Introduction: Halloween Pirate Cannon (and Fog Machine Disguiser)

Picture of Halloween Pirate Cannon (and Fog Machine Disguiser)

This Instructable describes the cannon I built to disguise the fog machine I use for my pirate-themed Halloween setup. I was built primarily out of standard 2 x 4 lumber and PVC/ABS plumbing, all available at your local big box hardware store. I apologize for the lack of interim pictures, but I did this project a while ago before I discovered Instructables.

Anyway, The main purpose of the cannon was to hide the fog machine in some context that made sense within the Pirate theme we've had for the last few years. Having the fog come out the cannon as though it were firing seemed like the obvious choice.

Step 1: Designing the Plumbing

Picture of Designing the Plumbing

For me, most of the fun is in the planning and research. I sketched out some ideas that could be very easily built using simple 2 x 4 lumber. I then went to the local Home Depot and Lowes to see what was available in the plumbing department that would provide the right scale. Once I had all the sizes determined, I started modeling a solution. I'm an Industrial Designer ( so I used Solidworks to determine the plumbing method. I decided to plumb a path from the fog machine exit up thru the bottom of the cannon to exit out the front. I used a large diameter pipe for the cannon body, a smaller diameter for the fog path, and a reducer on the front of the cannon to mate the 2 and to simulate the thick wall of my cannon.

Step 2: Finalizing the Design

Picture of Finalizing the Design

Here you can see a Solidworks rendering of the proposed design.

Step 3: Building the Support Structure and the Barrel

Picture of Building the Support Structure and the Barrel
The lower support structure is pretty simple. Each layer of 2 x 4 parts is screwed and glued from below to the layer above. I added deep counter bores to keep the screw length down.

The rings on the cannon barrel were made by cutting short lengths of the main pipe, slitting them, sliding them over the main barrel, and gluing them in place. I oriented the slit gaps on the bottom where they are not visible. The end cap is a standard pipe end cap that's been cut way down in length.

To make the flare on the nozzle end, I added a thin MDF wooden ring and then used auto body compound to swipe the transition.

Step 4: Building the Wheels

Picture of Building the Wheels

The wheels were also made from standard 2 x 4 lumber. For these, I used biscuit joints with the glue to avoid the screws. I used stock closet poles for the wheel shafts with small dowels press fit into cross drilled holes in the shafts (not shown in this image, but visible in the final). 

Step 5: Finishing Details

Picture of Finishing Details

I stained all the wood, and added some black chain and some molded wood detail parts I found at Home Depot to give the cannon some fanciful decoration. I also found a molded resin pirate head in a discount bin somewhere that I believe was originally intended as a paint-it-yourself belt buckle kit. It doesn't show very well in the photo, but I painted it bronze and added it as a cast bronze emblem on the front.

In the original design, I had some simulated strapping that I was going to make from 1/8" by 1" aluminum bar. I ultimately wanted something more Disney-esque rather than historically or structurally accurate so I added some simulated bronze nails using bronze-finished round furniture tacks.

Step 6: Video Demonstration

Step 7: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

That's pretty much it. I still need to make the straps that hold the cannon barrel in place, and I still may add the strapping to the wheels after all.

I might also add a red light to the inside of the barrel at some point to indicate the cannon firing and provide some dramatic backlighting to the fog. I'd have to make a little electrical harness between the fog machine and the fog timer though to time the light and that may be over my head.

In the photo, I also added a stack of cannon balls made from styrofoam balls painted flat black (the photo is grossly overexposed), along with a barrel that I flamed and stenciled to fit the theme (It says "Gunpowder" and "Barbados").

I didn't include any specifics as I don't know what is available at your local big box store. I'm also a firm believer that you'll get more enjoyment out of coming up with your own design anyway. Hopefully, this Instructable inspires you to do just that. Thanks for looking!


jen617 (author)2014-10-23

Hi there, may I ask how you made the bands across the center of the cannons? Also have you had any success with sound synchronizing?

markeike (author)jen6172014-10-23

Sure. I cut sections of the same pipe at about 1-1/2" wide, then slit them along the length. The slit allowed me to open them slightly to fit over the main pipe. I positioned the gap formed by the slit on the bottom of the cannon so you never see it. I then swiped some auto body repair putty around either side of the band to blend it in to the main body, and painted.

I didn't do anything with electronics or lighting. The cannon was just intended to disguise the fog machine, and it works perfectly for that as-is.


jbonnema (author)2014-09-16

Great cannon. What did you use for the little dots / rivets on the wheels?

markeike (author)jbonnema2014-09-17

Thanks! They are just common round-head furniture tacks available at the big box stores, like these-

lm45116 (author)2011-10-08

how do you refill the fog machine

markeike (author)lm451162011-10-08

The fog machine just sits on a shelf. The cannon with attached plumbing forms a lose fit over the exit hole of the fog machine so there are no hard attachments between the two (somewhat visible in the CAD drawing). You can just lift off the cannon to gain access to the fog machine fill hole.

lm45116 (author)markeike2011-10-15

Ok i get it thanks

_biohazard_14 (author)2010-10-18

cool whats the 3d programing software and iven the paint huh

markeike (author)_biohazard_142010-10-18

It's a high-end ($6,000+) 3D solids-based engineering program called Solidworks, which has a built-in rendering program called Photoworks. I'm an Industrial Design Consultant so I use it for work. For something as simple as this, you could use a free CAD package like Google Sketchup and get great results.

