dangerous toys I made because I was bored

Recently, I’ve gone into another tinkering phase, where some stupid idea about how to make common items really dangerous/fun will come to me and I’ll half implement it. Until just now, when I fully implemented one.

I realise this thread might not be taken well, but I am not posting directions, merely relating what I’ve done.

It occurred to me that it might be fun to play around with disposable cameras, because they’ve got some neat electronics in there to operate the flash. Boy do they ever. It turns out that they’ve got one bigass capacitor in there.
So I went to the grocery store and asked the 1-hour photo guy if he had any used disposable cameras. Yep, he gave me a bag full of about 5 of them (including AA batteries - score!). So after taking a couple apart and seeing how they worked, I turned another one into a sort of homemade taser. I haven’t used it on anything living (though I did shock myself nicely once while making it), but it makes nice loud sparks when I discharge it on a metal surface. I don’t plan to do anything with my new toy. The fun was in the making.

My other tinkering project was with one of those Scripto fireplace lighters. It came with a neat little resevoir of butane and a little rubber hose thingy too, as well as a piezo-electric spark generator. I might try to rig up a fire-from-my-fingertips thing which I’d probably use only once and burn myself in the process (I already singed my hair once with it).

Am I just crazy, or does anyone else take things apart and put them back together in new and dangerous ways?

I have a compressed air driven potato cannon I made back in the day.

I made it with interchangeable barrels, one small enough to shoot marbles. It’ll put a steely through both sides of an oil drum, or you can use the bigger barrel and shoot down doors with potatos, or use it like a mortar, and shoot spuds 1/2 mile or so.

I can even launch those Estes model rockets higher than they’ll go with the engines in them.

I haven’t used it in years, but I’m thinking of a way to send up my old camcorder with a parachute.

when i was 12 i built a catapult, using wood, rope, and some realy long electrical cords. after winding it up, and putting a car battery on it for ammo, i turned my back to it. I heard a WOOSH! sound, and turned around just in time to have my nose broken by an airborne car battery…I have also built a racing lawnmower, wich i broke while taking a hill in my back yard.

There is a fine line between genius and insanity…

When we were young, my brother had a CO[sup]2[/sup] powered racing car. Since we were all pyromaniacs, we would drill out the puncture point of the CO[sup]2[/sup] cartridge and refill it with a stable gun powder precursor, glue in some waterproof fuse and, viola, a handy-dandy home made CO[sup]2[/sup] Bomb!™ [sub](Don’t try this at home folks.)[/sub]

When we detonated the first one, my mother thought the old spur line running by our house had a derailment. Needless to say (then why say it?), we were finally forced to sign a test ban treaty with our parents.

A neon sign transformer is always fun for making Jacob’s ladders and arcs in general. I still have it around somewhere.

“There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”[ul][list][list][list]Spinal Tap[/ul][/list][/list]

When I was a kid I had a CO[sub]2[/sub] powered BB pistol. My dad showed mehow to have fun with the spent cartidges. With a syringe, fill the cartridge about 2/3 full of water. Hold onto it with kitchen tongs (yeah, we did this in the kitchen), the kind that look like they were just made for pulling hotdogs out of boiling water (<==Foreshadowing!) or for holding onto CO[sub2[/sub] cartridges. Put a toothpick in the hole. Hold the cartridge over a flame until steam is actively trying to escape out of the stopped hole. Take out the toothpick (with LONG tweezers) and let go of the cartridge. It will fly around the room like an unstabilized, steam-powered jet! (Which is exactly what it is.) Realizing that there were things in the kitchen that would break if hit with a three-inch piece of flying metal, I played with the new toy outside after the first demonstration.

FOAF story. Scott K., guy I worked with, had a very fastidious friend in college who had a mouse problem. Try as he might, he could not rid his aparment of the last mouse. Being an EE student, he got the biggest capacitor he could find. He attached a wire from one terminal to a screen. (I assume metal window screen.) The other terminal had a wire that went to the overhead and hung down over the centre of the screen with a nice piece of cheese on the end. He charged the capacitor with a battery.

