Homemade carbide cannons

Written by robert dyer
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Homemade carbide cannons
Prepare yourself for the loud boom that will come from a homemade carbide cannon. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Experience for yourself a tremendous bang at your celebrations with friends and family by building yourself a homemade carbide cannon. By using some standard PVC pipe sections and fittings along with some screws, carriage bolts and wood, you can construct a homemade carbide cannon without a lot of trouble. This cannon will look similar to the naval cannon from sailing ships and fortresses of the 1700s and 1800s. However, unlike those fire-belching behemoths, this cannon is lightweight and safe yet as noisy as any of the USS Constitution's cannons were. Instead of dealing with vast amounts of cast iron, black powder that can be tricky and the messiness and danger that go along with black powder cannons, your secret will be that you will be handling calcium carbide, flour, water and lightweight PVC. This cannon will measure about 3 feet long overall when finished and be on a naval-type carriage.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • 1 -- 2½-foot-long, 2-inch diameter PVC pipe with screw-on end cap
  • 2 -- 6-inch-long, 1-inch-diameter PVC pipes
  • 2 -- 1-inch-diameter PVC pipe end caps
  • Drill
  • 3/8-inch drill bit
  • 1-inch drill bit
  • Screwdriver bit
  • 1-inch-long wood screws
  • 4 -- 2½-inch-long, 1-inch-diameter carriage bolts
  • 4 -- 1-inch-diameter lock washers
  • 4 -- 1-inch-diameter wing nuts
  • 4 -- 6-inch-diameter 1½-inch-thick wooden circles
  • 2 -- ½-inch-thick plywood pieces, 18 inches wide by 24 inches long
  • 1 -- ½-inch-thick plywood pieces, 12 inches wide by 24 inches long
  • Ruler
  • Epoxy glue
  • Calcium carbide
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Sparklers
  • Matches
  • 1 -- 354ml glass
  • Teaspoon
  • ¼ cup measuring cup
  • Old rag

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Measure and mark a horizontal line 6 inches up from the bottom edge of both of the 18-inch-wide-by-24-inch-long, ½-inch-thick plywood pieces. Make sure that this line runs the full 24-inch length of both pieces. One of these pieces will be the left side piece of the H-shaped carriage, and the other piece will be the right side.

  2. 2

    Fasten the 12-inch-wide-by-24-inch-long, ½-inch-thick piece to the left-side piece along the line you drew in step one on the 18-inch-wide-by-24-inch-long left-side carriage piece. This piece you are fastening on will be the 12-inch-wide bottom of the carriage. Fasten these together by using the drill and screwdriver bit to drive the 1-inch-long wood screws along the line you drew in step one through the outside face of the left side of the carriage into the 24-inch-long left-side edge of the carriage bottom.

  3. 3

    Fasten the 12-inch-wide-by-24-inch-long, ½-inch-thick piece to the right-side piece along the line you drew in step one on the 18-inch-wide by 24-inch-long right-side carriage piece. This will finish and secure the 12-inch-wide bottom of the carriage. Fasten these together by using the drill and screwdriver bit to drive the 1-inch-long wood screws along the line you drew in step one through the outside face of the right side of the carriage into the 24-inch-long right-side edge of the carriage bottom.

  4. 4

    Position the carriage to where it is flat on the lengthwise edge and is an H shape when looking from the front of it. It will be standing 18 inches tall by 24 inches long with the horizontal bottom of the carriage connecting the sides at a point 6 inches up from the bottom edge of both sides.

  5. 5

    Measure and mark a point on the outside faces of both sides of the carriage at a point measured 3 inches up from the bottom edge and 3 inches in from the front edge of the carriage.

  6. 6

    Measure and mark a point on the outside faces of both sides of the carriage at a point measured 3 inches up from the bottom edge and 3 inches in from the back edge of the carriage.

  7. 7

    Drill a 1-inch hole using the 1-inch drill bit at the points marked in steps five and six. This will make the holes for the wheel axles to fit through.

