Introduction: Shotgun Shell Lighter

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

Make your own lighter from a shotgun shell.

NOTE: I have done an updated version of this lighter which can be found below

I live close to a gun club and visit them every so often to grab some spent shotgun shells. I’ve made a few projects with them before (check them out in the below links).

I had the idea of making a lighter out of one for some time and finally worked out in my head how to do it. Making one is surprisingly easy and you only need very basic tools to make your own. There’s only a very minimal amount of soldering needed and anyone should be able to put one together.

The other great thing is they are very cheap and quick to make. If you can get your hands on some spent shells then the total cost is around $5. If you can’t get free shells then you can always buy them on Etsy.

I’ve also done a video on how to make one if you can’t be asked reading through the ‘ible. There are 2 video's - one a full version of me making the lighter and the other a shorter one. The first is the longer one.


Step 1: Parts and Tools


1. Empty Shotgun shell – Etsy or your local gun club

2. Nutsert (M5, 13mm) – eBay

3. Button head bolt (M5) – eBay

4. Spark wheel fire starter – eBay, Aliexpress

5. Shrader Valve eBayThese valves also work really well.

6. Shrader cap X 2– eBay

7. Cotton rope (Hash cord) – eBay

8. Cotton wool

9. Star Washer - eBay. Just go to your local hardware store for these - it's cheaper

10. Rubber washer - eBay You can also get these at the hardware store


1. Drill

2. Mini blow torch

3. Small files

4. Pliers

5. Hammer

6. Screwdriver

7. Solder

8. Dremel and a copper wire fitting

Step 2: Removing the Primer From the Cap

You now need to remove the primer from the middle of the cap. All spent shells should also have a spent primer. However, it is possible (but not likely) that the primer is still primed. Check to see if has a small dint in the top. If so it will mean that it has been fired. The cap will form the top of the lighter.


1. Place the cap on a vice with the top facing down and the vice slightly open

2. Place a phillips head, hole punch or something similar onto the back of the primer

3. With a small hammer tap the end of the hole punch until the primer pops out

4. You can throw the primer away once out

5. To be able to fit the valve into the end of the cap, you will need make it slightly larger. Grab a drill bit the same size as the adapter and drill into the top of the cap. Test and make sure that the hole is big enough.

Step 3: Enlarging the Hole in the Cap for the Valve Which Will Hold the Wick Into Place

To be able to protect the wick coming out the top of the shotgun shell cap, I decided to use a small valve adapter use on a bike tyre. You then have the wick coming out the top of this and use a cap from a tyre valve to keep it protected. At this stage you don’t want to add the valve adapter, you just want to get the cap ready. It’s easier to do this now then after you have removed the cap from the shell which is the next step


1. First, you will need to drill out the top of the cap to the same size as the smaller section of the valve adapter. Use a vice to hold it steady and make sue you use some wood so you don't damage the cap when drilling.

2. Check to make sure that the adapter fits into the hole you just drilled.

3. Put the adapter to one side for the moment, as we now need to remove the cap and add the sparkwheel to it. You’ll be adding heat to the cap and it’s best to leave the adapter off until this has been done.

Step 4: Modifying the End of the Cartridge

The end of an empty shotgun shell has creases in it and you need to try and smooth these out. I came up with the below way but I'm sure there are other ways you could do this


1. First place a piece of aluminium tube or something similar into a vice

2. Heat up the tube with a small blow torch. Don't go overboard or you will melt the plastic on the shotgun shell.

3. Place the end of the shell over the tube and turn the shell adding pressure as you do so.

4. Do this for a bit then reapply the heat and repeat.

5. Keep on doing this until you have reduced the creases.

6. Lastly I like to trim the edge of the shell with a pair of scissors. Just remove a couple of millimeters.

Step 5: Removing an End Cap From a Shotgun Shell

You will need to remove the end cap from the empty plastic shell. This is pretty straight forward and can be done a number of ways. I’m using the blowtorch method.


1. Secure the plastic section of the shell in a vice.

2. With a small blow torch, heat-up the end of the cap. Make sure you keep the blow torch moving. By doing this you are heating and melting the plastic up inside that holds the cap.

3. After 15-20 seconds remove the heat and with a pair of pliers, carefully pull on the cap. It should slide off. If it doesn’t, hit it again with the blow torch.

Step 6: Adding the Sparkwheel to the End Cap

This is probably the trickiest part of the build – attached the sparkwheel to the to the side of the cap.


1. Grab a small, round file and remove a small section off the top of the cap like in the images below. This is so the sparkwheel will sit flush against the side of the cap

2. Place the sparkwheel against the cap to make sure it’s sitting as it should

3. Next, add some flux to the side of the cap and the part of the sparkwheel that will be soldered to the cap

4. Remove the actual sparkwheel, flint and spring before you start to solder it to the cap

5. Place in a vice making sure that the sparkwheel is straight and level

6. Start to heat up the cap and sparkwheel carefully. Once the flux starts to smoke and bubble add some solder to both sides of the sparkwheel

7. Leave to cool

8. Check and make sure that the solder has taken and the sparkwheel is secure

9. Lastly, put the sparkwheel back together again

Step 7: Modding the Valve

You need to make a couple modifications to the valve in order for the wick to fit into it. If you used thinner sash cord you probably wouldn't have to drill it out as I did.


