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British mad scientist Colin Furze just built a fully operational thermite cannon

The Thermite Launcher
As anyone who’s perused British plumber-turned-inventor Colin Furze’s YouTube channel can confirm, the Stamford native is the perfect modern-day representation of a mad scientist — save the crazy hairdo. Whether he’s building a giant rocket-powered firework wheel, an absurd jet-powered go-kart, or a weaponized tuk-tuk, Furze’s creations are nothing short of spectacular. So what’s he got up his sleeve this week? Oh, you know, only a steampunk-style thermite launcher; so, no big deal.

Typical of a Colin Furze project, each step he took to manufacture the steampunk thermite cannon is perfectly laid out over a few separate videos. First, Furze explains his unhappiness with the current state of thermite usage (i.e., lighting a thermite canister and high-tailing it to a safe location) and explains his desire to develop his own thermite launcher. Before piecing together the actual cannon, he begins by producing thermite of which he plans on inserting into a number of shells. By combining iron(III) oxide and Eckart (aluminum) powder, Furze then loads the mixture into a small metal container and inserts a strip of magnesium to act as a fuse.

Furze unleashing his thermite launcher on a can of petrol
Furze unleashing his thermite launcher on a can of petrol Colin Furze

For anyone unaware of the kind of reaction thermite has upon being lit, a lit canister of thermite ignites and burns similarly to sparklers one would typically see around the Fourth of July. However, a burst of thermite is much brighter, larger, and (most importantly) hotter. How hot you ask? According to United Nuclear, ignited thermite has the potential to produce a temperature of over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit while producing a healthy dose of molten metal. Additionally, lighting thermite requires a heat source of roughly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to incite a reaction and won’t light via an ordinary safety fuse — hence, the strip of magnesium Furze opts for.

While the first video deals mainly with the production of thermite and the manufacturing of shells, Furze’s second video details the exact way in which he constructs the actual cannon. By using a bar of steel to act as the cannon’s frame, a top-mounted barrel to hold the loaded canisters, an old fire-extinguisher to launch said canisters, and a torch to light the fuse, Furze’s launcher begins to take shape. With the help of some power tools, heavy machinery, and detailed welding, the finished cannon resembles the look of a steampunk-style minigun and, from the looks of the video, Furze can hardly contain his excitement.

A box of fireworks after coming in contact with a lit canister of thermite
A box of fireworks after coming in contact with a lit canister of thermite Colin Furze

A third and final published video is where Colin puts the finished thermite launcher to the ultimate test. After firing a few capsules in what looks like a derelict garage, Furze ups the intensity and fires at a can of gasoline which, as expected, sets off a massive explosion. Refusing to stop there, he then fires a thermite canister at a box of fireworks that explodes into a glorious visual display of light and smoke. Needless to say, Furze’s DIY thermite contraption looks like one hell of a good time, even if it does happen to be one of the more dangerous inventions he’s ever constructed.

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