Introduction: The Reusable and Wireless Igniter

Picture of The Reusable and Wireless Igniter

This project uses a simple RF link and two Arduinos to ignite something from up to 90 feet away! I always found it annoying to mess with a bunch of wire, so I felt like creating something to fix that problem. A wireless connection is not only safer, but also A LOT cooler. This wireless ignitor can be used to ignite fireworks, model rockets, and more!

This is PART ONE of a three part project! See the other parts by visiting my page!

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be used as anything but a safe way to ignite fireworks, a model rocket, etc. Be cautious whenever you are building this or using this device. I take no responsibility for any harm done due to any carless action or a failure to follow the proper safety measures.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Sparkfun wish list with all of the parts here

Arduino x2 Sparkfun buying guide, Radioshack $50-60
RF link modulesSparkfun/Sparkfun $9
Enclosure x2Sparkfun, Radioshack $7-12
Toggle switchSparkfun, Radioshack $3-5.50
On/off switch x2Sparkfun, Radioshack $.75-4
Speaker(optional) Sparkfun, Radioshack $2-4
Glow plugAmazon $6
LEDsSparkfun, Radioshack $1-5.50
5V RelaySparkfun, Radioshack $2-5
Assorted resistorsSparkfun, Radioshack $8-$15
8-Pin SocketsSparkfun, Radioshack $1-2
Total ~$85-130

--Wire (for antennae)
--A few male headers
--Something to use as a cushion for the arduino, or some standoffs
--File and/or sandpaper
--Soldering iron/solder
--Wire cutter/stripper
--Miscellaneous screws, nuts, etc.
--Big alligator clip
--Battery holder for 2 AA batteries (will be modified)
--9V Battery with connectors
--1.5V AA Batteries x2

Step 2: Getting VirtualWire

Picture of Getting VirtualWire

All of the code involved in this project is centered around an Arduino library called VirtualWire, by Mike McCauley.  This library pushes the cheap RF link modules to their limits.

1.)  This library can be downloaded directly from here, or on the website here.

2.)  Find the location of your Arduino sketchbook by checking your Arduino preferences.

3.)  Make a folder called "libraries" if it's not already there and place the VirtualWire folder in it.

4.)  Open arduino and you're done!

Step 3: Creating the Virtual Wire

Picture of Creating the Virtual Wire

Receiver Code

Download the code here

//  Receiver by Noah DC
//  This code is built around the VirualWire library which 
//  can be found here:
//  Visit my instructable for the wiring, explaination, etc.

constint recieverPin = 2; //to reciever module
constint ignitionPin = 3; //to igniter
constint activeIndicatorPin = 5; //to green LED
constint inactiveIndicatorPin = 6; //to red LED
constint buzzerPin = 4; //to the buzzer
#include <VirtualWire.h>
boolean liftOff= false;

  Serial.begin(9600); //for debugging
  pinMode(activeIndicatorPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(inactiveIndicatorPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(ignitionPin, OUTPUT);
  vw_set_ptt_inverted(true); //normal setup stuff

  while(liftOff == false){
    digitalWrite(activeIndicatorPin, HIGH); //shows that igniter hasn't been used yet
    uint8_t buf[VW_MAX_MESSAGE_LEN];
    uint8_t buflen = VW_MAX_MESSAGE_LEN;
    if (vw_get_message(buf, &buflen)) {
      Serial.print("Got: ");
      Serial.print(buf[0], DEC); //only one byte in the array (it should be 97)
      Serial.println(" ");
    if (buf[0] == 97){ //checks if the letter "a" is recieved (ASCII number is 97)
      liftOff = ignition();
int ignition(){
  tone(buzzerPin, 500, 300); //5 second countdown
  delay(1000); //it's not necessary, and can be removed
  tone(buzzerPin, 500, 300); //4 (I relize it's not exactly a second)
  tone(buzzerPin, 500, 300); //3
  tone(buzzerPin, 500, 300); //2
  tone(buzzerPin, 500, 300); //1
  digitalWrite(ignitionPin, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(ignitionPin, LOW);
  digitalWrite(inactiveIndicatorPin,HIGH); //shows that igniter has been used
  returntrue; //prevents other ignitions for safety purposes

