Introduction: Multi-Purpose Air Cannon

We've all been there. Perhaps you're at a sports game, perhaps you're in the shower, or perhaps you've just awoken from a nightmare, cold sweat still running down your neck. Regardless of the circumstance, there comes a time in every person's life when the desire to shoot t-shirts from a cannon is strong. But where to begin? How can we, mere mortals, challenge the fundamental forces in the universe? We're here for you. With this instructable, you will realize your dream of shooting t-shirts over a crowd. With a little tank, a dream, and a lot of pressurized air, you'll soon realize you don't need to be Elon Musk to laugh at that ever incessant force we call gravity.

Step 1: Parts List

Download Parts List (PDF)

Step 2: Cut PVC Pieces to Proper Lengths

Cut your 2" PVC to a length of 3', and your 4" PVC to a length of 1'.

Yes, in most cases it really is that simple.

Step 3: Assemble the Air Tank

Take your section of 4", and the 4" coupler. Attach the 4" coupler using PVC cement and to the 4" coupler attach a 4 1/2" reducer.

Prime and cement the outside end of your 4" pipe, and the inside end of your 4" coupler and attach the two as shown above. (It really helps to use a piece of wood and a mallet!)

Repeat the priming and cementing process to attach your 4" to 2.5" reducer to the inside of your 4" coupler.

Next, attach the 2.5" to 2" reducer to the inside of the 4" to 2.5" reducer.

Then attach to 2" to 3/4" reducer to the inside of the 2.5" to 2" reducer.

With all your reducers in place, attach one of your 2" segments of 3/4" PVC.

And finally, attach your ball valve to the end of your 3/4" PVC.

Step 4: Step 4: Decals (Optional)

At a certain point in this process, as you stand back to admire your handiwork, you may be met with the same realization we were: PVC pipes just aren't all that nice to look at. This step is optional of course but if you've got some extra time and a bit of artistic flair, we encourage you to think a bit about the aesthetic design of your cannon as well as the functional. Get creative!

You can use anything from acrylic paints to spray paint, just make sure it's waterproof! For this project, we used a mix of spray paint and acrylic paint.

For a base coat, the barrel was spraypainted black with Krylon brand spray paint. The rest of the PVC pipe was spraypainted a Montana Gold brand bright coral color. Then, an Exacto knife was used to cut out a stencil. You can use paper, cardstock, or preferably a stencil sheet to cut out a stencil. We used black acrylic paint to paint on the stencils. The stencil on the barrel was spraypainted with the previous coral color.


The best spraypaint to use would be a Montana Gold spray paint since it does not drip like the black spray paint did.

Warning: Do as we say, not as we do. DO NOT paint the end of your air tank before attaching the end cap. The PVC primer and paint won't set correctly if you do.

Step 5: Step 5: Assemble and Attach the End Cap

  1. Drill a hole large enough to fit your nozzle into the end cap.
  2. Using Teflon tape and super glue, secure the nozzle in place.
  3. Let your end cap dry for a few minutes.
  4. Prime and paint the inside of your end cap, and the outside of your air tank. (IMPORTANT REMINDER: DO NOT PAINT THE END OF YOUR AIR TANK BEFORE THIS STEP.)
  5. Attach the end cap to the air tank and let dry for 24 hours.

Step 6: Testing and a Warning...

While schedule 40 PVC is technically rated for significantly more than 30 psi, the end cap seal could be a potential weak point in the tank. In order to avoid sending our cap and nozzle into our projectile, we limited our pressure the 30 psi, ensuring our air tank stays together while giving our cannon a fairly commendable range.

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