Build a Shooting Pirate Cannon for Your Pirate Halloween 

After 8 weeks battling the heat in the garage, I wanted to share some photos of the newly finished Pirate Cannon. Just a few details - she's modeled after a 17th Century French, 18-pound artillery piece. At 7 feet long, she fires with smoke, light, and a neatly hidden subwoofer that shakes anything nearby! I even picked up real cannon fuse that sparks when lit to start the sequence off on Halloween!

Halloween Pirate Cannon 35

Pirate Cannon

Halloween Pirate Cannon

PART 1 - Barrel The barrel is fabricated from (2) 12" x 4' Concrete Form Tubes from Home Depot. My barrel is set at 7 feet long. Of the 1 foot that was trimmed off (8' of cardboard tubes minus 1'), I used a 4" ring as an inside joiner to secure the two tubes together.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

The key here is to taper the barrel down by cutting a pie-shaped wedge down the bottom (narrow end towards muzzle).

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Taking the remaining barrel scrap, I used these to create two barrel bands to help secure the entire unit together. Look closely to ensure there isn’t any “curving” accidentally put into the barrel at the joint.

Cannon Halloween Trunion

PART 2 - Trunion To make the trunion (perpendicular, round “wings” the cannon pivots on), I took a 3” PVC pipe cut to size and traced where it would go in the center line of the barrel. The jigsaw made quick work of the hole in the barrel.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

So that the trunion doesn’t impede the smoke machine within the cannon, I opted to saw out a curved section in the middle of PVC (leaving the top as a connecting bridge) so the smoke can pass easily underneath. I added duct tape around the cut in the PVC so that Fog Juice doesn’t pool up inside of the PVC trunion. On the ends of the hollow PVC pipe, I used scrap cardboard to fill the hole. The entire assembly is secured with more Gorilla Glue Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive.

Pirate Cannon Muzzle

PART 3 – Muzzle To make the curved front of the muzzle, I took a sheet of pink, condensed insulation foam (some states use blue, or you could use white styrofoam) and cut out 4 squares that were slightly larger than the diameter of the barrel. I used 5 minute epoxy to sandwich all the pieces into a nice block and waited for them to be nice and secure to one another. I then took a razor saw and cut off the 90 degree corners to start making it more “circular”.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

I took some thin plywood scraps and sandwiched the foam so the drill didn’t make dents. I drilled a ¼” hole in the center and chucked a long bolt through the plywood and block of foam. I ran a long bolt through the whole assembly. Chuck it in your drill and spin it fast. Tape down to secure heavy grit sandpaper on the bench or floor and start sanding the block while it spins full speed on the drill.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Don’t worry about cutting a perfect circle in the end of the foam – you’ll use an insert for the actual muzzle hole. To keep the foam from muzzle from getting dinged up, you’ll need to protect it. In this case, I simply used 3M fiberglass cloth and Minwax Polycrylic (blue can). I opted not to use traditional fiberglass resin as it can “eat” the foam, so I stayed with the water-based alternative for this project.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

PART 4 – Barrel Bands and Embellishments Hobby Lobby sells sheets of Craft Foam in various thicknesses. I used 1/4” foam and cut concentric bands. Use scissors to cut the bands. Since the circumference is so large, I had to use two strips of foam for a single band. I opted to use 5 minute epoxy to secure these as some of the construction adhesives don’t seem to like the foam. I then used the trusty staple gun on the foam to persuade the edges from lifting.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Next, add your embellishment – I used a foam, fleur-de-lis crafter’s stamp (cut off the plastic base) from Hobby Lobby and wooden furniture plugs from Home Depot. The sheet foam from the bands was once again used for the plate where the “vent” is located (little hole where the fuse goes).

Cannon Breach

PART 5 – The “Christmas” Breech The breech posed some interesting challenges as I don’t have a lathe, and didn’t want to spend the time molding a custom part. A trip to the Goodwill and less than $5 later, we were good to go. I found a 12” red, plastic Christmas bowl, the base of an old brass lamp, and a Christmas ornament that worked. I took all three items, drilled a hole through the center of them all, ran a large bolt, and secured them all together - a compression sandwich.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Since the fog machine will be hidden in the back of the barrel, I need to have a way to secure the breech so I can access fog machine, but make it air tight so the fog doesn’t leak out the back. To secure the breech, I took another 2 strips of craft foam (approx. 6” wide) and glued and stapled to the inside of the barrel making a ring. The ring has just enough friction on the plastic Christmas bowl to fit very tightly and remain air tight. No hinges, tape, or glue - just an easy, pressure-fit.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

PART 6 – The Base and Wheels The carriage (or base) of the cannon can be made in a multitude of ways - I reviewed a number of design ideas online and ultimately settled on a light-weight, low-material cost version. The frame of the carriage was built using 2x4 wood stock with an outside sheathing of light plywood (stair-step shaped). The inside and bottom of the carriage is corrugated cardboard painted to match the wood.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

During the design, consider the width of your barrel and any electronics you plan on using - Fog Machine, Subwoofer, etc. For my prop, the Logitech PC subwoofer sits snuggly in the bottom pointing forward. Another consideration would be to hide the subwoofer in some crates nearby if it won’t fit in your carriage.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