Transmitter Code

Download the code here

//  Transmitter by Noah DC
//  This code is built around the VirualWire library which 
//  can be found here:
//  Visit my instructable for the wiring, explaination, etc.
constint transmitPin = 2; //pin to the transitter module
constint buttonPin = 3; //pin to ignition button
constint armedPin = 4; //pin for indicator LED
#include <VirtualWire.h>
voidsetup() {
  pinMode(armedPin, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(armedPin, HIGH); //shows that igniter is armed
  vw_set_ptt_inverted(true); //setup stuff
voidloop() {
  char *msg = "a"; //going to send the char "a"
  if (digitalRead(buttonPin) == 1) {
    digitalWrite(13, HIGH); //blink LED to show it's working
    vw_send((uint8_t*)msg, 1); //sends the char
    vw_wait_tx(); //wait until the char is sent
    digitalWrite(13, LOW);

Step 4: Schematics

Picture of Schematics

Follow the schematics shown in the pictures and build your circuit. I realize I forgot to draw the arrows on the LEDs, that's why they're marked.

This circuit is designed so when the switch is flicked on the transmitter, the signal is received and triggers a 5-second countdown before it ignites the fuse.

Note: I found that the wire size required for the glow plug to work properly is thicker than a normal jumper wire, or even the breadboard tracks.  Therefore, it might be necessary to connect the glow plug leads directly with a few alligator clips.

Step 5: Setting Up the Igniter

Picture of Setting Up the Igniter

The glow plug I'm using is designed for use in a RC car to ignite an air-fuel mixture.  It runs perfectly off of 1.5V and burns red-hot on its inner coil.  It might be necessary to provide a step-up material (something that ignites at a low temperature, but burns at a higher one), such as flash cotton, or stick a small piece of your fuse inside the plug's coil.

One AA battery proved not to supply enough current for the glow plug to run properly, so I decided to create a battery holder to make two AA batteries run in parallel.  I then soldered the glow plug to an alligator clip:

The battery holder:
1.)  Take off one of the springs from its connector
2.)  Solder that spring to opposite side. Both springs should be on the same side of the holder
3.)  Make sure each side of the battery holder is connected, then solder a wire coming from each
4.)  The final product can be seen in the materials step

The glowing alligator clip:
1.)  Flatten out the sides of a big alligator clip
2.)  Drill a hole 15/64" in diameter on only one side of the clip
3.)  Screw the glow plug inside the hole and solder it at a high heat (I used about 400°C)(or, as suggested by The Lightning Stalker use a nut if you can find the correct size: 1/4 x 28 nut)
4.)  Feed two wires through the alligator clip's neck
5.)  Solder one wire to the end of the glow plug and the other to the body
6.)  It should look similar to the GIF in the pictures

Step 6: Putting It in the Enclosure

Picture of Putting It in the Enclosure

First, drill a few holes and file out the edges to fit the parts you are using.  Make sure to drill an array of holes for the speaker if you decide to use one.

To neaten things up, I made a small shield to fit over the arduino.  I also wanted to reuse the receiver and transmitter, so I put them on a split IC socket, as shown in the pictures.

I used some foam I cut to hold the arduino in place, but standoffs and screws would work too.

Step 7: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning how to make a reusable wireless igniter!!

Here's a little clip showing it in action:

Be sure to leave feedback!


clanyeup (author)2016-10-23

you said this was a 3 part indestructible what are the other 2 parts? I'm interested in trying to make one for myself....

nodcah (author)clanyeup2016-10-23

The second part is here and the third part is here. These weren't my original choices for instructables because what I wanted to do didn't work out. However, it was still a fun project!

SimplicityfromClutter (author)2015-06-12

Wow...a genius in the making!!

ibenkos (author)2014-11-09

Is it posible to use these two instead of what you are using ? Its an 433Mhz RF transmitter and reciver

drerrico (author)2013-09-17

elegantly simple...congratulations...dr errico

ameador (author)2013-09-11

I made a remote detonator from walky talkys here lately and it works great but my ignition source was a broken Christmas light that I can only use once. I've been searching for so long for a reusable ignition source and now I have finally found it. Thanks for the great Idea of using a glow plug. I will have my detonator up soon of you want to check it out. It will be my first project posted.