  8. 8

    Drill a 1-inch hole through the centre each of the four 6-inch-diameter 1½-inch-thick wood circles. Use the 1-inch drill bit for this. These wood circles will be the wheels of the carriage.

  9. 9

    Fix a wheel to each corner of the carriage by sliding a 1-inch-diameter 2½-inch-long carriage bolt through the wheel and the hole drilled in the carriage's side in step one. Then slide a 1-inch-diameter lock washer onto each bolt. Now tighten a wing nut down onto each bolt to secure the wheels in place.

  1. 1

    Glue a 1-inch-diameter, 6-inch-long PVC pipe to the middle of the left side of the 2½-foot-long, 2-inch-diameter PVC pipe with screw-on end cap. This will form the left trunnion of the cannon. Use the epoxy glue to accomplish this. The main cannon barrel is the 2½-foot-long, 2-inch-diameter PVC pipe.

  2. 2

    Measure and mark a spot in the middle of the length of the top edge of the carriage's left side. Then measure and mark a spot in the middle of the length of the top edge of the carriage's right side.

  3. 3

    Measure and mark a spot 3 inches down from the middle point marked in step one on the outside face of the carriage's right side. This will be the point where you will drill the hole for the trunnion to fit through on the right side of the carriage.

  4. 4

    Measure and mark a spot 3 inches down from the middle point marked in step one on the outside face of the carriage's left side. This will be the point where you will drill the hole for the trunnion to fit through on the left side of the carriage.

  5. 5

    Drill 1-inch holes at these points marked in steps three and four to make the trunnion holes for the right- and left-side trunnions of the cannon to fit through, holding the cannon barrel on the carriage.

  6. 6

    Fit the cannon's left side trunnion through the trunnion hole on the carriage's left side. Then glue a 1-inch-diameter PVC end cap over the end of the cannon's left trunnion to hold the cannon in place from the left side.

  7. 7

    Fit a 1-inch-diameter 6-inch-long PVC pipe through the carriage's right side trunnion hole. This will be the right side trunnion on the cannon barrel.

  8. 8

    Glue the right-side trunnion to the middle of the right side of the 2½-foot-long, 2-inch diameter PVC pipe that is the cannon barrel. This secures the right trunnion of the cannon. Again use the epoxy glue to accomplish this.

  9. 9

    Glue a 1-inch-diameter PVC end cap over the end of the right trunnion to secure the right side of the cannon into place. The cannon barrel has now been fitted to the carriage.

  1. 1

    Measure and mark a spot in the dead centre of the cannon barrel's top side 4 inches forward from the cannon barrel's rear end.

  2. 2

    Drill a 3/8-inch touch hole at the point marked in step one.

  3. 3

    Pour 354ml of water down the barrel of the cannon.

  4. 4

    Pour ¼ cup of flour into the front of the cannon's barrel. This will make the smoke.

  5. 5

    Dip the teaspoon in the calcium carbide and get a ½ teaspoonful measure out.

  6. 6

    Pour gently the calcium carbide into the 3/8-inch touch hole of the cannon barrel. Then wait 12 seconds. This will form acetylene gas in the cannon barrel as the calcium carbide reacts with the water in the cannon barrel. The gas will vent out of the touch hole.

  7. 7

    Light a sparkler with a match while waiting the 12 seconds mentioned in step six.

  8. 8

    Touch the lit sparkler to the touch hole after waiting the 12 seconds mentioned in step six. The cannon will now fire and give out a big flash, loud bang and smoke.

  9. 9

    Open the screw-on end cap of the cannon barrel then use the old rag to wipe out any mess that may be in the cannon barrel after firing. Then close the cap of the cannon barrel. Repeat steps three through eight to fire the cannon again.

Tips and warnings

  • Always use caution when working with this cannon as the acetylene gas is flammable. Using caution will help to try to prevent any injuries.

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