During the night he heard a loud “pop”. He didn’t get up to investigate until the morning. It seems Mr. Mouse took the bait. Too bad he didn’t know about capacitors. There was (Scott said) mouse all over the kitchen. His fastidious friend had quite a job cleaning it up.

Same friend, different FOAF
Scott had another friend in college who liked to make nitro glycerine. FOAF would put the nitro into small vials. The vials would go into ice cube tray and thence into the freezer. (It’s very important to keep nitro cold, as it becomes unstable above about 56ºF. But IANA Chemist.) The FOAF would wait until a very hot day and put the nitro-carrying ice cubes at intervals onto the hot asphalt of a nearby road. Then he’d wait…

When I was about 12 or 13 I got a chain of 7.62mm NATO blanks. (The guy who gave them to be used the powder for reloading purposes, but he left the primers in.) I taped pachinko balls to the bottoms of the empty cartridges and threw them. They made a nice little bang.

Aahhh! What is the website about the buddies growing up in Florida or somesuch place that chronicled their shenanigans? Like the time they got a surplus water cannon and hooked it up to a small skiff and hilarity ensued? Or the adventures in Soapbox derby racing? I loved that site!

I did the nitro thing. My stepfather (quite the mad bomber himself, in his youth) described the process once in front of me, when I was about 7 or 8. A couple of years later, I actually made it. I set it off in a old cast-iron bathtub in an abandoned shed. The tub was smashed down like a cast-iron flower, and the roof of the shed lifted-off like a tar-paper butterfly. That was the last time I did that!

Model-rocket engine bazookas and potato guns were required to even be a kid in my neighborhood.

I’ve also made napalm, thermite, and small test-bombs for using said concoctions.

I’m lucky to have all my body parts still attatched.

During field training, fresh out of basic training long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I made a speargun out of my M-16 rifle using the blank 5.56mm cartridges, one fully assembled M-16 cleaning rod, and my trusty rifle.

The blank cartridge had plenty of power to launch the cleaning rod out of the barrel and into a pine tree, where it resisted every effort by me to pull it out. Being that the (M-16 cleaning kit, individual, 1 each), was part of my required combat gear, I had a hard time explaining to the sergeant why it was embedded in aforementioned (tree, pine, 1 each).

After 50 pushups and running in the sand with my trusty M-16 rifle above my head for a few laps around the training area, I suddenly had a nirvana-like flash of inspiration that the M-16A1 rifle, an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, selective-fire weapon was not meant to be used as a speargun.

…now accepting applications for Straight Dope Mad Scientist…Position is a full-time job and may possibly include world conquest. :smiley:

I honestly don’t know whether or not to believe this guy, but he is claiming to have been the progenitor of the original Rocket Car urban legend. He goes into a fair amount of detail as to how the car was built and what they did.

My grandpa used to set off firecrackers in his teeth.

I built a tennis ball cannon that used lighter fluid; this was way before spud guns with their sissy compressed air or CO2.

I went to summer school at UC San Diego prior to my freshman year. San Diego is very dry in the summer, but that didn’t stop several of us from making a balloon out of a dry-cleaner’s bag, four soda straws, and some birthday candles. We melted little holes in the straws so we could plant the candles in them, and then fashioned the four straws into a cross. We attached the candles and the bag, and then carefully lit the candles and held up the bag so it wouldn’t come into contact with the fire. After a while the hot air from the candles was sufficient to fill the bag and provide sufficient buoyancy to carry the entire contraption into the skies.

The Excelsior, as we christened our fledgeling craft, did well on her first and only flight; rising so high that she became a mere point of light and looked like a star. Fortunately, all the candles burned out by the time she landed, though we did see that the campus fire department spotted it and raced to the scene.

No one was ever disciplined or sought out, which I find surprising in view of the potentially great risk involved.


Is there anything diabolical I can make with 14 paperclips, a miniature baseball bat, a toner cartridge, and a staple-remover?

Enquiring minds want to know. :slight_smile:

Oh, christ, yes.

