Picture of Jet Engine Made Out Of Empty Beer Cans!
Build a functional jet engine out of empty beer cans and an old hair dryer. Minimal tools required.

I had always wanted to make a jet engine, then, one day i realised i had the parts available to do it. So, I did!

It was made out ofSTEEL beer cans, copper hydraulics tubing and an old hair dryer.
It producted measurable thrust which was only briefly tested on a rig that utilised model train tracks and 4 boggies.

More information is on my website at: http://letsbuildone.110mb.com/

I have a video of various tests in the development process and it in action on my website and below:


I Appologise for the poor quality pictures that were taken on my old phone and unfortunatly the engine has been ravaged for parts by my brother so i cannot take new photos but, i am planning to rebuild it soon and i will take plenty of new photos when i do.

Step 1: Gather the materials and tools you will need

I had wanted to do this for a long time then one day I noticed I had the part available to make a crude Afterburning Ducted Fan (aka Motorjet or Thermofan) engine from a coke can, an old hairdryer and some copper pipe I had lying around. This is not the instructions on how to make that but rather the instructions on how to make the refined version that I completed in college before I went to university.
Mark II is currently under construction and should be completed shortly with a full write up and videos.

Materials Required:
@ At least 4 Steel cans, specifically the taller ones and bigger ones are better.
@ Copper or steel thin tubing, hydraulics tubing from a scrap car will do.
@ Some flexible plastic fuel hosing long enough for you to be comfortably far enough from a running miniature jet engine, 1m did me, I got some from my local model shop used for nitro cars.
@ An old hair dryer or other air moving device, leaf blower could work, or a ducted fan/propeller.
@ A variable resistor or potentiometer, I used a scalectrics controller then upgraded to a dimmer switch of a Light after the scalectrics controller started smoking.
@ A length of wire as long as your rubber hosing at least, two wires needed to power electric motor for your fan.
@ Really small drill bits and a drill, 1mm or less for fuel nozzles.
@ Tape, adhesives and solder would be helpful.
@ Insulation tape

Tools Required:
@ Sand Paper
@ Soldering Iron possibly
@ Possibly a screw driver
@ Drill
@ Sharp knife
@ Scissors
@ Pliers
@ Relevant Safety equipment, gloves, goggles, fire extinguisher and COMMON SENSE.

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kgaurkhede4 years ago
hey any ideas for ignitor
& here r some pics of my next jet the "turbojet"
nice pictures. you just gave me an idea of how to secure the central shaft.
here's my improved design
new engine.bmp
danprima person%6 months ago

looool same i didnt know how to do that....

you can use a spark generator from one of those lighters where you have to push a button. just dismantle it without puncturing the gas store and extend the wire between the spark gap and the generator (if there is one). it would be like a spark plug.
spark system.bmplighters.bmp
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
Looks interesting, what are you using for bearings?

As for the ignition, the standard solution is a spark plug that screws into a boss welded onto the side of your combustion chamber, you would need a coil pack and a decent 12V source like a lead acid to run it though. Another option is to use the spark of a disposable lighter, extend the wire into the can and set the wall gap right. You could also use two bolts that are screwed in from opposite sides of the combustion camber with a small gap between them and discharge a camera flash circuit through them to give a nice beastly spark.
I finished it! i made a video of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPvhfkExAlU&list=UU6q74pDLeZFgsPFzckC0MOQ&index=1&feature=plcp
LetsBuildOne (author)  hazza the gun3 years ago
Nicely done! I managed to wedge bits of mine together and use jubilee clips to avoid the smoking tape issue.

It looks like you either aren't putting enough fuel in or the fuel ring isn't spraying evenly, to solve this you can try drilling more holes in the fuel ring or add turbulators to the part of the engine the air and fuel mixes to help them mix better.

Keep me updated!

most amazing thing i have ever seen done with peoples old crap. I am going to make this for a school project about re-cycling and re-use, any advice about the type of hair dryer and where i can get one?
LetsBuildOne (author)  hazza the gun3 years ago
Any hair drier will do. The more powerful the better. Power is probably relative to physical size and any power rating though I doubt there is much between them. you could try your local re-cycling centre.

