How To: Make a Mini Cannon From a Lighter

Make a Mini Cannon From a Lighter

I love this project. It involves fire, projectiles, electricity, and is easy to put together from commonly available parts. This mini cannon fires airsoft pellets, is fueled by alcohol, and is made almost entirely from parts found in a standard BBQ lighter. The total cost is under $5.

About half of the BBQ lighters out there have a divide in the gas reservoir which makes them not work for this project. In case you have trouble finding a suitable lighter, the exact one I use in this video is a 'grill zone flexible lighter'.

Outside of the lighter the only parts that are required are two self tapping screws, one 1/4" diameter bolt, hot glue, and the barrel. The barrel can be taken from a broken airsoft gun, or you could simply use the tube from a plastic or metal pen as long as it fits the pellets.

A cotton swab soaked in 90% isopropyl alcohol is rubbed around the inside of the chamber, the rear bolt is replaced, a pellet is loaded and the cannon is ready to fire.

Be sure to check out my latest article that shows how to make simple and effective darts for this mini cannon: https://nighthawkinlight.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-ninja-darts-for-lighter-mini-cannon-0132338/

You can also come check out my YouTube channel for many more projects, and subscribe to be updated when I post new ones: https://www.youtube.com/user/Nighthawkinlight

22 Comments

Why thank you :)

X 4 adults this will be fun !

Needs a pistol grip

I've made it with this tutorial, but I've got a problem. Gas seems to explode very rarely, only 1/20 "launches" are successful, what is the problem? I didnt buy BBQ lighter, took piezoelectric element from standart lighter (maybe produced voltage is lower?). I'm using 95% alchohol

I would guess you're having one of two problems. Either you're using too little alcohol, or the igniter is not producing enough current. If the spark gap between the screws is particularly large then it will take a more powerful igniter to have a hot enough spark to ignite the alcohol. Igniters will also become weaker with age, so it might be as simple as buying a new lighter and switching the piezo. It is possible to overfuel the cannon to the point that it will not fire as well, but that is more difficult to do. Overfueling is more likely if you are using the cannon in hotter environments where more alcohol is able to evaporate into the air.

Well, yes, piezo in my cannon is probably has got lower voltage (I'm pretty sure that current doesn't have to do anything with burning the gas). I'm not sure, just found some lighter at home, maybe it's really more than 1-2 years old. I'll try to make it better (got a VERY NICE piezo from old soviet union lighter for ovens), thanks anyway.

The current does actually have quite a bit to do with igniting the gas. The piezo could have high enough voltage to jump a large gap but if it does not have enough current it will not be a hot enough spark to cause ignition. In any case, it sounds like you do need a new igniter.

I am curious about the sensitivity to the quantity and quality of propellant used. Have you tested other propellants like hairspray or WD40? And how did you conclude that 90% isopropyl alcohol is your optimal choice. PS - very nicely produce tutorial mr nighthawkinlight.

I have tested dozens of fuels in these mini cannons. The largest issue is finding one that can be added in consistently small quantities to make a combustible mixture inside such a small chamber. Alcohol is the simplest to use because the point at which it naturally saturates air with vapor at room temperature is flammable, so it is difficult to overfuel. After a micro second of spraying the chamber with hairspray or wd40 it is already overfuelled to the point that the fuel to air ratio is no longer a combustible one, meaning the cannon cannot fire. Such fuels will also coat the terminals and prevent a spark from forming after repeated use, as well as coat the clear chamber and make it look foggy. There is nothing special about 90% alcohol, it is simply the minimum concentration that works consistently and does not contain enough water that much is left over after firing.

thank you. i am now, conversely wondering if alcohol works well in a potato gun.

Yes, it would work. It would be a poor choice though for the same reason that it is a good choice in the mini cannon, it would take a ton of it in order to bring the chamber up to the proper fuel/air ratio. Better to stick with hairspray, or better yet, regulated propane.

Can I make this from standart lighter?

Hi, First of all let me star off by saying that this device is ingenious, it is amazing to see how you really can make anything out of typical household items...So I thank you for that.

Second of all, I would like to know if there is any possible way to mount this item to an RC plane without bringing the weight down and also how you would be able to fire said item without any manual use of the gun. We are currently in a UAV transportation class and my teacher asked me to find out, but there isn't t to many websites out there I know that contain this type of information

Any spark will ignite the cannon. For an RC plane I would suggest using the electronics contained in a car plug in ionizer as a high voltage source. http://www.asia.ru/images/target/photo/50450965/Car_Plug_In_Ionizer.jpg

The ionizer will accept DC current through the leads connected to the plug on the inside, and by removing the bulb on the opposite side of the circuitry board and soldering a wire in its place you can use the high voltage output to create a spark instead of a piezoelectric igniter. You then only need to figure out a way to give the ionizer current via the remote control when the cannon is to fire.

i am 12 and my piezoelectric igniter was placed somewhere else on the lighter and had no holding place on the gas chamber i put hot glue on it and it is seeming to hold it in place. But i noticed that in your video yours had a place for your piezo to sit on the gas chamber, i just wanted to know what jind of lighter that was,

sorry i mean KIND of lighter

The exact model lighter used in this video is a 'grill zone flexable lighter'. Another lighter that will work well is the Scripto Aim 'N Flame II Lighter, which is carried by Home Depot.

will it explode when i'm use too much alcohol?

If I couldn't use alcohol is there any thing else that I could use it??!

Plz answer me I finished every thing except the alcohol

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