Introduction: Flame Cannon

Picture of Flame Cannon

In this instructable I will describe how to make a flame cannon out of PVC pipe. It is a simple project and all parts should cost under 10$, however it requires the use of the products of three of my other instructables.
The fuse
the gunpowder
and the electrical detonator

This project is a cumulation of sorts, of all my other projects.

Step 1: Parts List

Picture of Parts List


1. 2" PVC pipe roughly 19" long
2. Can of purple PVC primer
3. Can of PVC cement
4. 2" threaded socket coupler (Just make sure it fits on top of the pipe, and the end cap can be screwed in)
5. End cap
6. 1/4" drill bit with drill
7. Fuse (
8. Gunpowder (
9. Electronic Detonator (
10. Plastic drinking straws
11. Duct and electrical tape
12. Scissors
13. Gallon sized plastic bags
14. Lighter fluid, gasoline, dentured alchol, or some other flammable liquid

Step 2: Building the Cannon

Picture of Building the Cannon

Construction is very simple, as it only requires one connection to be made using the PVC cement. Before you use the cement make sure the ends of the pipe are smooth, clean, and level, if not rub with sandpaper until level and smooth, then wipe with a damp cloth to clean.


1. Apply the PVC primer to the last inch of the 19" pipe, and the inside of the coupler. (Follow the directions on the can of PVC primer and cement, for application as they might be different then mine)
2. Apply the cement to the outside of the pipe and inside of the coupler, and press the coupler down onto the pipe, and either weight it down, or hold it down until the cement dries enough so the coupler stays in place.
3. Wait however long the can of cement tells you to.
4. Using the drill and 1/4" drill bit, drill a slanted hole into the pipe about an inch and a half above the coupler. When drilling the hole keep in mind the goal is to have a line of sight through the hole into the end cap, it dosent have to be exact but as close as possible helps. If you are having problems drilling a slanted hole, you can drill a hole straight down with a smaller bit and then use that hole to guide the 1/4" bit when you drill at an angle.
5. Check to ensure that the end cap can be screwed on completely.

Step 3: Preparing the Cannon

Picture of Preparing the Cannon

This is the hardest step, because it has the most opportunities to screw up, and you wont even know you made a mistake until you do the countdown and it dosent fire. I use a lot of tape in this step, not only to hold the parts down, but to make sure that a bridge between two of the wires cant occur.


1. Take a plastic drinking straw and cut off about 3 inches. Put a piece of the homemade fuse into the longer section of the straw.
2. Insert the straw through the hole on the side of the cannon, pushing it down far enough so it will reach into the end cap, however making sure there is still at least an inch on the side.
2a. Take the gallon sized plastic bag and something thinner then the pipe, like a broom handle, and put the bag on the end of the handle making sure not to puncture the bag. Then push the broom handle into the end of the cannon (not the side with the end cap), stopping when there is only a few inches of the bag left on the outside of the pipe. Fold over the remaining parts of the bag around the rim of the cannon and use the duct tape to hold them down to the sides. The bag will be used to hold the flammable liquid that you will be shooting, so it cant have any holes in it, or else it will drip onto the gunpowder.
3. Take the end cap, fill it with gunpowder, and level it off.
4. Screw the end cap on, while holding the pipe vertical. As you screw it on make sure fuse inside remains in contact with the gunpowder. (From this point on try to keep the pipe verticle as much as possible, to avoid spilling the gunpowder)


5. Give one push on the straw and fuse on the outside, to make sure it is as far down as it will go, and then secure the straw to the side of the pipe with a piece of electrical tape.
6. This step is hard to describe so check the picture, it should make sense of things. The diagram shows the view as if you were looking in the hole in the top of the straw. Using the scissors cut down about a centimeter on opposite ends of the straw. Split the 2 strands of the fuse down to where the the cuts on the cuts on the straw end. Put a piece of nichrome wire between the two strands and pull it down, once you reach the straw pull the ends of the nichrome wire through the two cuts you made on the straw.
7. Put a piece of electrical tape over the straw, covering the straw, nichrome wire, and end of the fuse. Make sure the contacts for the nichrome wire are still visible.
8. (Warning: do not have the power supply connected to the ignitor when you do this) Attatch the alligator clips from the electrical detonator to the pieces of nichrome wire. The wires off the alligator clips should run UP the side of the tube.
9. Make sure the alligator clips, or wires arent touching and wrap a piece of duct tape over everything and around the tube. To ensure the clips dont shift I press down the duct tape between them, holding them in place.