1. First you need to remove the valve from the inside. This is pretty easy, just use a pair of needle nose pliers (or something similar) and screw it out

2. Next, place the valve in a vice and use a drill piece about the same size of the rope to drill out the inside of the valve

3. Lastly, I decided to remove part of the bottom section of the valve. Doing this will help make sure it fits inside the shell and bot get in the way of all of the cotton wadding. Just place it into a vice and cut it off with a small grinding wheel or saw.

Step 8: Making a Connector Ring for the Valve

I found it really hard to get my hands on the right size nut for the valve. I decided to just cut a valve cap and use this to secure the valve to the cap


1. Place a valve cap into a vice

2. Use a small grinding wheel (or a small metal saw) and cut the bottom section off like in the image

3. Use a file and remove and burrs on the connector ring

Step 9: Adding the Valve to the End Cap for the Wick

You will recall that we enlarged the hole in the end cap for the valve. Now it’s time to add it to the cap


1. First, place the star washer over the end of the valve and then add the rubber washer. The washer will help stop fuel leakage

2. Push the valve through the bottom of the cap and secure it with the connector ring you just made from a valve

3. Use a pair of pliers to hold the connector ring while using another pair of pliers to tighten-up the bottom of the valve

4. The important thing here is to make sure the valve is secure and doesn't spin inside the cap. Test it by adding a valve cap to the top and doing it tight. If it doesn't move then it should be tight enough.

Step 10: Adding a Nutsert and Bolt for Filling the Lighter With Fuel

It isn’t really necessary to add a hole to fill the lighter with fuel as you can do this through the top . However adding fuel in the top of the lighter means you have to pull of the cap each time and it’s a little clumsy as you have the wick in the way. Adding a small nutsert and button head bolt allows you to fill-up the lighter easily.


1. First, remove a primer from a shell. Do this the same way as you did last time.

2. The Nutsert that I used is 6.9mm in diameter which is slightly larger then the primer hole. I chose this size on purpose for reasons I will explain soon. You need to slightly enlarge the hole with a 7mm drill bit. When drilling the hole, try not to go through the plastic inside the shell, just drill out the end of the cap.

3. Next, heat-up the cap end with a mini blow torch. The aim here is to slightly melt the plastic inside. Don’t overheat though as you will start to melt the actual cartridge

4. Once the plastic is soft, place the nutsert over the hole and tap into place. The benefit of doing it this way is the plastic forms a tight fit around the nutsert when it sets hard. There’s no need to solder or glue it into place.

5. A tip is to place the shell over a piece of pipe and then heating and adding the nutsert. This will stop the plastic piece inside moving when you are hammering in the nutsert which has happened to me before.

Step 11: Adding a Layer of Copper to Steel Parts

To make all of the parts look like they belong together, I decided to add a layer of copper to anything that was nickel or steel. This is really easy and help gives the lighter a great finish. I did this for the button bolt that’s used for filling with fuel and the tyre valve cap for the wick


1. Place the part securely into a vice. For the tyre valve, I screwed this onto a bolt and placed the bolt into a vice. You will need to remove the small rubber gasket inside the tyre valve as well.

2. Next, use blowtorch to heat-up the part until it is red hot.

3. Turn on the dermal and with a copper brush attachment run it all over the part. Go over it a few times until you see a layer of copper all over the part.

4. Leave to cool

Step 12: Making the Wick


1. Cut a piece of the sash cord (cotton rope) about 120mm long. You will need to trim this to size a little later on

2. Wrap some thin wire around the rope. This will help keep it straight inside the shotgun shell and also keep it in the middle of the shell

3. Trim the end of the rope. This will help when threading the rope through the top of the valve.

4. Push the rope through the valve. In the images I cut the end of the rope prior to adding the wadding. This makes it a little easier when adding the wadding. Best to leave it long and trim later.

Step 13: Adding the Wick and Cotton Wadding


3. Start to add wads of cotton to the inside of the shell. The best way is to tear a small piece off a cotton ball and with a small screwdriver or something similar, push the cotton down to the bottom of the shell.

4. Keep on adding wads of cotton, making sure the wick stays central inside the shell. Make sure you pack down the cotton as well

5. Once the shell is full, thread the end of the wick through the top cap and close it up. If you find that the cap is loose at all you can always add a drop of superglue to the inside which will hold it in place. I didn’t have to do that as the cap was a good fit.

6. Trim the wick so only a small amount is sticking out the top.

7. Carefully put the top cap onto the end of the shell and pull the wick through the valve a little. It might be a little tricky to get this on as the top of the shell has been stretched when it was heated to remove the creases.

NOTE: If you find the the top cap is loose, you cam always add a little glue to the inside to keep it in place. I've made many lighters and I have never have had to change the wick before. If you do have to, then you can just pull on the top and it will break the glue and come off.

Step 14: Filling With Fuel


1. First, remove the button bolt in the bottom of the lighter

2. Next, take off the valve cap from the top. This will allow the fuel to flow through the lighter

3. Start to add zippo lighter fluid (or whatever else you use) to the bottom

4. Keep on filling until you start to see fuel dropping out through the wick

5. Screw the button bolt back into place and replace the top cap

6. Wipe away any excess fuel and strike the sparkwheel.

7. The flame might be a little big to start with but as the wick burns down you will find that the flames starts to settle and you’ll have a nice, steady flame

8. To put out just blow the flame out and replace the valve cap/lid

I built a prototype about 2 months ago now and it was working great. I haven’t had to fill it again and it seems to retain fuel very well. I've made a few of these now and I'm refining the process each time.

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