Introduction: Film Canister Cannon

Picture of Film Canister Cannon

This cannon design is originally from, but I didn't see it anywhere on the Instructables site, so I documented my own. However, Kipkay had to go and show me up with his own version, just to make me look bad. There's also the ultra-portable version from Kiteman.

Step 1: Getchyer Materials

Picture of Getchyer Materials

First is-duh-get the supplies you'll need.
Film Canister
Heat shrink tubing
Piezo igniter from an old fireplace lighter

Pointy pokey thing
Something that will heat-shrink the heat-shrink

A side note: there is another Instructable now by Geoffrito about how to remove the ignitor. You don't need to add extensions unless you want to, just extracting the piezo igniter should give you enough length.

Step 2: Puncture the Lid

Picture of Puncture the Lid

Film canister lids typically have an indention in the exact center. Most people think that they are part of the molding process or something, but those of us in the know realize that their true purpose is to help us geeks who want to poke holes in them.
I drilled a small pilot hole, then carved out the rest with an X-acto knife. You could also drill the whole thing or stab it with a hot nail, I don't really care. It's your film canister.

Step 3: Add Wiring

Picture of Add Wiring

Now, poke the wires from the piezo igniter into the hole. Make sure that the bare ends go on the inside, then put a bit of heatshrink tubing or tape to hold it. Then, practice your spark plug-making skills and bend the wires so that there is a small gap. When you click the igniter, there should be a small blue spark between the bare ends.

Step 4: Shoot Things

Picture of Shoot Things

To fire the cannon, squirt some fuel in, seal the cap, and click the igniter. With a nice bang and a lovely yellow fireball, the can part will go shooting across the room. This cannon is low-powered enough that it's perfectly safe to fire indoors. It's really fun to fire it next to a sleeping cat.
A quick note on fuel: Experiment! I used aerosol hairspray, which is very flammable and comes out in a nice mist. That mist part is the most important. If you just dribble in fuel, it probably won't fire.


Tooreal (author)2015-01-14

I've made something Very Similar to this Years ago to use as a Tennis Ball Cannon! Just cut the top & bottom out of 3 or 4 Tin Cans and connect them inline End to End and Securly wrap Duct tape around where they connect.
Get 1 more Tin Can but Only Remove the Top Lid, and Tape that to the Bottom of your Cannon. After e everything is Securly Taped, Poke a small Hole 1/4" from the Bottom can ( that still has the Bottom in it. This is where you will sqirt a small amount of Zippo Lighter Fluid into the Small Hole, Drop a Tennis Ball Down the Open Front End and then Place a Flame to the small Hole and watch your tennis ball Fly!
You will have to adjust the amount of fuel used to achieve the Farthest Distance of flight of the Tennis ball, but it is well worth the effort!
We use to play neighborhood wars using these and it was so much Fun. I have even used an empty Pringles Potato Chip Can for some of the Farthest fleights because of the smooth sides having No Restrictions on the Ball shooting out of the Tube.. The smoother the edges of the can, the farther the fleight of the Ball..

Have Fun & Be Safe ??

kcbford1 (author)2011-02-20

ive made these! very very fun project. thanks for posting!

briansparks0211 (author)2010-10-04

That's a cool project! It's a good idea to keep the pieces in there and protected by the heat-shrink tubing. The ignitor-generated spark will need to be insulated and contained by the HST, right? But exposure to chemicals such as acids, in other words the degree to which it's inert, can have an affect on the lifespan. Factor in the heat you might be exposing this too. Add to that Sun exposure, and the heat-shrink will wither and deteriorate, unless you get good stuff. I recommend checking the PFA spec sheet here and getting your HST in the future from fluortherm.

esplonky (author)2009-06-04

i read up on this link

it says for POTATO GUNS that they are illegal if used as a weapon or if shot in an area where shotgun fire is illegal.

CameronSS (author)esplonky2009-06-04

Stick a film can in a potato and launch it.