Step 4: Setting Up and Firing

Picture of Setting Up and Firing

Take the cannon outside to where you will fire it. Make sure there is nothing flammable around: gasonine, propane tanks, relatives.
To hold the cannon up (and protect me from lethal PVC shrapnel if it exploded) I dug a 10 inch deep hole 2 inches wide in my backyard (I actually just took the part of the 2 inch pipe that I didnt use and hit it in the ground a few times, when I pulled it out the dirt came with it and I had a perfectly fitted hole). The hole should be narrow enough so the pipe will not tilt, but wide enough so you dont have to force the cannon into the hole because that could mess up the alligator clip connections.
Push the cannon into the hole, as far down as it will go. Unravel the wire until you are a safe distance away (20 ft) and place the detonator on the ground. Go back to the cannon and pour the desired amount of the flammable liquid you are using into the bag in the mouth of the cannon. (I will explain what type and how much later)

The resaon you have waited until now to pour the liquid in is so that you spend the least amount of time in the vicinity of the cannon when it is fully loaded. Say the cannon had accidentally gone (extremely unlikely, but always best to be safe) off when you were unraveling the wire, you would be unharmed (unless you were standing over the cannon). However, if the cannon had the liquid in it, and accidentally went off, you could end up well done.

In the video ( the last 2 shots are the ones that used my flammable liquid system (the others used a mixture of cornstarch and flour which didnt work out too well). The second to last shot is about half a snapple bottle of lighter fluid, and the last is 3/4ths a snapple bottle of gasoline. As you can see in the video the gasoline didnt separate enough or burn fast enough so it wound up falling back on the cannon. I plan to experiment with other liquids in different amounts and so should you, just remember to always use a small amount if it is the first time you are using a particular liquid.
Once the liquid is in the bag, go back to the detonator, plug in the power supply, arm it, countdown, and press the button. It should go off.
If it fails to ignite, unplug the power supply, wait 20 seconds, walk over to the cannon and check all the wiring, try again.


ilpug (author)2011-03-19

This reminds me a bit of the "Carbide Cannon" detailed in William Gurstelle's book Backyard Ballistics. i did something like this once, but it was air powered, and used an old aluminum water bottle with the bottom cut off for a 'barrel"

shsims (author)2007-02-21

Unlike modern gun powders, black powder can detonate under higher pressures. Also, its performance varies more over its life and in different temps and humidities. A charge that may have been safely fired yesterday could explode today, especially if increasing the charge or the projectile weight or its fitment in the bore. If the powder does detonate, it will combust much faster and release most of its energy through a pressure wave rather than with heat and fire. The pressure is a lot more dangerous because all that energy is released so quickly, so don't make the mistake of estimating risk based on what you see the device doing under normal conditions, because if it fails, it may be many times worse. Instead of black powder, consider using Pyrodex. This is a modern black powder substitute that is more predictable. It is intended for use in black powder firearms. It is manufactured to produce the same pressures/muzzle velocities as black powder for the same charge volume. So, do not substitute one another by weight!

airsoftlife (author)shsims2007-06-05

Modern powder is what burns at higher pressures. That is why they DO NOT recommend using modern powder in blackpowder firearm. Put 3 drams of BP in a shotgun shell, and you'll be fine. Put three drams of modern powder in a shotshell, you'll blow your gun into pieces

ilpug (author)airsoftlife2011-03-19

there are different grades of powder for different kinds of weapons. these are specially formulated, and should never be mixed.

gameboy7oa (author)2007-07-24

thats cool but its all fun and games till your nabors house goes up in flames... then its more fun and games!!!

my uncle did that a long time ago with a bottle rocket. luckily only the 2nd story burnt down.

ilpug (author)- creative name -2011-03-19

love the profile picture.