Kaze4159 (author)2013-07-18

Are two full Arduino boards really necessary?
You can pick up multi channel RF remotes for under $5 on ebay

TheNickmaster21 (author)Kaze41592013-07-28

I was thinking the same thing. There are tons of cheap microcontrollers he could have used...

nodcah (author)Kaze41592013-07-19

Absolutely not. The VirtualWire library works with an attiny85 (~$3 here).  But, this can easily modified to transmit/interpret other data besides a button press...


theifner2010 (author)2013-07-18

Depending on size and build of the project you might try a spark plug or stun gun to create a spark or s simple element wire like used in a light bulb. Just a thought

The Lightning Stalker (author)2013-07-18

I would recommend using a nut on the igniter and an appropriately sized ring terminal. You can also get a connector to attach to the top of the igniter instead of soldering directly to it since the solder doesn't stick very well anyway. Look in the related items on the Amazon page.

Personally I would ditch the igniter entirely and go with a car ignition coil instead. You can only ignite gas with it though unless you have a heavy enough driver circuit to get a continuous arc.

I totally agree, but I tried using this, but the current needed was too high.  I wanted it to be powered by another 9V battery at most, and the glow plug only required 1.5V.  As for using a nut, that is by far the best possible improvement I could've made, but I didn't have the time to order it. Thanks for the response!


The right size nut should be available at any hardware store. It's also a good idea to have a jar full of assorted nuts and bolts.

TweakGeek1 (author)2013-07-18

How durable are the glow plugs? Would they stand up to repeated use to ignite a small cannon charge of black powder? I have an application this would be perfect for.

ac-dc (author)TweakGeek12013-07-18

No, the moment the powder explodes it'll destroy the glow plug.

knexinventer (author)ac-dc2013-07-18

Not if you use it to ignite a cannon fuse.

TweakGeek1 (author)knexinventer2013-07-18

I'm looking for an easy, repeatable ignition for the powder. Any suggestions?

I'm not looking to make the cannon rapid-fire by any means, but just coming up with a "geek" method of ignition and not lighting a fuse. I like how this project has the countdown beep.

5150tech (author)TweakGeek12013-07-18

I'm not sure this is the best way to do it but I'd bet these guys can get you there.

ac-dc (author)2013-07-18

lol, $85+ to do something that otherwise only needs a piece of scrap wire.

There's a saying that goes "Just because you can do something that doesn't make it a good idea". The most simple, reliable, cost and time effective solution to a problem is the right one. Trust me on this, some day with age and wisdom you will understand better.

TweakGeek1 (author)ac-dc2013-07-18

That is assuming that you have to buy all of this stuff brand new. Some people already have a lot of this stuff laying around the house and it will cost next to nothing to build. Not to mention the experience and knowledge you'll get that will help you in other projects.

Sometimes it isn't about the bottom dollar.

nodcah (author)TweakGeek12013-07-18

I needed to buy a case, the relay and the glow plug. That made my total around $10... And this project is also a gateway to other wireless projects.


daemonral (author)2013-07-18

This is a great idea. I think two arduinos are much, but still very nicely done.
The glowplug has given me the last part to my project.


tyscof (author)2013-07-17

Wouldn't this be much less expensive if you used a TV remote to trigger the IR instead of a second arduino?

nodcah (author)tyscof2013-07-17

This project uses radio waves, which is different than IR, but it might be possible. That would also make programing the receiver harder. Also, the tv remote signal might contain a secure signal pattern in the communication. It's a good idea, but to save money you could use an Attiny85 chip (which isn't used in this ible because I couldn't figure out how to get it to work with VirtualWire...)
Thanks for your suggestion,

Klappstuhl (author)nodcah2013-07-18

Also fire will be registered by the IR receiver as a signal, so it does seem more suitable to use radio waves.

ynze (author)2013-07-16

Nice and useful (not only for launching rockets, that is :-))

nodcah (author)ynze2013-07-16

Lol. Thanks!!


About This Instructable




Bio: I am a sophomore in college studying Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and an alumn of a FIRST robotics team. I also love to tinker ... More »
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