I typically avoid using wood stain (except for adding a dark wash to props) due to the wait time for it to dry, so instead use 5 colors of spray paint (Browns/Greys/Blacks/Greens) to give it a war-torn, weather-beaten look. The more colors you use, the more layering and depth you can build up.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Start with Brown and run the color along with the grain of the wood, to create a good solid base coat. I used Black next on the edges and bottom, and then went over with a series of Gray and Green spotting to create irregularities - very patchy at this stage. Follow up with the original brown in a misting pattern to soften the overall effect.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

For the wheels, I took four, 5-gallon white buckets and cut around (about 6-inches from the bottom) to use the bottom of each bucket. The hubs are created from PVC cap ends with the raised lettering sanded smooth and a ½” hole drilled for the peg to slide through. The bolts are fashioned from the same wooden furniture plugs from the embellishment. Once glued with Gorilla Heavy Duty Adhesive, a coat of black spray paint with hammered metallic bronze, gray, and orange (rust) was dusted over.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Part 8 - Finishing the Barrel While the base and wheels were drying, I took this time to finish the barrel. Bronze cannons were “cast” in one piece from huge molds back in the day. To simulate this, I took light weight spackle and ran large globs over the cannon. I spread the globs out thinly in irregular patterns using a putty knife, creating a series of high and low spots. Once dry, I quickly sanded any sharp edges or points of putty still sticking up.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

There was an experimental process to getting the bronze finish. At nighttime, this won’t matter too much, but since I had started down this path, I had to make it look right. Base coat was latex paint from the discount section of Home Depot. You can typically find gallons of returned paint for $5-$9 and I found a dark grey that would be a good start. I used a can of “12 oz. Dark Bronze Protective Enamel Hammered Spray Paint” as a light over coat to begin giving it a metallic look.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

There was an experimental process to getting the bronze finish. At nighttime, this won’t matter too much, but since I had started down this path, I had to make it look right. Base coat was latex paint from the discount section of Home Depot. You can typically find gallons of returned paint for $5-$9 and I found a dark grey that would be a good start. I used a can of “12 oz. Dark Bronze Protective Enamel Hammered Spray Paint” as a light over coat to begin giving it a metallic look.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

In order to paint a faux patina (the bluish-greenish cast), I took cheap, tempura poster paint and thinned it down - a rough estimation would be: 6 parts White, 3 parts Blue, 1 part Yellow. Honestly, I just squirted the colors in an old mixing container and stirred them up. Then add an equal amount of water. I use this mixture as a wash, taking a large foam brush and starting on the top of the barrel, slopping it all around and quickly following up by blotting it with clean paper towels.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Part 9 - Rigging The rigging helps provide extra detail and believability of the prop. Ropes, pulleys, pull chains, etc. really help take this prop from good to great and is the easiest part of the assembly to complete. The metal hoops and wires on the carriage are from a thrift store candle holder I bought for $3. I simply used the dremel to cut apart some interesting shapes and used my online reference material for placement.

Halloween Pirate Cannon 37

I was able to score a deal on three pulley blocks I found at an antique store in Mount Airey, NC and the rope was purchased on eBay for $10.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

With that, it’s a matter of wrapping the ropes and arranging the pulleys into a believable fashion. I have some old netting that I'll use to place over the subwoofer so it's not easily seen.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Part 10 - Smoke, Boom, & Fuse Smoke: What’s a cannon without a big boom and some smoke? I gave my trusty 400 Watt unit away the prior year, and was concerned that I needed a much larger unit to move the volume of fog through a 7 foot barrel. So, I picked up a new 1000 Watt Fogger machine for this effect. The fog machine is designed to sit inside the barrel near the breech for easy access.

Cannon Fan

Here’s my solution: I took a 4” electric fan high velocity fan (from Walgreens) and cut a 3.75” hole in the bottom of the barrel (just before the breach). I unscrewed the stand from the fan and simply set it inside the cannon. The fan pulls fresh air from below and keeps a continual stream of air moving through the cannon. I also abandoned the dryer hose/pvc concept. The dryer vent/pvc conduit simply restricts too much airflow for the distance traveled, so the smoke now just flies through.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Boom: I looked at lots of online postings on accomplishing this through pneumatics and the bang of a drum to get the boom - but I settled on the electronic variety for simplicity. The boom sound is from a Logitech PC subwoofer and speakers. I pull these out each year for haunted porch music, but relegated them for the cannon this year. The cannon sound is from an iPod Touch and simply plugs into the speakers and hides in the back of the carriage.

Cannon Fuse

Fuse: I wanted to employ the countdown phase of the cannon so I picked up some actual cannon fuse. I tested the fuse prior (SAFETY FIRST - ALWAYS) to make sure it didn’t spark too far, and worked up a blast plate so the sparks won’t melt the foam.

Cannon Fuse Brass Plate

Using a piece of brass tubing with a crimped end, a piece of brass sheet as a blast plate to made to protect the cannon from the sparks of the fuse.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

I used 5 minute epoxy to secure the brass sheet and once dry, I spray painted the plate. A small length of fuse (3” or so) simply sits inside the brass tube and when lit, takes about the count of 10 to completely burn. This is when I’ll hit the fog machine and hit play on the iPod touch for the cannon sound. I may only employ the fuse only a couple of times during Halloween, but it's a fun concept.

Halloween Pirate Cannon

Pumpkin Pie Spice Air Freshener

Adding a small amount of this Glade Plugin Air Freshener to your fog juice filled the neighborhood with the smell of Halloween. Make sure to clean your machine afterward as this stuff clog your machine over time.

Click "Go to link" for a test video

Select the link to see the Cannon Test Video!

© 2018 by FrightMaker.com

This site was designed with the
.com
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now