View Full Version : Air Cannon Construction

RJ Productions
05-19-2011, 10:59 PM
There is a thread in the Halloween Tech Forum on Air Cannons. There were posts on building one using sprinkler valves and PVC.

I got on a bit of a "soapbox" because I feel VERY strongly against using such practice!! A Home Haunter builds one, using it maybe a
couple hundred times a season, but a pro haunter would use one a couple THOUSAND times a season which drastically increases the
chance of failure. You should NEVER use such inferior parts and procedures when the proper method is available and affordable.

With Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon and all the tools of the internet, real solutions are now affordable. You can build one for about a $100
if you shop wisely. Simple breakdown:

Solenoid: $24
Deltro valve: $30
Transformer: $ 8
Air Tank: $29
Connectors: $10

Total: $101

If you can't afford $100 for an air cannon, then maybe you shouldn't HAVE an air cannon...period!!

Sometimes people do not understand the possible implications of their seemingly simple actions.

You are on on the other side of the country from me. You build an air cannon with a sprinkler valve (designed to handle what, maybe
45 lbs of WATER pressure) now you rig into an air prop and apply 70-90 lbs of air pressure!!! It's called a receipe for disaster!!!

As the prop ages the plastic becomes brittle. If the air pressure becomes too much, you have basically created a concussion bomb!!!

Now you will injury an actor, a customer, maybe both. The newspapers will have a field day. I was one saying you had to use the right
components yet I'm now the one paying higher insurance rates and I have to remove most of my animations because now no haunt can
have a prop that doesn't carry a certified seal!!! Just think how much that new "certified" air cannon will cost now!!!

So a response was made on that thread that if I was complaining, then I should show how to build a good one.... good point!

So here's your sign..... I have an image of a large cannon using a 5 gal tank, an image of a small cannon and a video explaining the parts
of the small cannon. Print the images for reference and download the video..

Now if you want to build one, you have no excuse. You can do it right and it will save you time and money and possibly an injury!!

Also you should make sure no vendor sells you a prop using inadequate components. Believe it not there are still vendors (not many) that
will be stupid enough to use a sprinkler valve!! Makes you wonder what other short cuts they take on their props??????

This is not meant to undermine any vendor selling air cannons. Theirs will be more than $100 because you can wait on ebay and get the one
valve and one solenoid you need used or surplus, they need a lot so they will have to buy new ones at full price. It would more than double
the cost of materials plus their labor, so you see why a good one is $300.

So buy the right parts if you're building...or just buy a good cannon. The injury you save may be your own!!



RJ Productions
05-20-2011, 12:33 AM
See you can even saw more! Harbor Freight has the 5 gal tank on sale until 5/23!!!

Reg. $29.00....Print coupon...only $19.99...NOW you're under $100!!!!


05-20-2011, 05:09 AM
how often will your air tak need to be filled up?

05-20-2011, 05:25 AM
It sounds in the video much like my hubby's Tippmann paintball gun shooting air through it....same idea I guess. :)

05-20-2011, 05:26 AM
...awesome tutorial BTW! :)

05-20-2011, 05:36 AM
Rich is Right!

I had a customer get hit in the leg with part of that valve and it put a softball size welt on him. I was shocked at the injury.

I was lucky that he had a good attitude about it and I gave him a 200.00 prop for his trouble.

Whew! Lucky Lucky Me


Allen H
05-20-2011, 09:20 AM
The tank fills every time it fires, the noise they make is all of that air dumping out at once.
Allen H

RJ Productions
05-20-2011, 01:17 PM
You notice how quick the refresh rate was on that little cannon. You really don't want to be nailing every customer that goes by. We try to train the actors to blast once, choosing their "victim" wisely! Since the cannons do use a lot of air, your compressor will work overtime if you get a trigger happy actor!! I perfer to use an actor instead of just a sensor because they can time it better, sizing up the group and possibly getting the best person for a good group response. IF multi-firing is a problem, put a simple control on it. Once it is fired, you must wait 20 seconds or so to be able to fire again. Makes the actor choose wisely!!!

Thanks Kimmy...I wanted to get something out quick and just watching someone screw fittings on a pipe didn't make much sense anyway!!! People can print the image, download the video clip for reference. So if you don't build now, you have it later. Or just email or post asking again!

I am by no means an "air cannon expert" it is merely a very important if not irreplaceable tool of a haunter. I hope my point is made. We as an industry have to take a stand and NOT condon actions that can ultimately harm us all. We have been lucky. It does not mean that the trend will continue!!! Think of it this way...using a sprinkler valve with compressed is just a ticking time bomb. You, your actors, your patrons, your family members all go through your haunt. And I know it sounds like I'm beating a dead horse here, but I know there is still some moron reading this who goes "what's the big deal? Mine works just fine!!!" What if it is YOUR child that is going through when the valve decides to fail?????? How do uou explain to your child that they can't see anymore because you wanted to save a couple bucks and use a sprinkler valve instead of the correct components!!!!! I am NOT being over dramatic here, this is a real concern. And if you do not understand it, please do us all a favor and find a different industry, hobby, passion.

