Introduction: Homemade Cannon Fuse

Picture of 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

Picture of Materials

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


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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.



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. 


Lorddrake (author)2013-05-02

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

Grim123 (author)Lorddrake2013-05-02

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.

taibhsegaeilge (author)Grim1232017-10-27

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.

Lorddrake (author)Grim1232013-05-02

or try mixing some of your propellant into the wax so even the wax layer will help the fuse to burn hotter. just a thought.

Grim123 (author)Lorddrake2013-05-02

That's also a very interesting idea I haven't thought of. I'll have to whip up a batch one of these days. I'll try to get some burn tests up with these ideas against the basic fuse and see how they perform. Thanks for some great new ideas.

MatheKiller (author)2015-02-16

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.

shona.oneill (author)MatheKiller2015-03-13

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

SaulD20 (author)2017-01-06

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

MAN OF MERR made it! (author)2016-03-30

Im glad i got extra matches. The second pic is a whole box of matches (32). The battery is a double AA battery. The third pic is three boxes worth of match igniter stuff, and as you can see, its not much. The 4th pic was after i ground it, and that is a 8 once cup, so now you can really see how little there is, although i did lose a bit to the m&p. i might have added to much alcohol (i really hope not) but i did fully coat a three foot(ish) string, and another shorter one that i didnt measure. when its dry, i'll see how it works.

MAN OF MERR (author)MAN OF MERR2016-03-30

i did in fact make the mix to thin. all my "fuse" did was smolder, unless i held it so the flame was moving up. im trying again with 5 boxes worth, and im going to be more carefull with the alcohol.

MAN OF MERR (author)MAN OF MERR2016-03-30

Pic one doesnt really do the differnece of 5 boxes justice. pic two is better. pic three is the powder after i added a little alcohol. its probably about the consistency of loose clay. what i did this time was put in the string, and kept adding a little alcohol while mashing it untill i was happy. its kinda hard to tell from the 4th pic, i tried it with the flash on this time, but theres a color difference (its actually red instead of pinkish red) and its heavier, and theres very little residue this time. so i do believe i have about 30 or so inches of useable fuse. i'll update (possibly for the last time) if it works.

MAN OF MERR (author)MAN OF MERR2016-03-30

Grumble grumble. Tomorrow ill try two coats, each with 5 boxes. and its possible i didnt quite grind it fine enough this time. Im also wondering if this would any better with a bit of black powder thrown in? i dont really want it to burn fast, but its rather labour intensive to grind all this, and im pratically a drooling zombie from all the match head removing. any thoughts?
P.s.i have all the individual componets for black powder, if you think a specific componet will help.

Grim123 (author)MAN OF MERR2016-03-30

If you have black powder then absolutely use that instead. The only reason i used match heads was so that anyone in any country could make these fuses without access to black powder. Additionally, if you have the base components, I seem to recall that soaking a 100% cotton string in potassium nitrate solution would yield very good results, though its been a while since I've researched the topic.

Grim123 (author)MAN OF MERR2016-03-30

When I used to do this if be using the boxes of 100+ matches and would go through quite a few. Good luck with your fuse, for the amount it looks like you might be ok, though if not, an extra coat should help.

MAN OF MERR (author)Grim1232016-03-30

im sticking to 3 feet(or less) at a time. since three boxes smoldered, im thinking 5 boxes will work better. Do you remember how many boxes you used?

Grim123 (author)MAN OF MERR2016-03-30

Sorry, it's been a long time. I used to literally just grind up an entire box of 100+matches at a time and store them for another day when I'd make my fuse.

funkydude (author)2015-12-02

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

Grim123 (author)funkydude2015-12-02

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

funkydude (author)2015-12-02

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

Grim123 (author)funkydude2015-12-02

If I remember correctly, I did try coating in candle wax to provide moisture resistance. I don't believe it worked very well. Now, this could simply be because that particular batch may not have had a heavy enough coating of the match heads, because theoretically this concept should work. If you try it yourself, I'd recommend possibly double coating the string with match heads before dipping in wax.

funkydude (author)2015-12-02

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

ilovesb (author)2015-09-02

this works great:)

Grim123 (author)ilovesb2015-09-19

Thanks :) Glad I could help.

suberk (author)2015-07-26

Use blackpowder instead of match head chemical so no need to grinding.

Grim123 (author)suberk2015-07-28

I have, and it works wonderfully, though the purpose off this was to show people how to make fuses with only what they have in their home. Black powder isnt very easy for most people to get, matches on the other hand are easily accesaable and very cheap.

ChrisH23 (author)2015-03-18

If your in the UK might be easier just to buy some visco fuse... check

Mythbuster Kid (author)2013-04-29

This is great! It is a lot more simple than other tutorials that I've seen. I can't wait to try it.

Grim123 (author)Mythbuster Kid2013-04-29

That was my goal :). Hope you enjoy and have fun. If you ever need any help just let me know.

About This Instructable




Bio: Im a teenage kid who has a lot of free time, and an extensive knowledge of explosives, weaponry, and in general things that I probably ... More »
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