Coffee Creamer Cannon





Introduction: Coffee Creamer Cannon

If you've seen the Mythbusters episode where they make a device of a similar name, then most of this will need very little explanation.  I'm going to show you how to make a system that will launch coffee creamer into the air and set it on fire.  It really boils down to "fill a container with pressurized air, put some coffee creamer in another container with some plumbing between the two, add fire, and blow it all into the air."  I've really just scaled it down to a manageable level.

All the parts to make this should be available at your local hardware store.  The only parts I had any trouble finding were the 3" pressure rated PVC and replacement valve stems, which cannot be had from the big box stores.  You need a real hardware store for that.  I don't remember exactly how much it cost me to put this together, but it was less than $50.

As with all projects on Instructables I've read that involve fire and pressurized air, I'll take a moment to say that I'm not responsible for your safety.  However, I was able to put this together in one day and start making fireballs without any damage to life, limb, or property.  If you're careful and at least cognizant of your surroundings, you really should have no problem with this.

That said, here's what you'll need to make the fire happen:

1 - 5 foot piece of 3" pressure-rated PVC  (it's critical that this be pressure rated and not foam core)
1 - 10 foot piece of 1/2" PVC
1 - 2 foot piece of 1 1/2" PVC

1 - 3" PVC end cap
1 - 3" - 2" PVC reducing bushing
1 - 2" - 1 1/2" PVC reducing bushing
2 - 1 1/2" - 1/2' reducing bushings
1 - 1/2" pipe nipple
1 - 1/2" brass ball valve
2 - 1/2" PVC male adapters
1 - 1/2" PVC 90° elbow
1 - 1 1/2" PVC coupling
1 - replacement valve stem for a lawn mower tire
1 - can of PVC primer
1 - can of PVC cement
1 - roll of thread tape

An air compressor will be a huge help when you're ready to pressurize the device, and of course coffee creamer is a necessity.  The final ingredient in this recipe is a few boxes of regular firework sparklers which are available everywhere.  Even here in Georgia.

Step 1: Create the Pressure Chamber

For this step, we'll use:
1 - replacement valve stem
1 - 5 foot piece of 3" pressure-rated PVC
1 - 3" PVC end cap
1 - 3" - 2" PVC reducing bushing
1 - 2" - 1 1/2" PVC reducing bushing
1 - 1 1/2" - 1/2" PVC reducing bushing
1 - 1/2 inch pipe nipple
1 - brass ball valve

First, drill a hole in the 3" end cap, to insert the valve stem.  For me, this was the most difficult part of the entire job.  It's best to drill the hole a little smaller than you think you need it to be, then force the rubber valve stem into the hole.  I also added some epoxy on both sides of the stem, just to make sure it doesn't push back into the chamber once it is done.  The final product should look like the second photo on this step.

Then, assemble the PVC parts as shown in the photos.  Prime and cement all the non-threaded joints to ensure that you get a good strong bond.  Use thread tape on the threaded joints, to make sure they are sealed nice and tight.  Put the end cap with the valve stem on one end, and the reducing bushings on the other, until you've reduced the 3" PVC down to the 1/2" pipe nipple.  This will screw into the brass valve.

Finally, add the brass valve to the end of the pipe nipple, and your pressure chamber is done.  Leave this for at least 2 hours per the PVC cement instructions to ensure that everything has set properly.  See the third photo on this step for what the finished piece should look like.

Step 2: Create the Launching End

For this step, we'll use:
1 - 10 foot piece of half inch PVC
1 - 2 foot piece of 1 1/2" PVC
2 - 1/2" PVC male adapters
1 - 1/2" PVC 90° elbow
1 - 1 1/2" - 1/2" PVC reducing bushing
1 - 1 1/2" PVC coupling

First, cut about 3 inches from your 10 foot length of 1/2" PVC.  Then, attach the 3 inch piece to the 10 foot piece with the elbow, using the PVC primer and cement.

Next, attach the 1/2" PVC male adapters to the opposite ends of both the 10 foot and 3 inch lengths of PVC.

After allowing 10-15 minutes for those parts to dry, screw the 1 1/2" - 1/2" reducing bushing onto the short end of your elbow, and dry fit the 1 1/2" coupling and the 2 foot section of PVC onto the end.  There is no reason to cement these two pieces on, but I suppose you could.  When all is said and done, it should look pretty much like what is shown in the second photo on this step.  Again, give it a few hours for all your joints to dry, then attach the entire thing to the opposite end of the brass valve.

Step 3: Make Fire

A few final words of caution before I start this part.  Always do this outside.  Dust fires are terribly hazardous indoors.  Always make sure you know what is around you, and that you have plenty of room above you.  You're about to shoot a fireball at least 10-20 feet into the air, so what is above the end of the device is important.  Your sparklers probably will come down to the ground still burning.  Be prepared to put them out, or at least know what you're going to set on fire when they come down.

Now, let's make a fireball.

You'll need something to keep the nozzle end of the device upright.  I used two cement blocks, which worked fine.

Using a bike pump or an air compressor with a tire-inflating valve, pressurize the air chamber.  You really don't have to go over 50 psi to make this work, and in our test-shots we found that over-pressurizing the chamber almost always resulted in a misfire.

Fill the 2 foot length of PVC about half way with coffee creamer.  The exact amount doesn't seem to be critical, so just eyeball it. 

Light 5-6 sparklers and drop them into the tube on top of the coffee creamer, and get everyone out of the immediate area.  If you're wondering why 5-6 sparklers, it seems to about the right amount to ensure that the cloud of coffee creamer ignites.  Too few, and you get a lot more misfires.

Open the ball valve, and shoot everything into the air.  Physics will handle the rest.  The video below gives a good idea of what happens when everything goes as planned.



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    i bet aluminum powder would be rather intense

    Pretty amazing. I have heard of people making sawdust cannons. Does sawdust work too? What about flower? powdered sugar? you should experiment with different powders.

    3 replies

    I'm a bit late, but flour works too. I have only tried self- raising flour, but when I threw it at a flame, it made some decent flames. I presume, sticking to what Celtophiliamike says, any flour would work.

    Hey, thanks for bringing that up, as I meant to include it in the text to begin with, and of course forgot.

    According to an informed source, just about any dust is combustible in the right air/fuel ratio. When we were firing off the test shots last weekend, we ran out of coffee creamer, and started feeding corn starch into it. It worked just as well. Then, when we ran out of corn starch, we used powdered sugar with the same results.

    I'm not sure about sawdust, because a lot of sawdust isn't really small enough pieces. Wood meal would probably work, or really fine sawdust I guess.

    The first thing I saw like this was on Youtube and it used sawdust, although I am not sure how fine the dust was.

    Let's see some video on the different powders!

    Question: Illegal?
    Answer: Probably........................(yes)

    Awesome!! I've always thought of making one of these but never ended up doing it. It's nice to see one here on Instructables. Great job!! : )

    1 reply

    Thanks. When I first started thinking about building it, I looked here first and was surprised to find there wasn't one already. Glad I could finally make a contribution.