Vulcanator (author)2009-03-31

you should fill it with coffee creamer powder. I saw it on mythbusters, it is really flamable.

M4industries (author)Vulcanator2009-07-01

Yes, but the powder combustion is hard to attain. The ratio of powder to air is really temperamental. To better understand what Im saying, try throwing a handful of creamer in the air and try lighting it.

ilpug (author)M4industries2011-03-19

with fireproof gloves of course.

M4industries (author)2010-04-02

 Could this be done with compressed air?

Z0studios (author)2010-02-10

Would it be possible to use copper pipe.
In my country it is almost impossible to get pvc pipe.

MistaStokes (author)2009-07-23

why not just put some lighter fluid in a mortar tube (fireworks not artillery) and light the fluid which would light the fuse, that would be loud and bright

NarNar (author)2009-05-23

It's 12/22/12.

mateusz719 (author)2008-10-13

The links don't work:(

QwakHed (author)2008-07-17

Safer if you get one of those spraycan holders with the trigger. Like they have at HomeDepot

QwakHed (author)2008-07-17

A 30 min roadflare is an improvement over the candle.

Lemon (author)2006-09-23

you could make a handheld (if you're brave/STUPID enough) hybrid spud gun with a blowtorch at the the end and that would be a blast flame cannon. even a small one would work.

ramses (author)Lemon2008-07-11

sounds like a plan

cooldog (author)2008-06-16

post it or send it

tyldev (author)2008-06-16

Hey Tetra, cool hobby for someone who lives surrounded by wooden buildings, you have cojones of steel.

recyclebin (author)2008-06-15

Sweet, the other day I built something similar out of a shotgun shell and thought to myself "Wow thats alot like tetranitrate's flame cannon". Now I just need to fill it with lighter fluid.

0.775volts (author)2006-08-11

You may have some fun with another recipie for a fireball. you need: 1 fire pot, I recommend a 1.5" by 8" pvc (the shrapnel is much less lethal in case you get it wrong) fuse/ ematches ( to make your own)/ some source of ignition black powder (4f) Napthalene (crushed moth balls) get a box of them, make sure they're napthalene moth balls, the paradichlorobenzene ones don't work, and a resiprator or scuba setup (optional, but damn do mothballs stink). crush the entire box, put the powder in a ziploc for storage, you have enough for several fireballs now. 1) pour about an inch of black powder into the bottom of the pvc pipe. 2)ok, here's the part I got wrong, and ended up building an open-ended pipe bomb instead of a fireball. make a mixture of 70% napthalene and 30% black powder by weight. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND (it was funny when it went off, but only because we were 500 feet away at the time) 3) pour about two inches of the black powder/napthalene mix into the pot. 4) pour three to four inches of napthalene in on top of that. DO NOT TAMP, you want a loose fill so that you get better spread. place, clear, fuse, light, and enjoy. Note: the ratio isn't exact, YMMV, but that's what experimentation is for. you may be able to leave the lift charge out all together, I never tried.

Tetranitrate (author)0.775volts2006-08-12

Yeah, Ive tried a bunch of different things to get a good fireball. I eventually wound up using a liquid, because it is much cheaper then almost any powder that can be made. In the video in the first few shots, you can see I was using a white powder, it is the classic flour cornstarch mixture. It didnt work out too well the first few times because I didnt use enough gunpowder to get the mix to fully separate in the air which is whats necessary for it to ignite.

bigcheeze (author)Tetranitrate2008-01-16

someone here is a MAGER pyro (just like mee) and by da way wach out for the alphabet soup(there wachin u)

