A smoke (or vortex) cannon is basically a vessel with a hole at one end (usually close to half the diameter of the side) and a diaphragm at the other end. When the diaphragm is punched, air shoots out of the hole; but due to the circular lip the air forms a toroid (doughnut) of air which travels great distances before petering out. Add a little smoke or fog and you get a very cool effect. There are a few great instructables out there on how to make one of these cannons; the business end of my cannon is basically a copy of Steve Spangler's design as seen on Ellen.
Step 1: ITEMS and EQUIPMENT
- Plastic Garbage can. In my case it is a "Rubbermaid Animal Stopper" which is complete misnomer because squirrels chewed through the lid in the first week. This made it a perfect candidate for this project!
- Plastic sheeting, shower curtain, garbage bag, piece of nylon. Really, anything that will hold air.
- Box tape, I used hockey sock tape as well.
- 2 Black poster boards (aka bristol board in Canada).
- 4 times 3 foot lengths of 3/8" foam pipe insulation.
- ≈ 4 foot by 4 foot of scrap plywood or strandboard.
- 3 foot length of 2x4 or 2x6.
- Fog maker, I bought mine specifically for this project for 40$.
- 6 times 1.5 inch screws
- Matte Black spray paint
- Hand drill
- Jig saw
- Glue gun
Step 2: HOLE CUT
Step 3: DIAPHRAGM
First, drape the plastic over the opening of the garbage can, and trim the excess all the way around to leave a few inches. Then take strips of tape and fasten it down along the edge; I used hockey sock tape which has a little elasticity in it. After I had pulled the plastic relatively taught, I put a strip around the top edge. Alternatively you can use a bungee cord around the circumference (don't cut the plastic as short in that case).
If your goal is to make a Vortex or Smoke Cannon, congratulations it's complete! Just fill with smoke and slap the plastic to get the rings to fly across the room.
Step 4: LENGTHEN THE CANNON
Step 5: THE BASE
Step 6: FINISHING TOUCHES
I used up an entire can of the matte black paint, and I could have used a bit more for touch ups. Matte (as opposed to glossy) is best in this case because it hides imperfections and hides the fact that you have many different textures (foam, textured plastic, glossy tape, strand board).
Step 7: FIRE AT WILL!!!!
My kids love it when we take out the cannon to fire a few rounds. If you have two cannons you could play a game of knock over the opposing "ship's" stack of cups.