To be honest an Electric ducted fan is probably cheaper and more effective than a hair drier if your going to buy one. They can be picked up for around £15-20 new. You could try ebay, markets, car boots and similar to find a cheap one. I recently bought a Nitro boat with all radio gear and all accessories for £40 from a market. A similar EDF plane should be much cheaper.
ya ty for that i got myself a hair dryer from argos. my next problem, however is finding the pipe used for the fuel injection ring. I went to B&Q at the weekend but the only 5-8mm copper pipe they had was £22.60 a roll! what a rip we dont have any at home and the DT department at school has none either. Where can i get a foot length of 5-8mm copper/steel/brass tube before wednesday?
LetsBuildOne (author)  hazza the gun3 years ago
A scrap yard will have some, it's what they use for brake pipe on cars. They usually let you clip off a few feet for free. Though this may be steel and harder to bend. If you go to a garage then they usually have a roll that they may give/sell you a foot of.
ya does it have to be 5mm cuz i found some 8mm cheap and bought it.
LetsBuildOne (author)  hazza the gun3 years ago
That can work... You may have trouble bending it tight enough so you might want to bend it so it;s central in the can, seal the end and drill your holes around the circumference. similar to my M2 engine but without the aluminium part.
ok ty the jet is awesome im going to start building on the weekend when we can get an replacement hair dryer from a charity shop or pawnbrokers (mine was modern and had a circuit board, and when i tried to re-wire it, it blew up).
LetsBuildOne (author)  hazza the gun3 years ago
Yeah, they often have the heating element in series with the fan so if you remove it the fan gets over volted and blows up... In future leave the heating element in. If it has a cold air setting then I'd follow the wiring and isolate it. Alternatively you could always leave all the electronics in and not re-wire it?
mr kit3 years ago
is the throttle of the engine controlled by the switch on the hair dryer
LetsBuildOne (author)  mr kit3 years ago
No, it uses a dimmer switch off a light. This was a bad solution though and PWM or a speed controller would be better.
mr kit3 years ago
if your testing this enjine somewhere like the beach where should i get my power source for the hairdryer.
LetsBuildOne (author)  mr kit3 years ago
You could use a lead acid battery and an inverter. alternatively, if you remove the heating coil you can run the electric motor off a few batteries in series. You will need 24-50v though.
adrian094 years ago
how much thrust is there?
LetsBuildOne (author)  adrian094 years ago
Around one or two pounds, (500g-1Kg).
adrian094 years ago
best way to deal with MDFs and Plywood - use a hand tube saw
kgaurkhede4 years ago
can you give me any instructable for building a pulse jet for mounting on a rc car or a plane n can u tell how to increase the speed of a motor
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
I have never built a pulse jet as they are illegal in my country. I think you can increase the frequency by making the tail shorter and or thinner diameter but you need to be careful as those dimensions are crucial to the engines operation. Higher power from a bigger engine, higher frequency (speed of running engine?) from smaller engine in general terms.
Where do you get the idea pulse jets are banned from ?
LetsBuildOne (author)  steveastrouk4 years ago
I'm not sure to be honest. Maybe scrapheap challenge? The noise is apparently too much for the British public.
kgaurkhede4 years ago
are the blade designes for my compressor and the turbines are okay or not?
i also have a old insect slayer would it give out some beasty sparks for ignitor
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
You're blades aren't ideal as they have no aerofoil section to them and both the ones labelled "1" look to have too much camber on them but I would speculate that they may do the job. Also the relative diameters and numbers of blades look a bit off but they should still work.

We don't have a big problem with insects in England so I have never come across an "insect slayer" before and as such couldn't comment. Give it a go if it'll cost you nothing though because then at least you can tell the rest of us whether it'll work!
kgaurkhede4 years ago
hey have any idea about making this type of ignitor without using disposable camera
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
Yes, it can be done but it seems a bit complicated for what it does. It would be much easier and simpler to go to a film development shop and ask for an old disposable camera. They give them out free and are ready built and ready to go.

If you really want to build one like that then you probably want to look at building a step up buck-boost converter using a transistor with a secondary output from your transformer coil to trigger it. It's a lot more work and probably won't do the job any better though.

If you want a beastlier spark than the flash circuit gives add two or three AA batteries on your camera flash circuit. This will step your voltage up from just under 400v to over 1000v. Your flash cap will probably die though as they're only rated to 330v so you'll want to take that out or, if your feeling lucky, put another cap in series with the original one for each of the extra battery you use to split the voltage.