I, too, have spent some time experimenting with camera flash circuits. Those capacitors sure can pack a hell of a charge. I was pretty careful with those things, so every time I charged one and wanted to tinker some more I’d short the terminals with a screwdriver. Of course, if you do this with a full charge, you’ll get a bang that sounds like a gunshot and you’ll melt the tip of the screwdriver.

I always wanted to hook something like that up to a bug zapper in place of the wussy 120V line current. I figured when the bugs hit, instead of going, “bzzt, bzzt,” there’d be a loud BANG! and the insect would be vaporized. I may yet give that a try…

I’ve built more than my share of potato cannons. I started using lag screws to hold the pieces together after I discovered that PVC glue didn’t hold up well under long-term cannon use. The ass-end of one of my cannons shot out and hit me on the side of my stomach once. Left a nice bruise, too. Ever since then I’ve used glue and lag screws.

I built a scaled-down potato cannon once, which was basically a potato rifle. The cool thing about this was that I had threaded, interchangable barrels so I could experiment with building potato-rifle silencers. Some of 'em sort of worked, too.

When I was in elementary school I once armed a bunch of neighborhood kids with makeshift weapons I called “stingray sticks.” They were basically pieces of hockey stick about a foot long with a clothespin taped to them. You could then hook a rubber band around the end and clip it with the clothespin, aim, and fire. After a few kids got hit in the face with rubber bands, these all got confiscated and I got a “stern talking to.” Heh…

A few years ago I had a friend who was fond of building things like pipe bombs and the aforementioned “CO2 bombs.” He was crazy, though - he’d make pipe bombs out of copper pipe by filling the pipe with gunpowder, adding a fuse, and then crimping the open end shut with a hammer. I wouldn’t stand anywhere near him while he was doing this. He insisted that it was impossible to set off gunpowder by pounding it with a hammer. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.

I once saw this guy drop a “CO2 bomb” into a shallow river, right in front of a lamprey eel. There was a muffled “thump,” a 3-foot plume of water, and a very pissed-off eel. It survived, though, and appeared to be uninjured. Go figure.


Is there anything diabolical I can make with 14 paperclips, a miniature baseball bat, a toner cartridge, and a staple-remover?

Enquiring minds want to know."
If only we had an inferno cloak.

And a wheelbarrow.

Eeer… I’m just a little skeptical of that last aspect. At the lab where I used to work we had an industrial transformer which was used for load-testing satellite equipment. One day we heard a sharp “SNAP!” and found a mouse electrocuted in the housing where it had been nesting. It was missing a foot but was otherwise intact.

Our barracks in Germany were right next to the combat engineers’ barracks. Those bastards would blow up anything. There was an ongoing flaming tennis ball/pop can bazooka war between the two buildings.

I had a spud gun powered by hair spray, and I’m not joking, that thing was powerful enough to kill. It made me nervous, though. It got washed away in a flash flood, and I’m not sorry.

I read up on making nitro, then I decided I liked my nards where they are, so I haven’t tried it. I might try thermite, though.

If the squirrels ever come back, I think I’d like to try the capacitor thing.

When I was a kid throwing stars were my speciality. My uncle was a welder so there was always scrap metal and torches around to create with. Potato cannons also work with cheap hair spray and a Coleman latern starter CO2 and compressed air can be a hassle (Aqua-net) is my fave. A few years ago I bought all the Anarchist’s cookbooks on a CD from E-bay, I’ll be damned if I can find it though.

A shameful admission, but the comment above about throwing stars reminded me that during my last year at college (BArch, Auburn University, '88–“War Eagle!”), I invented my own stars using 4 #11 X-Acto blades sandwiched between two drafting dots, then later between two pennies hot glued together. Of course, as with all weapons, this little idea got way out of hand, and started an arms race as folks rushed to construct 5, 6, and even 8 bladed stars. Of course, there were lots of targets (1st and 2nd year student projects–them there stars could go right through foamcore board) and much mayhem. Luckily, no one got sliced open or poked in the eye. That would have been bad.