Introduction: Electronic Detonator

Picture of Electronic Detonator


This project describes how to build a simple, safe, and reliable electronic detonator. All the parts should total under 25$, and all but one of the parts can be bought at radio shack. This detonator includes numerous safety features such as a detachable power supply, an ARM switch, and an indicator light.

Step 1: Parts List

Picture of Parts List

What I like about this project, is that all the parts can be bought in one place, and the one part that couldnt be bought at Radio Shack had to be mail ordered anyway, so I wound up only making one trip. I include the model #'s when I could find them.


1. Project box (As close to 3x2x1.5 as you can get, remember you need enough room to hold the components but you want a good fit for your hand)
2. A momentary push switch (Model: 275-609)
3. Toggle Switch with On/Off Label Plate (Model:275-602)
4. 5mm Green LED (Model: 276-022)
5. 1/8" Mono Panel-Mount Audio Jack (Model: 274-251) its a 3 pack see but you only need 1.
6. 1/4" mono Panel-Mount Audio Jack (Catalog #: 274-252)
7. 1/8 Mono Phone Plug (Model: 274-286)
8. 2-Conductor Standard Phone Plug (Model: 274-1544) I think thats the one I got, Its got the picture on the website that most looks like mine, however, I'm sure any 1/4" mono (even stereo but then you'd have to pay closer attention to your wiring) plug would work.
9. Soldering Iron and solder
10. 2-Conductor Intercom Wire (Model: 278-857) Im pretty sure thats the wire I bought.
11. Heavy-Duty 9V Snap Connectors (Model: 270-324) Like the other packages it has more then you need
12. 8 AA Battery Holder (Model: 270-407)
13. 8-Pack AA Enercell® Alkaline Batteries (Model: 23-874)
14. Slim Line 2" Alligator Clips (Model: 270-346)
15. Drill with assorted bits
16. Spare hookup wire (You can cut off some of the intercom wire if you need to)
17. Nichrome wire (Can either be bought on e-bay or make sure you don't get the wire too thick I use, but I don't know what gauge it is.
18. I'm assuming you have tools like screwdrivers and wire cutters.

Step 2: Create the Power Supply

Picture of Create the Power Supply

Because this is one of the simplest steps I put it first.


1. Cut 2.5 feet off the end of the intercom wire.
2. Strip 1" off each end of each of the 2 wires.
3. Connect one of the stripped off ends of the wire to the 9v battery clip. You can connect the wires like I demonstrate in the crummily drawn diagram.
4. Snap the 9v battery clip onto the 8 AA holder.
5. Unscrew the 1/8" mono plug, slide the black plastic piece onto the other side of the 3ft section of intercom wire, connect the 2 stripped wire ends to the mono plug (make sure they dont touch each other, you can separate them with a piece of electrical tape), slide the black plastic piece over the connection you just made and screw it back onto the plug.
6. Put the batteries in their holder.

When you are done you should have something that looks like the 3rd picture below.

Step 3: Building the Detonator

Picture of Building the Detonator

This is the most complex step. It requires drilling into the plastic casing, screwing in all the pieces, and then wiring them. If you do not have scrap connection wire you can cut off another foot of the intercom wire and use that. For the wiring you can just wrap the wire around each connection, however if the wire wont stay or its too tight of a space to wrap it, you can use the soldering iron and a bit of solder to ensure a good connection.
Use the picture for the best description of where everything should be placed on the box. And the "wiring diagram" for how to connect the wires, because its hard to tell where the wires should connect from the photos.
I am going to refer to the 3 different faces (the ones we use) of the box as top, front, and bottom. In the photo the top is the one with the red push button, and the 1/4" socket. Before you start drilling open the case and take out anything inside (circuit boards, screws, ets).