Be careful when messing with these high voltage circuits as they give a nasty shock and CAN KILL if you get shocked across your heart. Wear some rubber gloves and insulate everything before you connect the power source. This isn't worth dying over some simple safety precautions.
kgaurkhede4 years ago
hey any ideas for ignitor
& here r some pics of my next jet the "turbojet"
kgaurkhede4 years ago
hey LBO i have sm pics of my thermo jet engine
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
Hey kgaurkhede, Thanks for the pictures. Do you have any of it in action?
kgaurkhede4 years ago
hey LBO i have just made my own beer can jet engine but not using the beer can its actually hard to find here! ( coz i live in INDIA )
so i've used empty deodorant cans instead n some small steel cans
and for air flow system i've used a simple 12volt dc motor with a fan but there is one problem, i cannot get much speed from this motor. can u help me out with this? and ha the motor is taken out from a toy car!!!
for fuel i used another deodorant but it was almost empty!
so when i ran the engine so it lasted for only 10sec now i will try other alternative fuel ( maybe using acetone )
hope you would feel happy
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
Hey Kgaurkhede,

Empty deodorant can's are a perfect replacement. If you overvolt the 12v motor you will get more speed from it as the rpm is proportional to the input voltage. It is usually safe to over volt by 50% so 18v would be a good place to start. I have however overvolted a 12v motor to 48v previously to no ill effects so it's down to how brave your feeling as to how much extra. Be careful though, the higher voltage you put in the faster it will get hot and the hotter it will get, if you put too much voltage through it for too long you will cook the engine and it will no longer work.

Deodorant would be a good fuel source, they usually use propane or butane as a propellant so it is as good as using a can of butane or propane. They even come with a decent atomising nosel on the can! The downside is they are low capacity and you have to press the button up close to the intake of the engine which is dangerous and makes RC control difficult. Acetone would be a good alternative fuel. You just have to pre-heat it before it gets into the combustion chamber and use an atomising nosel to disperse it into a fine spray so it will burn efficiently. This will require a pressurised fuel system you'll have to work out by yourself.

Thanks for building one! Please can you send me some pictures or a video?

All the best

kgaurkhede4 years ago
hey can i use ceramic coated aluminium cans instead the steel one
LetsBuildOne (author)  kgaurkhede4 years ago
I didn't know you could get ceramic coated aluminium ones? The Ceramic would be fine but the aluminium will probably melt although it depends on the composition. Try it and find out? Please tell me how it goes.
thank you very much
Wesley6665 years ago
This still doesn't work 100% of the time.  I used steel cans and they still melted.  I am trying a new design with purpose made parts.  I have most of it machined out but I wanted to do this right so I wanted to have the exhaust fan driving the compressor fan at the front but I wanted to know, would the bearings seize up?  I was going to enclose then is a metal tube but will they still heat up and seize?

LetsBuildOne (author)  Wesley6665 years ago
Really? I'm impressed! Did you run it for an extended period of time like five minutes or more? I used to run mine for no longer than a minute or two at a time because I was worried it was going from glowing orangey white hot to molten. Are you using Butane? Some other fuels burn hotter than butane.

I found that Mine distorted less when I wrapped a second can around the first. The Videos for my mark II Engine aren't uploaded yet but when they are you will see my augmenting nozzle and how it acts as a heat spreader for the combustion chamber. Maybe adding some kind of heat sink is something to consider.

As for your question on bearings, yes. A normal ball bearing ring race would seize at the exhaust temperature so you have three options;

First use ceramic bearings that can withstand a higher temperature but you need to make sure they can hold up at several thousand and potentially tens of thousands of rpm and they are expensive and relatively difficult to get hold of in the size you want.

Secondly shield your exhaust bearing in a jacket. Essentially having a 1/2" tube down the center of your engine that the bearings sit inside of, maybe with some cold airflow from the compressor blowing down it.

Your third option is to use two or three bearings before the combustion chamber and leave the exhaust with no bearing. This relies on the stiffness of your central axle to hold the exhaust turbines blades central with a restraining ring as a safety. This is my plan and by far my favorite of the three options.

Good luck and keep me updated,


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