Tomcat94 (author)CameronSS2010-06-29


mistahmaxi (author)esplonky2010-06-23

It is. A potato gun has almost the same ammount of power as a real gun, if you use it right (in the destructive way). And the ammunition, in this case a potato, will double the damage done when it hits a target. It would probaply not make your target bleed (if shot on a human or any other living being), but it could cause some pretty harsh internal damage. Believe me, I've been there. So in case any of you that read this were thinking to shoot at somebody, I hope you think again.

esplonky (author)2009-06-04

isnt that illegal to do that with aresol stuff? ill have to look it up but im pretty sure it is

esplonky (author)2009-06-04

mine says 21n lol

mattias law (author)2009-01-29

im gonna give my cannister a cone and stuff so it goes further. do you have to put much hairspray in

big-jamie (author)2008-09-05

well you can use your aerosol and hairspray and such like...but what i have is a can of pressurised butane for my lighter refill, i suggest you get yourself one of those ;) beautiful bang

chi chi chippy (author)big-jamie2008-12-20

or wat u can do is wat i do and take the butane thing out of the lighter i use them for all my "fun stuff" like potato guns and such. but y buy wat you can get free.

liny (author)2008-01-13

one made with a garbage can: -will sound loudly, very loudly -will fly -watch your head cuz its gonna fall. What we learned? never make super gigantic versions of things that can be picked up with two fingers without safety in mind.

Nicrostar (author)liny2008-08-24

the dollar store

Ace Benedict (author)2007-03-12

I didn't think this thing was going to be as loud as it was. Thankfully my neighbors understand my love of explosions. I'm currently thinking of ways to modify it. One concept involved cutting the bottom end off of a 35mm can, slipping it in the top of another, uncut can, then electrical taping the two together to make a double can. I made a quadruple can to fill with hairspray, but I'm afraid of blowing my hand off or getting hit with plastic shrapnel or something along those lines. If one was to fill the can with gun powder, would it still fire?

blugyblug (author)Ace Benedict2008-08-17

BLowing your hand off with a couple of film canisters filled with hairspray?
Itll probably blow off an ANTS hand. Even with gun powder. And getting into all the trouble of getting gun powder and using that massive amount of energy with a lame film canister cannon?
Seriously, if you even get your hands on gun powder you should make something way more going to jail or something =D

CameronSS (author)Ace Benedict2007-03-12

Not responsible for any medical or legal costs incurred by the construction, modification, or use of this device. That said, a mega-cannon would be fun. Gunpowder, no guarantees. Remember that straight gunpowder is incendiary, not explosive. It only explodes when tightly packed. I guess you could try a small firecracker, but please, use common sense, a face shield, and a long pair of tongs. I doubt that the film canister would explode, because the force required to rip plastic is far greater than that required to pop off the cap. I think the main concern would be the film canister melting. I noticed that the thin edges get noticably singed when it's used a lot. At a certain point, you just have to upgrade to PVC or metal pipe.

Loveofchaos (author)CameronSS2007-06-10

Dont use a firecracker. i know from experience that black cats in film canisters, gluestick canisters or anythign else unless it is buried in sand WILL NOT WORK IT WILL ONLY BLOW THE CANISTER UP, well, it will put a big crack in it and blow out the bottom.

Ace Benedict (author)CameronSS2007-03-13

Extending the wires on the igniter may help, and to test it, I intend to do it in the middle of nowhere behind a makeshift wall or shallow trench. If I'm going mod a small explosive, I'm making sure I don't end up in the Darwin Awards. If I damage myself and/or property, it's my own fault.

BOMBOMBOMB (author)2007-03-24

Hey ima physco 13 yearold love explosives u name it ill blow it. You could use the igniter to ignite a spud cannon or grape shooter couldnt u. Ive always been using my trusty lighter and couple of times burning a whole shirt it seems safer. but is it possible?

blugyblug (author)BOMBOMBOMB2008-08-17

WOOT GO 13 YO xD Im 13 as well, and i make Pneumatic Spud guns (Check my -ible, its a sprinkler valved sniper rifle). BTW i dont get what you mean...

CameronSS (author)BOMBOMBOMB2007-03-24

Don't blow yourself up. You might be able to use a stove lighter, but for a bigger spud gun you might need to steal one out of a barbecue or a camper heater. Another possibility is to hotwire a spark plug to a 12V battery. Just don't do anything stupid, spud guns are a lot harder to build with a prosthetic hand.

