Introduction: Blow Your Own Air-horn

Picture of Blow Your Own Air-horn

Most sports-fans are familiar with the extremely loud air-horns powered by a can of compressed air.

This Instructable tells you how to make your own air-horn from common house-hold scraps.

With a little practice, each air-horn takes under five minutes to make, so an evening's work can produce enough air-horns for even the largest family to enjoy around the Christmas table, or to dole out as party-favours so that the dear little ones can take some of the party fun home to the parents who didn't help arrange the party... ;-)

Step 1: Equipment and Materials

Picture of Equipment and Materials

A sharp knife or scissors with a pointed blade.

A 35mm film cannister or similar plastic pot.

A balloon.

A straw.

(You'll probably have to buy the balloons and straws, but you can scrounge film cannisters from your local photo-developing store. I get 20 or 30 a time from our local "Boots".)

Step 2: Drilling.

Picture of Drilling.

The air-horn needs two holes, one for air to enter, one for it to leave. The exit hole, in the centre of the cannister's base, is most critical, since it needs to form an air-tight fit around the straw.

If you pause and check the fit every few turns, you should reach a point where the straw can be pushed snugly in without being crushed or distorted.

Drill a second hole in the side of the cannister, roughly the size of the hole in the base. Scrape the edges smooth, as this is where your mouth will be going.

Step 3: The Diaphragm.

Picture of The Diaphragm.

Air-horns have a vibrating diaphragm to generate the sound. In this version, the diaphragm is a balloon.

Take an ordinary toy balloon and look at it. You should see that it has a crease around it. Since the diaphragm works best when it is flat, cut the balloon in half along the crease.

Step 4: Optional Step - a Big Hole in the Lid.

Picture of Optional Step - a Big Hole in the Lid.

The air-horn works perfectly with a whole lid, but you may find it easier to adjust your first air-horn if you can see the diaphragm.

To this end, cut a big hole in the middle of the lid.

That's it. End of step.

Step 5: Assembly.

Picture of Assembly.

Lay the balloon over the top of the cannister and put the lid on so that it is pulled fairly tight. If you have a hole in the lid, you will be able to check that the balloon is smooth and tight.

Slide your straw into the bottom of the cannister until it presses against the diaphragm. Again, if you have a hole in the lid, you will be able to see where the end of the straw ends up.

That's it. The air-horn is made.

Go on, try it. Pucker up to the hole in the side and give it a blow.

Step 6: It Doesn't Work?

If you're lucky, the horn will sound first time. Well done.

If all you get is a feeble hiss, keep blowing and gently nudge the straw harder against the balloon by tapping against the end of the straw.

On the other hand, if you just get silence and bulging cheeks you need to pull the straw out very slightly.

Step 7: Hacking the Make.

I know you. If you're reading this, you probably won't stick to the basic instructions. You're probably already wondering if that plastic pot you keep your nails in would do the job, and you're fairly sure you've got an old rubber glove somewhere...

Yes, they probably will work. Film cannisters and balloons were just the easiest materials I had to hand, but I've also made one with a plastic snack pot and using the palm of a disposable rubber glove for the diaphragm.

Could you make one from a bucket? A dustbin?

What about the air supply? Blow too hard, for too long, you'll start seeing stars and have to have a nice sit down.

I made a basic model with a small inlet-hole, so it was a snug fit for the needle adaptor of a bicycle pump. That worked, honking nicely for every push of the pump. A larger stirrup-style pump I borrowed had a small air-reservoir, and with practice that gave a steady drone.

Tuning? What about tuning?

I haven't looked into this properly yet, but the note seems to be linked to the length of the tube you use, the tube's diameter and the tightness of the diaphragm.

Can you make it play a proper note? Could you make it tuneable?

Go on, enjoy yourself and don't annoy the neighbours too much ...


Kiteman (author)2016-08-14

Oh, wow - ten years later, this project is still inspiring Makes.

Go see:

Kryptonite (author)2008-09-29

Hmm, if i was gonna make about 20 of these for a birthday party, i'd want it to be less breakable, what if I hot glued the straw into place where it goes through the hole at the bottom of the canister and cut the straw bit that is sticking out off at about 6 cm (about 2")?

Kiteman (author)Kryptonite2008-09-30

That would work, but you'd have to be very sure the straw was in the right place before you glued it. If you could manage it, you could replace the straw with a stiffer tube, say a section of pen barrel, then it is less likely to wobble away from the perfect position. Trimming it short is not a problem - I have made them with full-length straws, and with straws trimmed almost flush to the pot, they all worked.

Kryptonite (author)Kiteman2008-09-30

Thx! Haha, my little bro's gonna love these, though i'm not when he keeps using it every 5 seconds...

crapflinger (author)2006-12-12

OOOHH had an idea for modification!...a WHOLE bunch of these things of various sizes hooked to an air compressor with either foot pedals or solenoids or something that you could use to "blow" each horn indipendantly or at the same time etc... NEW musical instrument...we could go on tour!

Kiteman (author)crapflinger2006-12-12

:-D Bring your own earplugs!

pyro13 (author)Kiteman2007-09-25

How loud are these things? Are they as loud as a real air horn?

Kiteman (author)pyro132007-09-25

They don't hurt, but they make a room stop and look. We did this with 25 Cubs - the noise was bad, and annoying, but our ears didn't ring afterwards.

blugyblug (author)Kiteman2008-08-21

About as loud as a blown-up balloon letting off all the air?