cablestein (author)2010-10-08

Hiya, any info on the paint you used?

markeike (author)cablestein2010-10-08

Just standard rattlecan paint - primer and semi gloss black. I really like Rustoleum "Painter's Touch" paint. It goes on and levels out really nicely and is pretty durable, but all major brand paints are pretty good. Cannons were cast metal and paint was slopped on to prevent rust, so a really smooth, run-free automotive paint job is not required. The only trick to rattlecan paint from my experience is to ignore what they say about it being "dry to the touch" in 24 hours. Let it cure for at least a week and you'll have a really durable paint job..

neilh (author)2010-08-12

Well done!

mcrfan33393 (author)2010-01-03

 what diameter is the inner pipe?

rbbiggs (author)2009-11-06

What size (diameter)  PVC pipe did you use, and how long of a piece?  Is the swivel made from 2 inch PVC?
Also, how wide and how long is the 2x4 base?

Thanks again for posting this, going to have some fun with my Kids !

markeike (author)rbbiggs2009-11-30

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I had already put the cannon away for the season. The cannon barrel was made from 4" irrigation pipe with 1.5" inch pipe for the cross piece. The base is 24" long by 10" wide and three 2x4s tall with 7.5" wheels. Thanks for your interest!

Killer~SafeCracker (author)2009-11-08

Cool, you could make it "shoot" candy.

Shoot candy with the smoke, now that would be cool !!


rbbiggs (author)2009-11-05

Great Job, looks easy to make too !  Thanks for posting this.

zygomatic (author)2009-11-05

Very nice work!  What kind of fogger do you have and what kind of fog juice do you use?

markeike (author)zygomatic2009-11-05

Thanks! My first fogger was an American DJ Shadow II. It was a nice sturdy top level model, and I purchased a matching interval timer to go with it. Both were very expensive but operated well for many years (if not for many hours, since I only used them on Halloween). One year, I forgot to order fog juice from American DJ and bought some cheap junk at the local Halloween store which didn't perform well and I believe ultimately destroyed the fogger. I think it was loaded with coloring and perfume and who-knows-what-else and it gunked up the works.

After Halloween, I purchased a 700 watt fogger with interval timer on sale from Spencer's gifts for about 1/4 of the price of the American DJ model. It's not as sturdily built, but it works great. The trick is to buy good quality clear fog juice with no extra additives and fillers (I currently use fog juice from MBT Lighting and Sound), and to thoroughly clean your fogger by running distilled water thru it and letting it completely airdry before you store it away for the season.

chrispaccord (author)2009-11-05

 Did you add any kind of spacer between the pvc and the nozzle for the fog machine?  I've tried using pvc to route the fog from a machine before, but was uncomfortable with the heat of the nozzle and the proximity of the pvc...

markeike (author)chrispaccord2009-11-05

Nope, but you are right to worry. The instructions for my original  fog machine specifically warn about keeping a space of 2"-3" between the nozzle and any ducting. It had a large metal nozzle that dissapated the heat fairly well though so I wasn't too concerned about violating that as the PVC was okay up to 140 degrees. My new fog machine has a plastic guard over the nozzle that prevents any contact with the nozzle. If you are worried about your fog machine being too hot, you could add a pipe reducer that reduces from a large diameter that fits well over the nozzle down to your working pipe size so there is no chance of the nozzle making contact.

otoupalik (author)2009-11-04

 That is so cool! Great work!

DSalyer (author)2009-11-04

I was thinking of doing the same thing myself but did not know how the straight cannon barrel would look.  It looks fantastic!

As for the light and sound being synchronized with the fog machine, I think a simple solution might be to add a motion detector in the barrel. I think it might detect the fog and then could set off the light and sound feature.  Let me know if you try it and it works.

jamesjmg30 (author)2009-10-31

How long did it take you to make that on Solid Works? we use it a school and we never get to use all of the features like the rendering we just design and print the design sheet

markeike (author)jamesjmg302009-11-01

Not long, but I've been using Solidworks for many years in my work as an Industrial Design Consultant ( I'd say it was a couple of hours but that includes design time and trying some different alternatives. If I had to recreate it from scratch knowing wht the end result would be, I could probably do it in less than 1/2 hour. The rendering component of Solidworks, called Photoworks, is not included in the basic version of Solidworks which I assume is what you are using in school.

MACKattacksnipe (author)2009-10-31

Very nice

Bartboy (author)2009-10-31

Gives me an idea:
Cannon stereo!
The cannons could be speakers, and "shoot" sound!

~Sasquatch~ (author)2009-10-31

What a 1st Class Idea, and Instructable! KUDOS!!

littlegandhi1199 (author)2009-10-31

 That's a very good idea
like you said a bright red light flashing off would be good and maybe have that light go off and then the fog come out within split seconds. 
And another addition to make this seam like it is being shot off you could mount speakers inside the design and have a recording of a loud explosion go off 
I think that would be very cool!

Tool Using Animal (author)2009-10-31

Wowzer!  great project

fungus amungus (author)2009-10-30

Great stuff! Really nice finished look and I dig the Solidworks planning.

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