Introduction: How to Make Vortex Cannons

Picture of How to Make Vortex Cannons
Here are two Instructables in one! Shoot rings of smoke across a room with the Tub Thumping Cannon and the Barking Tube Cannon. Watch me build them and the test results. From MAKE MAGAZINE Volume 15

Step 1: Tub Thumping Cannon

Picture of Tub Thumping Cannon

This one is so easy to make and gives great results. You will need a fog machine to generate the rings for both of these projects.

What You Need...

1. 32 Gallon Plastic Trash Can
2. Heavy Duty Trash Bag
3. Golf Ball
4. 2 Bunjee Cords
5. Tape
6. Box cutter.

Step 2: Build It...

Picture of Build It...

1. Using the box cutter, cut out a 6" hole in the bottom of the trash can. Many trash cans have re-rounded circles you can use as guides.

2. Cut out a piece of trash bag a little bit larger than the top of the trash can. Roll up the golf ball in the middle of the bag and secure it with a small bunjee cord. Run a longer bungee cord through the smaller cord.

3. Secure the trash bag to the trash can using tape and attach the longer bunjee cord strap ends to the trash can handles.

Step 3: Use It...

Picture of Use It...

Fill your new Vortex Cannon with smoke, pull back on the bungee/ball handle and let it rip! You should get a nice ring of smoke that shoots across the room. Try a larger hole in the trash can for a larger ring. You've just built the Tub Thumping Cannon! Now on to the Barking Tub Cannon...

Step 4: The Barking Tube Cannon

Picture of The Barking Tube Cannon

This Vortex Cannon uses sound waves to generate the smoke rings. This concept was inspired by Bill Beatty.

What You Need...

1. 12" cardboard concrete form tube available at home improvement stores.
2. 12" Woofer/Speaker
3. Thin piece of plywood
4. Cutting tool to cut a circle and tape.
5. Audio amplifier and laptop
6. Tone Generating Software

Step 5: Build It

Picture of Build It

1. Start by cutting the tube down to about 24". (I learned the hard way that you need a shorter tube as you saw in the video)

2. Using the tube as a guide, cut out a piece of plywood the diameter of the opening of the tube. and tape it to the bottom of the tube. Then cut out a 6" hole in the center of the plywood.

3. Securely tape the speaker to one end of the tube.

4. Wire your audio amp to the speaker and install the Tone Generating software on your laptop.

Step 6: Use It...

Picture of Use It...
You should adjust the Tone Generating software to play a low-frequency saw tooth tone which will 'bump' the woofer and kick enough air to create your computer controlled smoke ring. You can also try different size holes in the tube and different tones and even music for different vortex effects! This is a fun science project and some have been made that really "kick air"! Check out this video. Hope you enjoyed this Instructable.


airjordanoovoo (author)2015-09-14

Hi everyone, if the body is longer then the force of created vortex ring will be stronger ? What theory does it based on ?

LemonChan123 (author)2015-09-11

Amazing the best thing ive ever seen im ganna make one!

pyratenyte made it! (author)2014-10-29

Thanks tons for the effort. Here's couple of pics of my cannon, set out as part of my pirate-themed Halloween yard haunt. It's the same cannon, evolving over the last three years. A 12-inch speaker is at the end of a matching-sized concrete form tube. A fog machine on a timer is concealed in the gun carriage. The fog is blown into a 3" wide galvanized tin elbow mounted underneath the barrel. The speaker is hooked to my stereo. The "bark" is provided by a looping wav file of a howitzer being fired, followed by two minutes of silence. As you can see, it blows a pretty decent smoke ring. At night, a small sound-activated LED strobe is placed in front, facing the end of the barrel for extra effect. Enjoy!

Taranach (author)2014-09-08

Step two part three about where the bungee cords go was extremely vague and yet has a major affect on how the cannon works. I expected better detail from you.