Kiteman (author)blugyblug2008-08-21

Maybe louder - When I blow mine, it can be heard through two closed doors.

acer73 (author)crapflinger2007-06-13

That is basicaly a organ

arthaha (author)crapflinger2007-03-01

some kind of valve system : )

PKM (author)2007-11-16

Amazing... it's been a while since I've read an Instructable and immediately gone to make it. Took about ten minutes from scrounging parts to it working! Possible discovery for people wanting to tune them- my straw is a slightly loose fit so needs holding against the diaphragm to sound properly, and the note can be adjusted a little by changing the force with which it is pushed against the diaphragm. Has anyone considered adding another tube to the "in" hole and using another (whole) balloon as a low-tech air supply? Could be fillod by blowing through it backwards, and the possibilities for adding a solenoid valve and using it as an alarm clock are frankly worrying...

Kiteman (author)PKM2007-11-16

Glad you appreciated it! The alarm-clock idea, though ... I can't say I fancy being woken by one of these...!

henryqiu (author)2014-12-23

You took this from KipKay, you should give him credit

Kiteman (author)henryqiu2014-12-24

How did I steal it when I published two YEARS before he did?

I know the camera angles look the same, and so does the layout of each shot, but that's not because I stole the idea off Kipkay, it's because Kipkay stole the idea off me (he's known for stealing ideas and not giving credit, check him out).

Dumchicken (author)2011-03-13

this is kipkays air horn!

Kiteman (author)Dumchicken2011-03-14

No, this is my air-horn.

I avoid Kipkay's projects, as I prefer to read original work.

Dumchicken (author)Kiteman2011-04-25

i'm saying that this is exsaklee (sorry for bad spelling)like his

Kiteman (author)Dumchicken2011-04-26

Check the dates.

I published this two years before Kipkay posted "his" horn.

Who do you think copied who?

yapoyo (author)Kiteman2012-08-22

He could have thought of the idea before you, but he made the video after this instruct able was posted.

Kiteman (author)yapoyo2012-08-22

Possible, but not likely, especially given the more-than-superficial similarity to the appearance.

Dumchicken (author)Kiteman2011-05-06

he made the vid before this then he posted it after yours

Kiteman (author)Dumchicken2011-05-06

You reckon? Have you asked him?

Kipkay is known for lifting other folks' projects without giving credit.

Dream Dragon (author)2010-09-27

Did you know, that this kind of instrument is a "Membranophone"?

Kiteman (author)Dream Dragon2010-09-27

I do now - thank you!

Dream Dragon (author)Kiteman2010-09-27

There have been "traditional" instruments that used "natural membranes" but latex based membranes like yours are fairly common on "DIY" bagpipes, they are less tempramental than reeds.

guitarwizard94 (author)2010-02-20

how would one compare the volume of this device?

Kiteman (author)guitarwizard942010-02-21

Use a decibel meter.

You can buy them, or you can even buy an app now!

guitarwizard94 (author)Kiteman2010-02-21

Well other than having to spend money, like compared to something else in the home.

Kiteman (author)guitarwizard942010-02-21

Oh, sorry, I get you now.

Made well, they're loud enough to make people flinch and jump.  Think close to a referee's whistle.

guitarwizard94 (author)Kiteman2010-02-21

Thank you very much! I was planning on using them at a hockey game in a week and wanted to know if they would be worthy enough! Great instructable!

Speedmite (author)2010-02-07

Just wondering, is tighter o looser better?

Also, I was quite annoying to my family hehehe....

I found that it is more effective on my make, to blow thru it backwards, having the straw as the outlet. Then it is also easier to tune, and hold the same note better. I used a long medicine bottle.

Kiteman (author)Speedmite2010-02-08

My best answer is it depends.

Changing the tightness changes the note and the volume, but too tight, and no air can get through, too loose and there is nothing stopping the air, and it just hisses.

Speedmite (author)Kiteman2010-02-08

Ok, I should have it good. I was just wondering If I should pursue tweaking, or leave it alone.

bassclarinet23 (author)2009-10-13

So the straw is vibrating to make the actual noise?

Kiteman (author)bassclarinet232009-10-13

No, the balloon vibrates as it rapidly lifts off the straw and drops back again.

bassclarinet23 (author)Kiteman2009-10-14

Okay, cool. Nice instructable.

Kiteman (author)bassclarinet232009-10-14


minerug (author)2009-08-23

Great almost-instant project! Someone should feel sorry for my parents

Kiteman (author)minerug2009-08-23

Have you made them?

minerug (author)Kiteman2009-08-24

Yes, very pleased with the results

hobo joe (author)2008-10-19

thers lots of instructables on this stuff but got to say urs is the EZ est to understand.

minerug (author)hobo joe2009-08-23

I second that

Kiteman (author)minerug2009-08-23

Thank you.

Kiteman (author)hobo joe2008-10-19

Thanks, you're welcome.

Lithium Rain (author)Kiteman2008-10-19

Haha! :D

CameronSS (author)2007-03-01 balloon, 55 gallon drum and air compressor...

How about weather balloon, air tank, air compressor, 2" pvc, 55 gallon drum, and a heavy duty drill. THAT might just work.

BlueFusion (author)CameronSS2007-05-31

A) Don't know if that would even work and b) an air compressor wouldn't cut it if it did. Air compressors provide pressure, you need volume and only a little pressure. Maybe if you connected several (proper, electric ones with a tank) air compressors to one tank, or linked their tanks, that might work. One thing to be sure of: Even a weather balloon won't survive that much vibrating for long. It will get shredded before long. Try it anyway. With earmuffs.

About This Instructable




Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
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