Easy Candy Floss (Cotton Candy) Machine from Junk

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Picture of Easy Candy Floss (Cotton Candy) Machine from Junk

Candy floss (or cotton candy) is great, but expensive to buy and hardly worth investing in a dedicated machine.

This is a quick project using an existing kitchen pot (unharmed) and a handful of junk that you probably have lying around to make your own candy floss from ordinary table sugar.

Essentially all you need for a candyfloss machine is a container of sugar with tiny holes in that you can heat (to melt the sugar) and spin around (to throw out the little threads of sweetness).  We'll put this inside a big pot because you don't necessarily want strands of re-solidified sugar all over your kitchen.

I'm entering this instructable in the Jury-Rig It contest 'cos it's a treat-machine rigged up from junk bits I had lying around.

Step 1: Things you need:

Picture of Things you need:
You will need:

Construction items:

A jet-lighter (£3 off ebay).  These are lighters that burn with a blue flame.  They are hotter than normal lighters and don't cover everything in soot.  Get one that locks "on" because you don't want your arm covered in candy-floss from holding it.
Small DC motor (e.g. 9V - £1 or so again off ebay)
Battery for motor (pp3 in my case)
Battery connector
Small tin of food.  Mine was around 6cm high and had kidney beans in.  Tuna tins would be the right size but might give you fish-flavoured candy-floss.
Small lid in which your lighter will stand (miik bottle lid in my case)
Deep pot or bucket - the one in the first picture was much too small.  I used a stockpot in the end but a clean bucket would be fine.
Long baton -  longer than your pot is wide.  I used the runner from an old dishwasher drawer but anything wood or thin metal would work.
Long bar or tube as a stand-off (about 6").  I used a brass bar because I had it to hand and brass is nice and soft.  A wooden dowel would probably work too.
Small nut, bolt and washer.  I used steel so that it would tap itself into my brass standoff.


Bamboo skewers
5-minute epoxy


Drill with bits including a very small (1mm or less) bit.
Soldering station.
Tin snips or Can-opener
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gecko_girl32 years ago
Awesome 'ible!

You can crush your favorite hard candy to turn into delicious cotton candy. One of my family's favorites is lifesavers. We add single flavors or mix 2 or 3 together. Always comes out delicious. Lifesavers also offers a sugar free option. You can't tell the difference.

Yummy Earth makes delicious hard candy/lollipops that we've also used. So VERY delicious.

If you want that true cotton candy flavor you can buy floss sugar. It's pretty easy to find online.

Have fun and remember to brush your teeth after all that sugar. :)
Ugifer (author)  gecko_girl32 years ago
What a great plan! I only tried basic table sugar and that pretty closely resembled the cotton candy that you buy. I must try this with crushed West Indian Limes - that would be incredible.


Ugifer (author)  RowenConnects1 year ago

Cool! - thanks for posting.

If you paste in a picture, there's a 3-month pro-membership available for you.


sdass21 year ago


LecJackS1 year ago

Really nice design! Simple, cheap, and solid. Loved it!

jonzee1 year ago
playdoh works great on the inside of the cap to hold the lighter..... did not have apox. res.
xalpage2 years ago
Very cool.
I am having a birthday party in a couple of days and will try to make this.

Though I got to ask you where you bought the jet lighter from?
I have been trying for many days to find one with a lock mode on ebay but cant see it in any of ebay items description.
Could you send me the link?
Ugifer (author)  xalpage2 years ago
I'm afraid my one was several years old and the seller is no longer on ebay - this project really was just stuff I had lying around.

However, these do lock on: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Coney-Large-Tank-Windproof-Jet-Lighter-Flame-Lock-Electronic-Gas-Childproof-/151042039333
They are only one flame so I don't know that they will be quite so effective but I did have one of that design for a while and the lock worked fine.

xalpage Ugifer2 years ago
Congratulations on winning.
bajablue2 years ago
Ugifer (author)  bajablue2 years ago
Oooh! Sparkly! :-)
jammindewy2 years ago
Sugar free butterscotch cotton candy!!! Yum yum yummmmers!!!
Ugifer (author)  jammindewy2 years ago
Good plan - Never tried sugar-free but I see no reason to think it wouldn't work.
doodlecraft2 years ago
Ha ha ha! Congrats on Winning the Cotton Candy machine!!! :) Too ironic! :)
Great tutorial...looks like I'll be making one soon!
Ugifer (author)  doodlecraft2 years ago
Thank you! Yes, I did wonder whether I would be barred from the grand prize on the basis that I didn't need it! Still, this one will be much grander and the kids will be impressed!
spylock2 years ago
Very nice job,I see some things I would have done a little different,but Im sure the operators have ideas on how even a commercial cotton candy machine could be improved upon,anywho you have my vote,and again,well done.
Ugifer (author)  spylock2 years ago
Thank you!

