Handheld Tree Cannon - Nerf Style




About: I made a beer mug with only a knife and a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

I'm a great fan of the Mythbusters. I know it's quite obvious and not quite original as a first statement - like saying you don't like it to visit a proctologist, NO-ONE likes it - whatever, I love the concept, the teams craftmanship, their creativity, their crazyness, their looks - talking female Mythbusters now - and their inspiring way to explain what they are doing. The Mythbusters rock, and I'd really love to have a couple of beers with them. Good beers. Many.

One of those episodes I'll always remember is definitely 'the one with the tree cannon'.

I know you all watched it. I saw it, too, and I wanted it. And I saw it again, and again. For those who didn't: youtube, somewhere.

There was only one problem. I don't have an abandoned naval base in my backyard - in Belgium we don't have naval bases at all since we don't even have a fleet - two upgraded crab catchers is definitely NOT a fleet - neither do I have the money to buy a beautiful trunk and blow it up for fun.

Anyway, I wanted a tree cannon, and so one misty day I decided to make a smaller version.

Since I didn't want people and animals getting hurt and houses blown up after having read this Instructable, I decided to smooth this project even more, and make it do-able for all of you. Especially for all those sweet people who're following my projects, you rock!

I'm not especially into nerf, but a lot of people are. So 'why not make it a nerf cannon?' I thought.

And thus I went into nerf.

It's still freakin' awesome. Really.


Step 1: All You Need Is Imagination

Besides a fan of the Mythbusters I'm also a full-time professional handyman aka a jack of all trades aka someone who's getting payed for being McGyver all day long.

So I know a few things about a lot of stuff. I know how to be nice to people, even when they're totally wrong. I know how to carry three toolboxes and a ladder, and still keep on smiling. I'm extremely creative in finding pooping spots, and how to make all traces disappear. I know how to glow in the dark, also, and how to become incredibly small to enter in clients plumbing systems to search for leaks. Really.

And I also know how to handle a silicone pistol.

Silicone pistols are great to boost your day, and you can modify them very easily into a nerf gun.

So... you'll need such a pistol for this project. There are many sorts of these devices, but any pistol will do the job - you're going to dismantle it entirely anyway.

And also you'll need a piece of a tree - obviously. Preferably a piece with a smaller branch still attached to it, like a big '1'.

Next haveto is a large spring (check out the net or the local scrapyard) and a piece of metal or plastic tube, with the inner diameter just perfect enough to let a nerf dart pass through it.

Your tree cannon is just there, just a few steps away.

Work hard, play hard.

Step 2: From Pistol to Piston

Once you have that nice new pistol, you're gonna break it apart and reassemble it all wrong.

From all the parts, the only things you'll need are the rod & the spring. Exit all the rest.

Let's build that piston!

    • cut the handle of the pistol
    • make two grooves in the upper part of the pistol
    • make a trigger - I used a tool from my angle grinder
    • insert the 'fork' of the trigger in the two grooves
    • insert the rod and the small spring
    • slide the rod all the way through
    • insert the large spring
    • feed the chickens
    • screw one bolt at the end of the rod
    • test-fire!
    • clean up an empty silicone or glue canister (very easy!)
    • sand the piston untill it slides smoothly in the canister
    • drill a hole in the center of the piston
    • screw it to the rod
    • insert the canister in the pistol chamber
    • organise a 'barrel' - just a piece of tube, warmed up with a heat gun to screw it easily to the canister
    • ready to rock!

    Step 3: It's a Tree Cannon, You Know

    And thus you need at least one piece of a tree.

    Choose a trunk twice the diameter of the pistol and twice as long, WITH a smaller branch.

    Unbark - hatchet & knife, old school - and use rasp, rope or angle grinder to make some nice grooves on the ends.

    Feed the chickens again.

    Split it wisely in four, remove the middle pie part, reassemble with some steel wire and let it dry outside for a week.

    Or do like me: give it a speed dry above the fire place. It won't crack, since it IS already cracked. Fools logic.

    Step 4: From Piston to Cannon

    Once the wood is free from all that moisture that kept it alive you can give it a blast with the sander. Don't sand it too smooth - it's a cannon, not a steering wheel of a ferrari.

    Then you're going to put A into B.

    Place the piston on the planks and mark the ends.

    Cut some large grooves in the planks with the miter saw and make two large plugs with some scrap wood.

    Carve a hole for the trigger and continue the inner adjustments. After some chiseling, a few strong words and a beer or two you'd be able to insert the pistol nice & sweet in its wooden coffin.

    Once that's done, you can drill the hole for the barrel and the one for the piston.

    To assemble the whole, put the two plugs on the piston and wrap the cannon around this configuration.

    Use wood glue between the joints & tight it together with steel wire.

    Step 5: Pimp It Up

    Craftmanship is in the detail. Always.

    After having wrapped the grooves with hemp cord I wanted to give it all a 'vintage' look - ol' cannons are always more awesome then fresh ones.

    So I stained it with a mixture of steel dust & vinager, finished with bees wax.

    Yes it stinks - you'll suffer to be awesome - but the result is definitely worth it.

    Ready to fire.

    Step 6: You'll Never Forget That First Dart...

    Put some fine (gun) oil in the piston to get a smooth moovement in the chamber, pull back the piston, load that nerf dart & action the trigger.


    That's the actual record.

    Never had so much fun with a toy gun... (click the video) ;)



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      13 Discussions

      Henry Jones

      3 years ago

      I love how powerful it looks, compared to its performance.

      "OH GOD HE'S GONNA SHOT! TAKE COVER!" *toink* "Oh, that was a bit underwhelming"

      armored bore

      3 years ago on Introduction

      Maybe not the sleekest or most compact, but definitely original. I'll bet you could have some fun stuffing some Titan internals into something like that

      Thanx Tarun - I was firing at a few zombies at that particular moment ;)

      I took some time to take a few steps back to have a better view at some features of this miserable life. It helped, so I blew up a few ballast tanks and I'm more back than ever.

      2015 will be the year of the fire, and I'll send you a whole flame from the other side of the Himalaya's!


      4 years ago

      Thats awsome!


      This is so freaking awesome! Great job doing this, and this is an awesome idea. Keep this boss work up!


      4 years ago

      that's the funniest ible I have ever read! Keep up the good work.


      4 years ago

      So awesome! I love that this makes Nerf seem primitive. This is the kind of thing that makes kid imaginations go wild (and mine).

      1 reply

      4 years ago

      So amazing. And hilarious. And just an all-around good build. I love the chickens in the background, by the way--they can be your lady assistants for your own version of mythbusters :9

      1 reply