Creepapace (author)2013-02-16


nedim155 (author)2010-10-24

im only reading coments of kipkay :)

ldhoover1 (author)2010-06-22

put a small speaker in bottom of coke can - add flour to coke can - speaker vibration will cause flour to disburse and then cannon will fire it out - if you pot a candle in front of cannon, the cannon will not only blow the candle out - but will ignite the flour in a ring of fire

nnandigala (author)2010-03-23

Can you please provide specifications of speaker and amplifier you used for Barking Tube Cannon

knex luver123 (author)2010-02-20

im gona sue you kip, you did say that we needed an exacto nife in the video, and the you go and wip one out like you were born with it.

Kipkay (author)2008-10-09

It HAD to have been more than that. No one gets blocked just for asking a question. Possible mistake?

knektek (author)Kipkay2010-02-17

one of the first times i seen you reply.

sharlston (author)Kipkay2009-05-17

(removed by author or community request)

sharlston (author)sharlston2009-05-17

why did you remove my comment?

sharlston (author)sharlston2009-05-17

(removed by author or community request)

qballcat (author)sharlston2009-06-06

(removed by author or community request)

wither (author)2009-12-29

 A smoke firework also works just fine also it adds a hint of colour. 

Davidl3 (author)2009-05-08

How do you get the smoke?

totally_screwed (author)2008-10-03

I believe one factor which is very important is the circularity and finish of the orifice. I'm not sure that you emphasised this sufficiently. If the orifice isn't sufficiently circular, the quality of the vortices and their range will suffer. You mentioned smoke, but other substances can be used. For instance rotten-egg gas (hydrogen sulphide from action of an acid on iron sulphide) makes an excellent but exceedingly smelly vortex (that is invisible). Possibly, one could use a combustible gas and aim the vortex at a source of ignition. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE! Please do not try this one in your home or near flammable materials! If you burn your home down, don't blame me! I read some of the comments, but in case I missed one that mentioned this, I apologise..

browfurd (author)totally_screwed2009-04-06

I like the hydrogen sulphide idea! Maybe even a methyl mercaptan/hydrogen sulphide combo and it could be a "flatus" cannon! (In addition to the naturally occurring one...)

jj32x (author)2008-10-14

(sarcasm)NO!!! DONT AIM AT SCHOOL!!!:-D

zimmemic25 (author)jj32x2008-10-25


Derin (author)zimmemic252008-11-09

because youll sit out at break

fwjs28 (author)Derin2009-03-13


Derin (author)fwjs282009-03-26


mechcem (author)2008-10-03

i just started to make an instructable on a similar thing i made two day before you published this. i have got to be faster this has happened 5 times now

fwjs28 (author)mechcem2009-03-13

hire a crack team of lamas or monkeys(not both tho, they fight eachother)....

BlueNinja (author)2008-11-04


Colonel88 (author)BlueNinja2008-11-07

Tru dat. Why make a huge one for $50+ when you can get a small one for under 20 bucks???

fwjs28 (author)Colonel882009-03-13

like they always say "the bigger teh better"

imshanedulong (author)BlueNinja2009-01-02

If you want USELESS, go to and you'll see useless. This is MY instructable so I'm not making fun of anyone. Trust me. This isn't the most useless thing on instructables.

BlueNinja (author)imshanedulong2009-01-05

Well a balloon cost a heck of a lot less then all the stuff you need to buy for this. I still stick with the general idea that this is one of the most useless thing ever.

fwjs28 (author)BlueNinja2009-03-13

not if you are doing it for a science fair project, then its worth extra credit, or first place or some such thing...

Kipkay (author)BlueNinja2009-01-05

It's just a fun project for the h**** of it. It does explain the concept of what a vortex is. I guess you don't like to have fun and are all serious about everything in life. Hence the total uselessness.

zascecs (author)BlueNinja2008-12-07

...but awsome...

