:49:49 PM »
Hunterdude,   Mad Monk always shares great wisdom with us, and tells us the "whys" behind his recommendations.  I always pay close attention. 

I would add that I store my horns in the same climate I live in.  Partly to prevent bugs, but also to preserve them long term.  I know some leave their horns in a garage, but that is not my way. 

God Bless,  Marc

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2022, 09:50:31 PM »
I have made a few horns and on some of them I put the base of  the horn in a pan of water and blew into the spout to check for air bubbles. I would do as Mad Monk does with the bees wax and that seemed to help if my base plug wasnt as tight as should be.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2022, 10:14:08 PM »
Hunterdude,   Mad Monk always shares great wisdom with us, and tells us the "whys" behind his recommendations.  I always pay close attention. 

I would add that I store my horns in the same climate I live in.  Partly to prevent bugs, but also to preserve them long term.  I know some leave their horns in a garage, but that is not my way. 

God Bless,  Marc

Marc,

The thing with powder horns is once you tart handling them with hands that have the black powder shooting residue on them will cause horn eating bugs to avoid them at all costs.  I live here in center city.  One year the inner city had a huge problem with bed bugs.  I had to go over my room with two different types of bed bugs.  Here in center city these mid-1800s constructed row homes are all tight up against each other and a bug infestation in one home quickly spreads to the other homes through adjoining walls.  When I exterminated my room I was in for a shock.  The end of the room I keep my bp guns and supplies in was totally free of any bed bugs.  The even low traces of sulfur kept them away.  Then I remembered Washington at Valley force.  Once a month they would burn a few ounces of gunpowder in the troops log cabins to prevent bugs from getting to the troops.   Then I also remember way back as a kid where they sold sulfur candles at hardware stores to burn in the house to drive out insects.  Sure beat some of the cancer causing insect sprays they now sell to be used in the house. 

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2022, 10:27:16 PM »
I have made a few horns and on some of them I put the base of  the horn in a pan of water and blew into the spout to check for air bubbles. I would do as Mad Monk does with the bees wax and that seemed to help if my base plug wasnt as tight as should be.

Smylee,

When I first started doing powder horns back in 1980 I set up a wood lath in the basement to turn uniformly round plugs for the horns.  Then wonder a few months later why the horn tops were no longer perfectly circular.  Then I read about how wood deals with picking up and giving back moisture to the air.  When the wood picks up moisture the expansion of the wood is far from uniform.  Wood picks up moisture on the end grain.  Abut 80% of the moisture is picked up on end grain.  Only about 25% cross grain.  So the growth of the piece is much greater in the grain direction than across the grain.  So if the wood picks up a good bit of moisture it starts to form something of an oval rather than perfectly circular.  So that cycling then forms tiny gaps between the horn and the plug. So you go after the gaps with beeswax.  This then kicks in depending how the horn cap is made.  A plug that is flush across the top of the horn is less prone to moisture size change because you have cut down on end grain access to the air.  Now if you have a tall fancy turned horn plug you have a good bit of wood end grain exposed to the air.  A finish on the wood will mitigate day to day chances in wood moisture level but has no effect on seasonal changes in wood moisture content.  Here at this time of the year a wood moisture content of 5% would be about average.  Then in August with heat and humidity that moisture content can go up as high as 15%. 

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2022, 11:22:19 PM »
Thanks for that info Mad Monk. Interesting point and one that might influence a persons thoughts on horn base plug design when making a horn.

Offline Jeff Murray

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2022, 04:55:27 AM »
I have always preferred plugs that were fitted to the shape of the horn with the long grain showing.  In my imagination they would be more like those made by hunters who had only a few tools to work with.  They also match a couple of originals I have.  Now I have found out there was actually an intelligent reason for doing it that way.  Isn't life grand.

Offline Levy

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Re: Powder Horns and Humidity?
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2022, 04:58:11 AM »
I read a reference years ago about a request that was made by the De Luna Expedition in Florida (1540's) and they wanted powder horns to be sent up from Cuba (may have been Puerto Rico) to Pensacola to replace the triangular shaped flasks that didn't effectively keep the powder dry enough.  The one triangular flask (estuche?) that I worked on was made from thin panels of wood covered in cloth or leather with metal corners.  It came from a well in St. Augustine.  I can see where a horn would be better than that in Florida's damp climate.  They also requested a stock maker to replace or repair matchlock stocks, but no one was inclined to come.  They replied to send them back and they would fix them.  The expedition failed to some degree because of a hurricane that sank their ships and ruined a lot of supplies.  James Levy
James Levy