1. Find a drill bit that matches up with the size of the 1/4" socket. (Remember that all the parts (button, switch, sockets) can be unscrewed. This is so you can push it in from one side, and then screw the other piece on the other side to tighten it to the case. When you choose a drill bit size for each different part, make sure you go by the size of the smallest part of the component that will be pushed through. It may sound confusing, but it should make more sense if you have the components in your hands)
2. Drill that size hole on the bottom of the case.
3. Repeat those steps for the rest of the components, with the switch and LED on the front side, and the push button and 1/4" jack on the top. Note: If you are right handed put the button on the top right side, left handed - top left side. This is so when you are holding it in your hand your thumb will be over the button
4. Now screw all the components in their places (if the LED dosent stay in the hole you can use a bit of glue, on the bottom side, to keep it there.
5. Wire it according to the diagram. Note: The push button is on the top left side in the diagram because the point of view is from the underside of the box.
6. The diagram is pretty self-exclamatory, the blue lines are the wire (duh), the blue blobs are where the wire joins with 2 other wires, and just one big NOTE: wire the LED LAST, before you wire it plug in the power and flip the switch to on, hold the wires to the led one way and then another, see the LED (should) only light up one way, and that is the way you should wire it. (This is because LED's are polarized meaning they will only work when they have current flow through them in 1 specific direction)

When you are done, close the case, and go to the next step.

Step 4: Making the Hookup Wire

Picture of Making the Hookup Wire

This step is very simple and only takes a couple of minutes. Before you begin, decide how you want to store the wire, if you want to keep it wrapped around the spool or if you will just wrap it around the detonator. I just wrap it around the detonator, but it seems more authentic if you leave it on the spool.


1. If you are wrapping it around the detonator, just unravel all of the wire off the spool, strip an inch from both wires on each end, connect the 1/4" mono plug the same way as the other plug, and connect the alligator clips to the other end.

2. If you are keeping the wire on the spool, unravel all of it, strip an inch from both wires on each end, feed about a foot of the wire through the hole on the spool (As shown in the diagram) and out the hole in the top. Then wrap the long part of the wire around the spool and attatch the plug and the alligator clips (The plug goes on the foot long piece comming out of the top of the spool and the alligator clips go on the end of the wire wrapped around the spool)

Now you are ready to set everything up.

Step 5: Setting Up the Detonator

Picture of Setting Up the Detonator

Warning: Make sure the battery pack isnt plugged into the detonator until the end of the setup.

Take an inch long piece of nichrome wire and tape it to whatever needs to be ignited. Connecting it to something to be ignited is a lot easier with a piece of my fuse, which can be made here If you use the fuse all you need to do is split a short section of the end of it and put the nichrome between the split strings, and tape it on, making sure that there is enough nichrome left to put the alligator clips on. If you do not use the fuse you need to make sure that the nichrome is touching what needs to be ignited.
Unravel the wire until you feel you are a safe distance from what your igniting, plug the 1/4" plug in, make sure its unarmed (Toggle set to off), plug in the battery, arm it, countdown and push the red button.
It should work, if not make sure all your connections are ok, clean the alligator clips and try again. If it still dosent work make sure you have a high enough gague of nichrome wire.

It works because the detonator is basically an elaborate on/off switch keeping the 12v from the batteries from going over the nichrome until the right moment. Nichrome is a special type of wire that increases its resistance when electricity is passed through it, and because of this it is used mostly as a heating element in hairdryers and toasters. However, the heat it produces can also be used to ignite fireworks and other things as demonstrated in this project.


sethkunz (author)2014-06-02

does anybody know at all what gage of nichrome wire to use im 12 so im kind of stuck till i find out

Jack The Hacker (author)sethkunz2015-09-30

I use 30 gauge Nichrome that i bought from amazon. It's from a company called "Lightning vapes" Use about an inch per detonation with a 9v battery. If you use too little it will melt itself.

i dont think it matters what gauge of nichrome is fire

Project7 (author)2011-07-09

You should solder the wires as they can oxidise beneath the tape - destroying the connection.
Don't try and use hot glue either. The solder actually joins the two bits of wire, instead of just "holding them together" like tape or hot glue.

Otherwise... awesome! Sorry for being negative in the beginning, but I actually think this instructable is really cool. The arm switch and detachable power supply are clever... now just to make it remote controlled ;)

or even those cheap motion sensor security for home things can be turned into a wireless detonator

you can make a romote detonator out of one of those keychain finders.. cheap and easy. just disconnect the buzzer from the keychain locate your hot and ground and use a broken christmas light ..done

davidphillippina (author)2015-04-01

Has anyone tried using the igniters used for Estes Rocket Engines?

