Homemade Cannon Fuse

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Introduction: Homemade Cannon Fuse

I've seen several methods to make cannon fuse; some professional grade, some DIY. Of all of these methods even the DIY ones often require materials that aren't easily obtained such as gun powder. As is always my way, here I showcase an incredibly simple method for making truly homemade cannon fuse without all the fuss and expense. 

Step 1: Materials

As always I try to make instructables with truly household items so the following materials should all be readily available.

1: Matches...!!!!!!!!! This is very important THEY CANNOT BE STRIKE ANYWHERE MATCHES(THE ONES WITH THE WHITE TIP CANNOT BE USED ) AS THEY WILL DETONATE ON IMPACT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2: Pliers. They will be used to remove the match heads from the wooden sticks. It is your preference as to needle nose or not.
3: Container(sealable): I have pictured a film canister and a small chemical bottle from an old chemistry kit, its again your preference as to the type of container.
4: Grinder. I use a micro mortar and pestle which are ideal, however any device that can safely grind the material to a fine mesh is suitable as long as little to no heat is generated. So a coffee grinder IS NOT safe as the heat generated can cause a small explosion.
5: String. As it's been a while since I have made these I no longer remember which material the string I used was. As it will be coated in a propellant the base material does not have to be highly flammable, however WOOL IS NON FLAMMABLE and as such should be avoided. 
6: Stirrer. I use a match stick and a pocket clip from a pen, but really anything will work. 
7: Mixing Bowl. Any small bowl will work so its up to you as far as material and size, but smaller is usually better depending on the batch size.
8: Water/Alcohol. Yes there is a reason there was a shot glass in the picture. A solvent will be needed, either water or rubbing alcohol. both will work but rubbing alcohol has the advantage of evaporating more quickly.
9: Optional-- Funnel. Just to make it easier to pour out the ground powder into the container for storage.

Step 2: Grinding

Now the purpose of this instructable is not to show you how to remove match heads. I wont sugar coat it, its a long and tedious process but it pays off. I recommend saving this portion of the process for a rainy day when you have lots of free time.

Once the material is removed from the match head it needs to be ground to a fine powder. Clumping will occur but that's to be expected and is not a real issue.

Once thoroughly ground spread the material out on a piece of paper and remove any pieces of wood, if you don't catch them all its not a serious problem its simply to provide a better quality fuse and more consistent burn time. 

Step 3: Mixing

Now as you all know, another staple of my instructables is the fact that I don't own any real measuring equipment such as a scale, as such all my measurements are "eyeballed". 
You are going to mix in your powder first and then add water/alcohol to it.
Add the water/alcohol slowly and a little at a time. the key is to ensure a high concentration of the match heads.
You are going to look for a thick paste like substance similar to that pictured below.
This is going to take some trial and error but you will eventually get it.

Step 4: Dipping/Coating

Once you have made the past you can begin coating your string. Now again I apologize for the lack of precise measurements but you'll have to bare with me here.

I recommend choosing a string of contrasting color to determine just how saturated and coated your string is.

Cut off a fairly large section of string, for this batch I believe I used almost 3 feet for this one batch. Be careful to leave a few inches on either end that will not be coated, I'll explain why in the next step.

Now dip the string into the paste being sure to soak/saturate the string completely.
keep mixing and stirring the string in the solution and add more string until you feel you have used up all of the paste while ensuring a nice thorough coating. again this part will require some trial and error but its worked well for me in the past. Also if after testing the fuse proves unreliable, you are able to re-dip the old fuse string.

Step 5: Drying/Cutting

Once the string has been thoroughly soaked it is time for drying and cutting.
Remove the String being careful not to have it bump into anything as it will rub off the coating.
Now is where those two uncoated ends will come into play.
Tie off one end to something up high, leaving at least six inches from the bottom of the string to the ground. 
now tie off the bottom end of the string to an object with enough weight to pull the string taught WITHOUT BREAKING THE STRING.
I have a super magnet that works perfectly for this job as I can attach several weights to the bottom of it as necessary.

Drying time will vary depending on how wet your paste is, humidity in the room it is sitting and whether you used water or alcohol to liquify the match heads. Mine generally take about an hour to fully dry give or take half an hour. basically just wait until it is completely dry to the touch.
 when you remove the weight and the top support the string should hold its shape and be fairly rigid now(another indicator that it is fully dried).

lay out the string next to a ruler or yard stick and begin cutting. First remove about the first 3 inches from where the coating starts and stops as the ends tend to be less thoroughly coated than from that point on. these cut offs can be used to test burn rate as well.

now simply cut your fuse the the desired lengths and you're ready to go.

DO NOTE THAT THIS FUSE IS NOT WATER PROOF. HUMIDITY IS NOT MUCH OF AN ISSUE ONCE IT'S DRIED BUT CONTACT WITH LIQUID WATER WILL NEUTRALIZE THAT PORTION OF FUSE

Step 6: BURN RATE TEST

Finally have some burn time videos up, although the quality is very poor i think it serves its purpose. hope you enjoy.
the second video has the actual burn test and the first is commentary because my audio got messed up in the other one. 

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  • Im glad i got extra ...-MAN OF MERR

    MAN OF MERR made it!

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21 Comments

can you wax coat the fuse to provide it with protection against moisture?

I actually was wondering that myself but haven't gotten around to testing it. In theory it would work but if you we're to try I would recommend double if not tripple coating the string with propellant before adding wax. A single coat of propellant is enough for a standard fuse but might not have enough power for it to be coated in wax. If you do try I'd love to hear your reults.

You can paint the fuses in clear nail polish. It is very similar to the coating on waterproof matches as used in the UK & US armed services. I personally thin out the nail polish with 60% by weight acetone. This makes the coating incredibly thin and yet still fully waterproof, also it doesn't affect the burn rate. I use this on all my externally used fuses.

Hope this is helpful to anyone, it took some figuring out to get the thickness of the waterproofing perfect, which this is.

jo bro question i have a cannon with a extrem small fuse hole can u make a tuto on how to make a very thin fuse?

If you still need help with this, I can and will describe in very high detail how I make my 1/2mm fuses for my micro cannon. It's a different, but yet extremely reliable method.

this make ultra fine fuses, hope it helps ;-)

So black powder should work as well if not better than match powder?

I might try this for the sake of experimentation and exploration of knowledge

It's a great little project to get your feet wet in the pyrotechnics world. Also just a fun weekend project.

has anyone tried coating the finished product with a wax to ad moisture resistance and a more predictable burntime