Introduction: Old West Detonator Prop

About: Been tearing stuff down and putting it back together my whole life. "To Invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." -Thomas Alva Edison
I have always had a fascination with the Old West. While I was watching a show on the subject, they displayed a detonator used in a mine from the time period. I thought that it would be simple to build one as a prop for Halloween or a Movie.  This Instructable shows how I made a Non-working version.

  • 1 in x 6 in x 6 ft  Pine Board
  • 5/8 in x 4 ft   Poplar/Pine Square Dowel
  • 2 in x 6 in Poplar Dowel
  • 2 Bolts, Washers, and Wing Nuts
  • Wood Screws
  • Metallic Paint
  • Small Section Of Bell Wire
  • Small Piece Of Brass
  • Brass Nails
  • Painters Tape
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Propane Torch
  • Lathe 
  • Jig Saw
  • Wood Glue
  • Circular Saw
  • Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Letter Punches
  • Hammer
  • Anvil

Step 1: Constructing the Box

The box was constructed from a 6 foot piece of pine. Using a circular saw,  four 1 foot sections were cut  for the sides of the box. Instead of making the box a square, the boards were positioned as a rectangle so that I can use the rest of the pine for the top and bottom. If it was positioned as a square, the top and bottom would have to be cut from a larger piece of wood.

Once the sides were cut, a line was marked on the face of two boards to show where I need to drill for the screws that secure the sides together. I lined up the pieces as best I could and drilled for the screws.

After securing the sides together with some wood screws, I marked and cut the pieces of wood that became the top and bottom.
They were then attached.

I looked up some photos of real ones to see the layout of the terminals and plunger. Using a square, I measured and marked their respective locations. The holes for the terminals were then drill the exact size of the bolts and a bigger drill bit was used to drill the location of where the 5/8 in square dowel will slip in and out of the box. A jig saw squared off the hole for that dowel.

Step 2: Turning the Handle

I used a 5 inch piece of 2 inch poplar dowel to create the handle. The handle was turned between centers on the lathe using an 1/8" parting tool and a 1/2" skew chisel. To make sure the handle was as symmetrical as possible, a center line was marked where the square dowel will go. I measured out from each side of that line and marked lines where I want the slope to be. The slope is the transition from the center to the hand grips.

A parting tool was used to remove the bulk material from the grip parts first. A skew chisel and caliper were used to make sure the surface was the same diameter and straight. After the handles were turned, the center portion was also turned down to it's final size. Once I was happy with the look, it was sanded with 120 and 220 grit sand paper.

The area where the square dowel will attach was marked on the handle and a drill press was used to remove the bulk of the material. To remove the remaining material, a chisel was used to chip carve a square hole.

The square dowel was then glued into the handle.

Step 3: Finishing Touches

The handle was taped and the shaft of the plunger was primed and painted with metallic looking paint I had left over from a previous project. 

Old Looking  Finish- 
To make the box look worn, a blow torch with a fan attachment was used to scorch the wood. The handle was also lightly burned with the blowtorch in order to make it look old too.

Name Plate-
As I was looking at photos of real ones, I found that each had a nameplate on the front of it. Using a scrap piece of brass and some punches, I created my own. The edges of the brass were ground down with a grinding wheel and I drilled holes for the brass nails that would hold the plate on the front of the box. I then eyeballed the placement of the lettering and punched  "Old West Detonator    Calif. 1881" into the brass. After cleaning it up a little bit, I eyeballed the placement of the plate on the front of the box and attached it using some brass nails.

After finishing the box with a blow torch, the bolts, wing nuts, and plunger were installed. Some scrap bell wire was also attached in order to finish off the look. 

Halloween Props Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Props Contest