0.775volts (author)Tetranitrate2006-08-14

you know, now that I come to think of it, I've always had better results with liquid too, Esp. with white gas. although, one thing you can do is take balloons and fill them with a little gasoline, then fill them the rest of the way with oxygen and suspend them in the path of the flame. makes a nice little pop. don't do it with a garbage bag though, that'll break your windows. But I've never done that, nope,not me, never... no... bad monkey.

bigcheeze (author)0.775volts2008-01-16

my monkey and yours should NEVER MEET!....

bigcheeze (author)bigcheeze2008-01-16

on second thought...(whats your fone-number)

Fizzxwizz (author)2008-01-12

looks great for special effects in movies.

funwithfire325 (author)2007-07-31

biiiig waste of gunpowder

no such thing

logic bomb (author)2007-11-13

Awww, you remind me of myself in my younger days!!! A word of wisdom from a old Anarcist. Always remember, dont build anything in your own home. that way when your stuff blows up in your face, you have somewhere you can go to recover...Give'em hell!

master-of-chaos (author)2007-06-14

was that a bird that fell out of that tree

Lol, no. I love the video because it looks like right after the explosion a smoldering bird spirals down out of the tree, and hits the ground. It would have been pretty funny (at least for my sadistic mind) if thats what actually happened, but in reality it was just a piece of paper towel that was in the barrel when I shot it.

lol ok


Hawaii00000 (author)girrrrrrr22007-10-30

Thats what I thought it was too lol


Hawaii00000 (author)2007-10-30

Synthetic materials (like pvc) and heat DON'T MIX!

jfc443 (author)2007-09-11

ever thought about making 5 or more of these and lining them up so they fire 1 after the after, reckon it would look pretty cool at night

FireMarine (author)2007-08-20

You guys complain to much. It's his instructable, not yours. If you don't like the way he does it, go make your own. And by-the-way Tetra, nice instructable (just like all the rest of them :D ) this could be fun, think of all the things I could do.....

marc92 (author)2007-04-12

Tetranitrate, Have you a warrant for your arrest? or Have you ever been arrested while doing something of this nature (dangerous)? Also how old are you to be doing this in your yard?

sasgty9 (author)marc922007-04-21

to do this stuff, i have to go about a half a mile into the woods... neighbors suck. he must have a nice neighborhood.

marc92 (author)sasgty92007-04-25

Tetranitrate must have neighbors like himself

girrrrrrr2 (author)marc922007-07-01

no he owns alot of acreage... all the neighibors see is his flaming body running towards the garden hose in attempt to put him self out... lol... no offence tetanitrate...

BlueFusion (author)2007-05-30

This could be a variation of an old skool spud cannon, minus the spud. Instead of the fuse and nichrome wire, I would use my simple nichrome igniters, a piece (~7cm) of nichrome wire wrapped around a cut off match head about 2 times. These are extremely easy to make, about 40 seconds each if not less, so mass production is extremely easy. Tetranitrate, love your stuff, but I think this is overcomplicated. For a "flame cannon" you could simply use about 1/2 cup of lighter fluid, in the plastic bag and tube, and put one of (the above) nichrome igniters in the tube under the bag. Depending on the bag you may need two match heads, to first melt the bag. As a fluid, lighter fluid would be great. Or something similar that burns quickly. Also, to get extremely rapid burning, you need a smaller hole (this compresses the fluid and makes it into smaller particles, like an aerosol nozzle). If you got a 2" to 1" adaptor (50mm to 225mm for me) and pushed it on the top of the pipe after loading it, you would get a much longer / higher flame and a faster burn. Maybe even fast enough to use "gas" or petrol, to the rest of the universe.

pyro13 (author)2007-05-14

wicked awsome man

instructa-fan (author)2007-05-11

one word... PYRO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mje (author)2007-02-23

A MUCH safer alternative: 1. Use a paper cylinder. You can make one by wrapping brown wrapping paper round a wax paper covered broomstick, and brishing each layer with dliuted white glue or some other cheap adhesive 2. Use much less black powder- a teaspoon would be plenty- and top it off with a teaspooon or two of fine wood flour.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-02-05

FIRE!!!!!!!! :-D!!!

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