They are only good for 1 use each but do a better job and probably cut the wait time while you are waiting for the wire to glow!

marco789 (author)2014-08-21

I'm not very handy but I need some remote detonators.
I have some PEP-500 (semtex) laying around that I want to use it on.
If anyone has some finished detonators i'll be happy to buy them from you.

mail me at

Best regards


phoenix53124 (author)2011-04-26


I paid almost 50 for everything.

sethkunz (author)phoenix531242014-06-02

if u buy from radio shack than yes it probably is 50

Thats because you dont know how to shop =] I can go buy everything from one store for under 20. Dont bash because you cant shop.


Jbs165 (author)2009-06-20

I really need help here~! I have 4 big fireworks that I want to set off simultanusly. What should I do to create something like this that i can set off each firework alone or like 2 seconds between each one. **NOTE|** These are big fireworks and if I'm near one when it goes off, well I'm not gonna do that, but my point is I can't just try and light all 4 with a BBQ lighter.

nstokes1 (author)Jbs1652014-04-27

Check with some of the big firework distributors. I bought a delay switch from one but I'm sorry I get remember witch one it was. But it was for siting of several firework's at once. It was just a board with pins one it. And it had like a pin and when you touch each post it would light the fuse. It is like what the big company that put on the big firework displays. It was just a real small version of it. It was around $ 35.00 not bad for what I wanted it for. I made my own fireworks for a few years it was just for the family I would put on a show. I was like you they where big and I did not want to be close at all. But I now they still sell it. Last year I seen some at the lake using one. If I remember which company it was I will let you know.

Cheswick32 (author)Jbs1652012-04-24

I would suggest you look up how to make quick match fuses and just have a wicked long fuse funning off of that.

madison78 (author)Jbs1652011-10-28

I really had been on the lookout as to how I could build an electronic detonator which is reasonably safe, simple and reliable and I must say that this article really have given what I was in search of. The features that include for our own safety which are namely the arm switch, the detachable power supply and the indicator light will surely act as an aid for the inexperienced. All this under just $25 makes it an alluring spot to try out. I am planning to get a San Jose electrician to try it for me, so if it works I will do on my own.

mtcsmith (author)2013-10-12

Awesome I've now sorted it!

mtcsmith (author)2013-10-12

Don't know what I'm doing wrong but I can't get the nichrome wire to heat up. I've tested the circuit by connecting a buzzer to the clips instead of the wire so i know there is power getting through. Also the LED lights when it is armed but when I push the button the LED goes out. Any idea what I'm doing wrong?

BOOM OWWWW (author)2013-08-30

25$ HA HA!! I hacked a computer and radio I only have to buy the push swich

zelback1 (author)2012-05-24

Is there any way to rig this so that you do not need the wires leading to the explosive or whatever you are lighting/launching? see, I made several dozen of the flash-bang grenades that were discussed in another forum, and they use blast caps and 400 mesh aluminum, magnesium and thermite... I am worried that I will have to keep replacing the alligator clips because of the heat and power of the explosion. Since the blast caps I use are are electronically wired, I had this idea to fit them with a radio transmission reciever, and have the capability to detonate them from far off, like maybe in the next room over so I am not blinded while my opponents -in air soft or paint ball- ARE -sorry, no italics- blinded and deafened. Another issue is that the wires would need to be extremely long. A radio transmitter would do away with both problems. Could you help me with this?

SasquatchKid (author)2011-06-24

I used a Piezo electric ighingition system lengthinged the wires and attached gator clips to the end of the wires and it wors great

pyro man (author)2009-01-31

do you really need the intercom wire,speaker wire,or nichrome wire,or can you use regular wire?

henkow (author)pyro man2009-06-09

Nichrome wire you definately need. When you put electricity through it the little dwarves light fires inside it and it gets really hot. Thats whats setting off your charge. Although if you use plastic explosive then you do not need nichrome wire, just jam the alligator clips in to it, tho dont expect to get them back. Infact if you want to use plastic explosive, use a wireless detonator and stand back properly. Unless you kno what your doing its hard to estimate the blast radius

phoenix53124 (author)henkow2011-04-26

You sure there isnt any...alternative to nichrome? Some other kind of wire?

