Party with Air Cannons

Air Cannon

Air Cannon

Air Cannons are amazingly fun to play with at BBQs. Its really just my adult Nerf gun. You just fill the pressure chamber with a compressor and then hit the valve and watch the thing go. My normal projectiles are confetti, fruits, stale dinner rolls and glow sticks. I usually fire a couple shots of water to clean the cannon. The water shots make a really cool rain effect and feels great in the summer.

What about Explosive Cannons?

I used to build spud cannons powered by hairspray and starter fluid when I was in boy scouts. They are definitely more portable because you don’t need an air compressor and it’s a faster reload than a bicycle pump. They are half the cost too.

I finally got sick of the inconsistencies and went air powered. With gas powered some would never fire, some would fall short, some would even ignite the PVC on fire. Air powered gave me a measurable force and the extra cost was well worth it.

This video is NOT MINE! It does display the reason why I don’t like Combustion Cannons

Is it Safe?

If you know what you are doing Air Cannons made from PVC pipes are generally unsafe.  If you don’t know what you are doing, then well, adios, nice knowing ya. PVC by any respected engineer is not a good pressure vessel, it’s easily damaged when dropped, brittle in the winter, and if it does not  fail, it becomes a pipe bomb with PVC shards with you right next to it.  Schedule 40 pipe can be rated around 200+psi. As a safety margin I usually pressurize my cannons around 75 psi. I used a tire valve stem to pump air in and it tends to leak at higher pressures so I don’t wish to break it. At 75 psi my cannon turns a solid apple projectile into pure sauce.

My Portable Party Cannon

I made a smaller version of the big one for parties. It’s the same cost as the big one ~$36, but the benefit is that it can be powered by a bicycle pump rather than a full compressor. I also added a solenoid sprinkler so I can add a remote in the future. Below are some photos.

Confetti Cannon
This one is the miniaturized version, instead of using a 1″ manual valve. I used a sprinkler valve from Home Depot. I am hoping to one day build some electronics for this and make it remote. I built it in an hour for parties to launch confetti.
That black electrical tape is to hold three sections of pvc around the cannon as a tripod. Air goes in from a bicycle pump from the tire valve stem on the right. It takes about 20 pumps to hit 35psi for confetti.

Streamers are usually inexpensive ($1 a roll) and they are fire retartant. It takes 1/3 of a roll to fill the barrel. I cut the streamers into 1″ x 0.5″ sections of confetti and cram them down the barrel. If you make it too small it becomes a  mess to clean up.


The barrel on my design screws off so I can load multiple barrels and the change the size.

This manual bypass on the solenoid valve works well enough till I rig up a remote system.

How to Build One

There are some really complex designs out there, but if all you want is a big BOOM!, smirk and “Holy Crap that’s Awesome!” I recommend a compressed Air Cannon with a simple 1″ valve.

(SpudFiles) has plenty of research and forums on the topics, so there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel. also sells a lot of the parts you wont find in Home Depot, like clear PVC and 125psi safety valves.

Other People’s Videos

I’m crazy about not having accidents with my cannon, but I can’t say the rest of the internet is. Here are some fun videos of people without the same philosophy.

Yes it Hurts

Cannon Backfires and Pipe Ignites

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