This was never intended to be a perfect build - it was what could be done in an hour or so with the materials to hand, and in that context I was pretty happy with it.
spylock Ugifer2 years ago
Yeah dude no problems here,I think its great,it showed me the basics on how they worked,which is something I didnt know up until now.and like I said you got my vote.
Edgar2 years ago
Voted, and a link went to to my Blog:
Ugifer (author)  Edgar2 years ago
Thank you!
Edgar Ugifer2 years ago
Great stuff here. Reminds me of machines I have seen in Vietnamese parks that are 12 v units mounted on the back of a bike. Heat source was a small butane/propane torch that heated from below , motor below as well. Have been dying to make one for my bike
Ugifer (author)  elephantwalker2 years ago
A bike-mounted candy-floss machine! Now there's a great idea!

This one would never be heavy enough duty to make quantities for sale, but I'm sure that a fairly simple bike-mounted version with the motor below could be constructed easily enough!

Love the idea!
wow man i actually got the idea for this a month or so ago and wanted to make it but had some trouble with the heater well made i must say.
sconner12 years ago
Awesome! Don’t forget to flavor the sugar.

The MK II could have the motor under the pot so the top is open like the commercial machines allowing you to roll big bunches of wool without pulling the stick out every 1/2 trip around the sides.
Ugifer (author)  sconner12 years ago
There are many things that would improve this project if you were wanting to make a heavy-duty cotton candy maker. The motor at the bottom is certainly more convenient but makes it a more difficult build and means that you have to cut about a pot, making it more expensive.

After I wrote this, I found this one: http://www.instructables.com/id/The-One%2c-The-Only-COTTON-CANDY-MACHINE!/ That's a serious CC machine, but then you couldn't make it for a couple of pounds out of the stuff lying around your kitchen and garage.

I'd like to make a MkII version some day, but with all the other projects (and indeed work) I have in mind, it may not be for a while yet.

Thanks for your comment.

This is cool! I've voted... for both contests :)
me too!
Ugifer (author)  didibemi2 years ago
Thank you both!
newbeatle2 years ago
hi whats aamazing and simple invention you make!! i have a cuestion , when your are doing the cotton, you need to hold the metal part where the motor is attached ? can't be maybe easier to fix it with screws or something like that to avoid that ? and another cuestion , do you tink that a plastic pot can be used instead of a metal pot ? i have thing also a way to substitute the lighter, maybe a little brass tube forming some kind a bunsen burner or so , to avoid that when you're making the cotton.... the gas empties!!

thanks , regards from mexico !!

Ugifer (author)  newbeatle2 years ago
Yes, this is only a quick project and most suitable for small quantities - you need to hold the bar and it's less convenient than having the motor underneath. The butane would not last very long but you can make a fair amount with one filling. Certainly as much as I would want in one go.

You would not want to supply a fairground stall using this machine. That said, it makes a nice product for the amount of effort involved in building it and is great to do with your kids - they tend to be pretty impressed with making your own cotton candy!

Before I build this with no form of temperature control, please tell me: What kind of burning problems did you experience?

I'm thinking of doing this with a can of sterno and a Red Bull can chimney to focus the heat and keep the floss from coming in contact.
Ugifer (author)  RichardBronosky2 years ago
I ran this for only fairly short periods at a time - my kids are quite small and I only needed to make fairly small servings. There was a little caramelising inside the can but it didn't really burn the sugar and didn't flavour the product at all. I soaked the can overnight in warm water to remove the residue at the end.

I don't think the candy will catch unless you try to make huge batches. It gets flung away from the centre and thus away from the heat. It's only likely to reach the heat source if you let it really build up. My guess would be that a chimney might focus the heat too much and make it too hot - the jets of the lighter are hot but quite small and comfortably below the can. However, I have not experimented extensively - I really just hacked this one device together and it worked well enough first time for what I needed.

It's a fun project and really makes quite a good result for the time and effort required so why not give it a go and see?

robbied2 years ago
You have triggered my sweet tooth. So simple, very impressive.
Beergnome2 years ago

I would say the only difference I would make would be to use a can of Sterno fuel for the heat source instead of the lighter. But, this is about stuff you had lying around.

You have my vote
Ugifer (author)  Beergnome2 years ago

And Yes - just stuff from my kitchen and garage. If you had a can of Sterno fuel then I'm sure that would work very well. This is by no means an optimised build.
Exocetid2 years ago
Good gawd I love clever and this rates a 10 on the clever scale. I also love seeing tricky devices made from junk and cotton candy machines are tricky. Excellent, simply excellent.
Ugifer (author)  Exocetid2 years ago
Not as tricky as you might think but thank you - I was pleased with the result, given the nature of the components!
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