CameronSS (author)CameronSS2007-11-08

Wow, I just realized what a dumb comment that was. A spark plug hooked directly up to a car battery will do NOTHING, you have to hook up an ignition coil to send out multi-kilovolt pulses. Oops.

blugyblug (author)2008-08-17

You can use a syringe to inject fuel. Its alot more accurate and you never get the wrong amount of fuel in

eddy14777 (author)2008-08-04

for fuel you can also use axe and tag deodorant

tecno geek (author)2008-03-09

dont take it as an intructable

CameronSS (author)tecno geek2008-03-09

What? Explain further, because you made no sense.

PyroMonger (author)2008-02-03
Silly me forgot to add the video. Oh and also at the end of this where it goes's because the tisue inside the container lit and there was match head powder on it and it lit faster than expected. nearly melting the container so i had to put it out, quick!

CameronSS (author)PyroMonger2008-02-03


Is the igniter something like this? If so, post anyway, just don't copy his. We like different versions. Also, the filament is almost certainly tungsten, like virtually all light bulb filaments.

BTW, did you build the Mousebot in your avatar? Mine doesn't want to work right...I can't figure it out.

PyroMonger (author)CameronSS2008-02-04

Yes my igniter is very much like that. just without the match. Instead I used a flammable spray. Thats my video above this one and the blast you see isnt electric its a fireball. I'm afraid my avatar isnt a mousebot but my tazer which is also featured in the above video. I thought i would be different and put mine in a mouse instead of the regular project boxes or just leaving it in the camera. :D

PyroMonger (author)2008-02-03

I did something very similar: In this video I used a Christmas tree light bulb connected to my tazer and filled up a plastic box with lighter fluid fumes then discharged it and made a big fireball. the thin wire filament in the bulb which I believe to be nichrome (correct me if I'm wrong)was perfect for creating a good spark to ignite it. this is my method for a detonator...instructable coming soon to a website near you lol.

trooperrick (author)2008-01-14

When its darker you can see the flames a lot better

CameronSS (author)trooperrick2008-01-14

WOW! Impressive!

trooperrick (author)CameronSS2008-01-14

whoops, forgot to say, I had no idea that it was making flames like that in the day. When I first saw the pics I was surprised too.

trooperrick (author)CameronSS2008-01-14

It is also probably because I used a different fuel, I used some bug spray because it was the only stuff we had lying around that was flammable.

CameronSS (author)2007-12-12

See my Step 1. I don't know of anywhere that you can buy a piezo ignitor, but you can pop them out of lighters.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-03-01

call me dumb but for some reason when i have tryed this in the past IT NEVER worked!!!! ;-(

It worked on the second time for me, the first time I didn't bend the wires right and had no spark. What type of fuel did you you use?

anything from rubbing alcohol mist, hairspray, alcohol infused breath spray, zippo liter fluid mist. :-\

It is very easy to overfill with fuel, if you are using hairspray then try holding the can an arms length apart and doing a short spray.

ongissim (author)2007-03-01

21B is a type of plastic chip used in making small plastic parts.

AT (author)ongissim2007-06-26

It is used for quality control. They make parts such as that a brazillion at a time. The molds are all numbered so if they are having a problem, the know exactly which one it is. It could be as simple as row 21 column B of a big grid of lids. I am going to have to try this one out.

X-mind (author)2007-06-21

So does this thing work as good even after long hours the cannister has been fueled?

CameronSS (author)X-mind2007-06-21

I don't think so. The fuel has to be in vapor from, as most fuels that are explosive as a liquid are a bit potent for home use. I found that squirting a bit of aerosol hairspray, then quickly firing, worked best. If you wait too long I think the fuel has a tendency to collect on the sides, though I suppose some liquids might evaporate and work better after waiting. To answer your other question, yes. It's from a barbecue-type lighter. I'll post pictures of that.

X-mind (author)2007-06-21

Is the ignitor u've mentioned here from a lighter..?

girrrrrrr2 (author)2007-06-13

this is going to school in the begining of the year...

invent4life2234 (author)2007-06-06

is there anything that you can use to subsitute the heatshrinking tube?

I used it simply to keep the wires in one spot. You could use glue, tape, a rubber band, twist them together, or as e1337 did, forget about it. It is not integral to the device, it's basically a wire organizer.

casvandegoor (author)2007-03-17

I`ve an idea! if you drill a hole in the filmcanister and put a pvc pipe in it you have a potatoe cannon! isn`t?

e1337 (author)2007-03-10

I made it without the tubing and I like it. Axe (deoderant) works and also febreeze.

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