So go forth my children, create or buy safe and effective air cannons! They are very effective in the arsenal of a good haunter!

chuck weber
05-21-2011, 04:41 PM
Opinions, please.............

X-Treme Torment
05-21-2011, 05:44 PM
I would say this is a much safer way of building an air cannon (just make Shure all your valves are tight) than with the pvc pipe version. I also think that if you are trying to save money and build an air cannon yourself with pvc you shouldn’t be in this business. Customer safety is the #1 thing. Not how much money you can save.

RJ Productions
05-21-2011, 08:43 PM
...... I also think that if you are trying to save money and build an air cannon yourself with pvc you shouldn’t be in this business. Customer safety is the #1 thing. Not how much money you can save.

Xactly X-Treme!! An air cannon is a haunter's super tool! Effective almost anywhere you put it. You just have to be smart about it's construction and implimentation. Used or built incorrectly and you have a potential disaster. In 1999 we didn't have many choices, pay $500 and buy one or use inferior materials like sprinkler values. Ebay has become a Haunter's Salvation!! Know what you want, figure what you will realistically pay and keep bidding!!

I just got a plasma cutter for about $300!! Didn't REALLY need it, but will figure out some cool things to do with it since you can't even get one at Harbor Freight for under $500!!! Maybe a new thread!!!!

Quick story.. first air cannon I bought from Studio Tek was a beauty! Installed it in the first room. Lady complained an actor grabbed her ass in the haunt!! Found out the room, went inside, signaled the actor as she explained where she was and once again she got "goosed" by the air cannon!!! Yeah, they can be fun....when they're safe!! Happy constructing!! (guess I won't be able to bid on a deltro valve for a while!!!

Soul Reaper
05-22-2011, 01:35 AM
I am glad you addressed this issue Rich.
As I always like to say "If a job is not worth doing right, then it is not worth doing at all".

05-22-2011, 11:53 AM
Why not use an extended hose from the output valve and put the air cannon out of site behind a wall ? This would 100% ensure no accidents...

RJ Productions
05-22-2011, 03:37 PM
With the treaded exhaust port you can do just that. I have one large cannon hid behind a prop, a 4 foot pipe goes along the wall,T's to 2-90 degree elbows so that I can get a larger spread on the audience. Piping that far you need the large cannon with a higher PSI as opposed to a cannon that is exhausting right at the audience.

Being able to hard pipe, increases possibilities. I have a cannon mounted on the ceiling. It is piped into a hallway, split and with 90's it aims down at the heads of the audience. The room is in the entrance section. People are "admitted" to the Asylum. Warning lights flash, horns sound, and a voice-over exclaims that the "patients" are being deloused, then the cannon blastes them. While you can use a flexible hose, I would not recomend it. Repeated use can eventually blow the hose off!! Then you wonder why people aren't scared and find out you are blasting inside an empty closet!!

Having the air cannon behind the wall is NOT a "solution" or reasoning to use a sprinkler valve......safe is safe...no excuse. Do it right, it's not that hard!
Build it right or buy it right!

Dan Faupel
05-22-2011, 05:18 PM
Good post Rich! On a semi-related note...do you know if Robert still has a website for Studio Tek FX? I have a client interested in some of his products and I can't find any info online anywhere.

X-Treme Torment
05-22-2011, 05:37 PM
Putting the pvc cannon behind the wall will only blow out the pvc but the wall as well. It will throw wood splinters out of the wall as well as the shards of plastic. Think about 50 to 90psi blowing threw a wall. Not pretty. My first air cannon i found on ebay for around $150 and i still use it in my haunt today. Very reliable.

RJ Productions
05-22-2011, 06:07 PM
Hey Dan,

Yeah, it's temporarily down, guess he's switching providers and servers. Should be up first of the week! I find out anything I'll contact you!


05-23-2011, 10:16 PM
I would say this is a much safer way of building an air cannon (just make Shure all your valves are tight) than with the pvc pipe version. I also think that if you are trying to save money and build an air cannon yourself with pvc you shouldn’t be in this business. Customer safety is the #1 thing. Not how much money you can save.

i totally agree, industrial parts for the entire air cannon. this is how we do it at the Shanghai Nightmare. we also use the dump valve on a elevator prop --- our elevator vibrates with an off centered motor and then at the end of the sequence the entire floor drops by dumping all the air from the air bags using these valves.

05-23-2011, 10:19 PM
Why not use an extended hose from the output valve and put the air cannon out of site behind a wall ? This would 100% ensure no accidents...

extending will cause more air resistance, so in order to get the same output as no-extension, you're probably looking to use a bigger air cannon to do the same thing.