How to Build a Quick and Easy Pneumatic Prop for Halloween




A while ago, someone posted an instructable on a Halloween pneumatic which "popped" out of a toxic waste can.  I wanted to build it, but I didn't have any of the equipment and I'm somewhat frugal so I set out to see if I would be able to replicate it with items that I already had around the house.

Step 1: Build Your Based for Piping in Compressed Air

I used 3/4 and 1/2 inch pvc pipe.  I just eyeballed the sizes, although I wanted all the pieced together to fit onto a piece of plywood which would then fit into the bottom of a trash can.  So you might start with measuring the bottom of your can (or box or whatever to see how large or small you need to make it.

As I said, I used items around the house - so I had a water hose splicer,

Step 2: Connect Pieces to Build Base.

As you can see, I used the 3/4 T with the 1/2 inch connector as the center.  I extended each end about 5-6 inches just to stabilize the base (I anchored it down with 3/4 pipe hangers - shown later).

Step 3: Build Your Pneumatic Cylinder.

This was the really easy part for me.  I just needed to know how much I wanted my prop to be lifted up and cut a piece of 3/4 inch pipe just about that length.  This will house your piston and eventually connected to the base I build earlier.

Step 4: Build Your Pneumatic Piston.

Again, this was a pretty simple step.  This was also left over from last year.  It's 1/2 inch pvc pipe with a little duct tape at each end.  At the bottom end, I just had a few wraps to expand the end a little so the air would force the piston up a little harder - you can play around with how tight you want the piston to fit within your cylinder, but you want them to move fairly freely. On mine the return was gravity I needed a looser fit. It also reduced the pressure in cylinder.  To keep the piston in the cylinder, I screwed in an eye hook.  In a later step - when I figured out how far I wanted my piston to extend, I tied 2 pieces of 60lb nylon string to the eye hook and attached it to the plywood base.  This served to keep the piston from rotating and ensuring it didn't leave the cylinder :) Although I tested it without the string and with the manikin head attached, it barely left the cylinder.

Step 5:

Step 6: Connect Piston/cylinder With Base.

Step 7: Finished Pneumatic Lift

This is the lift assembled and connected to my "air hose" which is an old water hose I had..again - I used items that I had around the house.   The 2nd photo shows how I released the compressed air into the hose.

Step 8: Connect to Air Tank/air Compressor.

I don't have a fancy air compressor - I have a pretty basic one that you can adjust to how many pounds you want.  I have mine set to 40 lbs psi and I have that attached to a small portable air canister.  This is connected to my blower - below - which I then have connected to my air hose.

Step 9: Pneumatic Lift Inside Trash Can.

AS you can see, it fits pretty snug - it lifts right now - I have a hole drilled in the side of the can to attach the air hose and you can now see the 60 lb nylon string.  The 2 pieces of nylon also limits the twisting that occurred with only 1 piece.

Step 10: Have Beautiful Assistant Attached Test Dummy

My Halloween assistants attached a test dummy to see if the lift actually worked. 

Step 11: Testing the Lift

Step 12: Final Step - Can the Assistants Look and Act Scared?

Step 13: Finshed

This took about 30 minutes to build.  I built another smaller one to move CAD BANE which will be run off the same air hose (i'll use a y splitter which I will have to buy). The pressure is not much at all - there is enough air leaking around the piston that it just lifts the full head with wig, and lid.  It does look like there is also enough air to give cad bane a good little bump so that he lurches forward a little bit as well.  So far, I keep the air compressor set at about 40 lbs and it seems to work well. 

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10 Discussions


8 years ago on Introduction

So for next year I'd like to make some modification suggestions. Same concept and essentially the same set up just a different trigger idea.

I'd use a rigged box to trigger the pop up. A push rod attached to the lid triggers the air gun. What you put in the box is up to you.

The other idea is use a pull cord with a "Pull for treat" sign on it. Once again triggers the airgun and pop up.

Lastly for the pop up I'd mount the piston horizontally and on the end I'd place a fake hand. For a Quick and easy hand simply get a pair of rubber kitchen gloves. (Green ones are best...looks alien when done) Cut one of the gloves into tiny triangle shapes. Then using rubber cement, glue the shapes to the second glove for "scales". Inflate the modded glove and attach. Camoflage behind a curtain.


8 years ago on Step 13

I've never measured it, but depending upon how small you make it and how tight the seal is, I think it would easily move the pin. That said, it won't lift 10 lbs, but i think the forward (or upward) momentum focused should be enough....If that makes any sense.


8 years ago on Step 13

How much force does it push up with. I was thinking of using it to push a pin out to launch a rocket, and it takes about 10 lbs of force to pull it out.


8 years ago on Introduction

I've read a little about them...may play around with something over the next year and see what I can come up with...I know have an entire garage to play with for next year too!


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thanks...someone else on here did it first, but it seemed to complicate..thought it could be easier.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction was a great success - until a blew a fuse - old house - only 2 outlets in my entire garage! couldn't run 2 fog machines and an air compressor for very long :(


8 years ago on Introduction

Nice work. You could extend it with an Arduino and some sort of motion sensor or IR sensors (like at the bottom of a garage door) to have it go off automatically when victims are nearby. You could also have the Arduino play some audio to go with it.

Nicely done.

1 reply