pastaking (author)phoenix531242011-06-01

If you can pump enough power through it, 1amp fuse wire glows

zombiehunter96 (author)henkow2010-04-27

haha, the little dwarves light fires XD Are they related to the elves in the fridge who turn off the light? XD

and the elves are related to the fairies that steal your socks from the laundry dryer. Right?

pyro man (author)pyro man2009-01-31

oops! acedentilly put speaker wire in there.ignore that

phoenix53124 (author)2011-04-26

What do you mean 'Joins 2 other wires'?

vignesh1230 (author)2010-07-19

I can use 2 9v batteries right? And could the led handle 8 x 1.5 batteries/2 x 9v without a resistor?

phoenix53124 (author)vignesh12302011-04-26

About that....i tested it......What happened to my LED(With just a single 9V)? It glowed so bright, the light was white, not after a few tries, it burnt out....Idk if it would make a difference with 1.5v, though. I doubt it, since your using 12v of power. I would use one LED, see how it works, and if it goes out, buy a resistor (Idk what Ohms>Volts is.) for about half of the power of your power supply (6v resistor/Something Ohm resistor.)

Stone Age (author)2010-07-08

go 40AWG it like it better and like 35AMG nichrome wire, it gets red hot - Best wishes =)

jackh94 (author)2010-05-08

I'm good with pyrotechnics but not so great with electronics (except lasers),
doesn't electricity take the easiest path so would just go through the led and not touch the toggle switch?
Also could the led handle 8 batteries without a resistor?

jackh94 (author)jackh942010-05-08

 sorry, push button switch not toggle switch.

Rockertron1208 (author)2010-01-30

will speaker cable work?

piromaniac998 (author)2010-01-23

 I got  total of about $$36

afreeland (author)2010-01-05

 Do you have to worry about polarity with the input plug?  I have everything working properly (safety switch, LED, Push button, etc..) ....however, If I were to place a wire connecting both alligator clips it short circuits and turns off my LED and my voltage drops to zero, and nothing this because I soldered them incorrectly to the input plug?  If anyone knows please reply, thanx =)

edwin25 (author)2009-12-02

No resistor? I am searching for something like this but I belive the LED wont handle 9 volts it needs a detective.

dtydc (author)2006-07-24

Actually, nichrome is used in heating elements because of its resistence to oxidation, high resistivity, and high melting temperature, not because its resistivity increases. The resistivity of most (I hesitate to say 'all' because I don't know things) metals increases with temerature. This is because at higher temperatures there are more vacancies, and lattice vibrations (Wikipedia tells me lattice vibrations are also known as phonons) which decreases electron mobility.

Mig Welder (author)dtydc2009-11-22

hehe its called resistance not resistivity

adamz (author)dtydc2007-04-29

Im 13 and i built 3 a mote controled detinator the best goes for 300 yards away.

Th3Ob3rst (author)adamz2007-05-09

Nice! why don't you post an instructable on it?

your dog (author)2009-11-14

good job!
mine is made from a mint tin.

jq112 (author)2009-10-18

i was just wondering instead of nichrome wire would Cuprothal work???
coz i cant get nichrome
Cuprothal gets to 400 celcius

ajrc (author)2009-10-08

 great instructable! nice one!
although, i'd always go with the cell phone detonator...wireless! :D
...and it used satellites, so you can be however far away.

V-Man737 (author)2009-09-05

Now see here.
Great box, BTW!

mr_goodbytes (author)2009-07-18

awesome detonator! i have a simpler, more compact/handheld version you should check out

Apples (author)2006-08-02

you can tell which side the wires go to based on which wire on the LED is shorter(or which side is flat, they're on the same side) that's the side the negative input(black wire on batery clips) goes to

purpulhaze (author)Apples2009-07-03

How come no resistor for the LED?

Sparkythehappygirafe (author)2009-07-03

Is there a substitute for intercom wire? Btw does anyone think 8 AA batteries could power a miniature christmas light for a couple seconds (only 1 and its the really really small one that's usually wrapped around a christmas tree) or is that not possible. Anybody? lol

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