Kipkay (author)BlueNinja2008-11-07

Ever in the history of earth!! You're boring...

qon duixote (author)2008-11-17

If anyone is really interested in vortex canons the History channel (U.S.) did a show on German Secret Weapons including some 50 foot long vortex cannons using coal dust that were intended to knock down Allied Aircraft. Sorry, I don't have any links on me but it might be a cool combination History/Science project. If someone wants credit in two classes for one project.

punkatsub (author)qon duixote2008-12-01

did the coal dust work or just p*** off the pilots?

qon duixote (author)punkatsub2009-02-21

They clearly didn't succeed in creating an operational anti-aircraft weapon. However, coal dust or in that case many other fine dusts are extremely volatile in the right conditions. They are all a form of an air and fuel mixture. If you need any proof just Google "mill explodes."

punkatsub (author)qon duixote2009-02-21

ahh kool

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)2009-01-03

awsome instructable!! you are a genius!!!!

unbentcrayfish (author)2008-12-18

nice, i love it...

Meroki (author)2008-12-08

wow i love ur videos man, do you find cool stuff to do like this on your free time?

Godsteam1 (author)2008-11-12

He, how far does this cannon usually shoot?

travie (author)2008-10-28

how should i do this on a smaller scale??

insanitystrike (author)2008-10-05

Hey, could you do this with other shapes too? I mean instead of a circle, a square or a star or a triangle? Even a heart would be cool, because I'm thinking of making a cannon with a heart hole for my high school's valentine's day dance. Who cares if its months away? I'll probably need all that time to make the cannon anyway.

yeah! and fill the cannon with RED smoke too!

is that a yeah to the heart shape or a yeah in general?

Suicide_Mouse (author)2008-10-04

People keep commenting on how you can make one out off a cup and other small things and maybe I missed someone else pointing this out but... If you are a smoker, you already have a small, controllable, size and speed adjusting "cannon", your mouth. HOWEVER! I simply can't stress this enough... If you do not smoke tobacco, DO NOT START! Don't even "try" it! It is not worth the risks and yes, those risks are so damn serious that even smoking one, just one, can cause you problems not to mention addiction. I always hear people say things like, "Oh you have to smoke more then a few to get addicted" or, "You'll just cough, get dizzy and not like it, so you wont do it again". Well guess what people? First time I smoked? I didn't cough, didn't even see how it could make anyone cough, I loved the taste, I felt GREAT, all of my anxieties regarding an event that day seemed so... reduced or eliminated, I was instantly hooked psychologically. I knew it made me feel good, I knew that it had about a 50% chance it would kill me one day and I just didn't care. Not because I'm unintelligent, but because that's how addiction works, I've been through other addictions so I'm familiar with what it feels like and on that day, I knew I was addicted. Mainly psychologically but I'm sure to some degree physically too. I'm currently about to quit (first attempt) on the 12th after a few years now of smoking, I'm really glad and happy about this but I'm also scared out of my mind. SO! DO NOT SMOKE CIGARETTES! The buzz goes away, the addiction constantly grows, you get closer and closer to death every smoke, and while you do get relief and perhaps a small "lift" from a smoke (when you are already a smoker) it's not worth it, it just isn't worth it. So don't start, and if you have set up a quit date and follow through, do it for yourself, for the people you love and the ability to be with them longer. There are much safer (and better) ways to feel good in this life, from adrenaline rushes to other things, so play it safe people. [/Rant] Admittedly, I learned how to blow smoke rings a while ago because it was something I wanted to do before I quit. I have to say, your mouth is incredible in what it is capable of, you can blow tiny (around 1") rings to quite large ones, traveling fast or slow all depending on what you do. It's cool, but I like the idea of not using your lungs as the "push" for the smoke a lot more so I think this instructable is awesome!

ac1D (author)Suicide_Mouse2008-10-13


zimmemic25 (author)Suicide_Mouse2008-10-13

not smoke cigarettes, but other "stuff"???

About This Instructable




Bio: Tinkerer, hackster and prankster. Hit me up on Facebook: Thanks for checking out my Instructables!
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