Ma'Tok Staff

Stargate staff weapon, Sodan version of the Ma'Tok staff

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The Ma'Tok staff is the Jaffa warrior weapon of choice from the series Stargate. (Also see fun links on the side). I wanted to make a working replica by combining a hairspray canon with a remote firing system. The remote system is based on an SLR camera flash and remote flash slave. The slave, hidden at the target end, would operate a variety of different types of targets. See all the project logs for pictures and videos.

I have some old junk computers, electronics and wires begging to be Frankensteined, and my wife has a lot of hair spray.

  • 1 × 1” PVC five feet, schedule 80 high pressure pipe with end cap
  • 2 × Ancient camera flashes
  • 1 × Ancient Vivitar remote slave Detects light from flash.
  • 1 × Gas grill spark ignitor, electronic, with AA battery
  • 2 × Homemade actuators made from an old broken PC CD player

View all 16 components

  • Remote Target #4: Rocket Can

    frankstripod05/10/2014 at 01:27 0 comments

    Lets get to the videos first, still frames later, details way below. The rocket can is simple, but dangerous. Be careful! We had a fire extinguisher, garden hose and safety glasses ready. Staff triggers hairspray rocket for instant pyrotechnic effects without all the CGI and editing.

    This one went up 30 feet! (semi dud edited in second)

    The staff worked over 30 feet away in bright daylight!

    Daylight video was so fun, we couldn't stop looping it. This rapid fire editing one is for you [kmancreeper412]!

    Daytime was fun, but nighttime really shows whats going on with that hairspray. First one slides down the gutter on fire, some other shots, last few frames show staff igniting leftover fuel in launcher.

    Still frames speak for themselves.

    During flash:

    Can flying:

    Impressive nighttime staff blast:

    Night time emphasizes fuel burn duration:


    The launcher is a fruit can and the rocket is a soda can dug right out of a recycling bin.

    This is the circuit again with optional spark ignitor:

    One screw grounds to the can, the other has a generous amount of electrical tape to leave a 3/4” gap back to the can on the inside. The ignitor sparks about 3 or four times when triggered.

    I cut the top off the soda can. It fits really smooth (but not snug) open side down into the fruit can launcher to allow a decent combustion chamber.

    I set this up inside a concrete block in case things went wrong.

    A one second shot of hairspray provides the fuel. Here again, like the staff experiments, the hairspray leaves a sticky residue that stays on fire for up to one minute. We had many failed attempts to find the right combination of fuel and air. One attempt had too much fuel and would not fire until I opened the can, let some air in, replaced it, and then it fired.

  • Remote Target #3: AC Appliance Controller

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 16:46 0 comments

    The video here shows the staff turning on a lamp.

    Some will look at this as dull, but I see endless possibilities for entertaining kids

    My wife still will not let me start her java in the morning Jaffa style :(

    Still frame sequence shows weird lighting effect:

    Staff opens:

    I am pretty sure that's a Liquid Naquadah leak reacting with the plasma :)

    AC appliance dominated.

  • Remote Target #2: Staff Flashes Lampshade

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 16:21 0 comments

    Firing the staff at the lampshade triggers the slave and flash hidden inside the lampshade.

    This one is really hard to see because both flashes operate at the same exact time. I know this one looks lame, but I know there is a special effect video hack here somewhere in the future.

    (Some trick shots by [kmancreeper] himself; hip shot, shoulder shot, and behind the head shot.)

    I was hoping to expand on this idea by projecting a silhouette on a curtain, or projecting the flash through a 35mm slide. Those might be crazy ideas because it happens so fast, only a camera could catch it. If a friend happened to take a picture of that happening, they wouldn't see the image until later on the camera.

    No circuit in this one. I just took the slave mounted on the flash and clamped it under the lampshade.

    Since the poor video quality doesn't do the staff justice, here are some still frames to emphasize the live effect.

    It was too bright and brief to look at live, but makes for a nice glow inside the staff and the lamp looks like its having a meltdown in this frame.

  • Remote Target #1: Ma'Tok Staff TV Blaster

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 15:49 0 comments

    Firing the staff at the TV plays a video clip of Ma'Tok Staff plasma blasts hitting the log targets from the SG-1 series. 

    Now with sound!

    The staff fires, the remote flash sensor triggers the circuit which plays the edited clip thanks to some Linux VLC pause magic on a laptop. Laptop video out to TV.

    (See “SG-1 Carter demonstrates the p90” video, about one minute in. Linked as “Video firing sequence” on main page.)

    This is the actual clip VLC plays...

    This is also fun with “SG-1's best explosions” tube video, as the staff seams to blow up the entire universe.

    Since the poor video quality doesn't do the staff justice, here are some still frames to emphasize the live effect.

  • The Target Side

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 15:09 0 comments

    This was the most important part for me because I wanted a variety of target options. This is what I had to work with and this is what is does:

    1. The ancient Vivitar flash slave is only triggered by a flash from a camera (or staff flash in this case) by duration and color temperature. It is attached to another camera flash and that fires at the same exact time (looks like the speed of light).

    2. My breadboard relay circuit: A photoresistor sees the second target side flash (Flash must face circuit) and trips a relay to always on (needed to add a resistor I had laying around) which activates an actuator (I Hacked another CD/DVD player as an actuator again). The "wish they were a spring" rubber bands control throw length and pressure.

    R.I.P. ...

    Resurrection... It's alive!

    3. The second relay (from right to left) reverses that stupid end of CD tray momentary switch that turns “on” at the end of an eject.

    4. Third relay cuts power to the first. Adjusting the tension also adjusts total on time from about one half to one full second (depending on battery strength also).

    5. Optional fourth relay isolates ignitor for targets with pyrotechnics. Almost one second gets about three to four good sparks.

    Here it is in my completed target sensor “project box”:

    1. The pencil acts like a finger.

    2. The keyboard acts like a Teensy USB Microcontroller.

    3. The optional outdoor motion detector acts as a AC controller.

    4. A LinkSys router did not die in vain but provided a much needed power supply.

    5. The camera flash faces the photoresistor and sits in a cut out so that the flash slave sensor faces outside the “project box.”

    The result is a wide variety of remote target options. All of the targets [kmancreeper412] and I explored were loads of fun. I wish they were better documented with my wife's cheesy 15fps digital camera.

    Note: Each remote target will have it's own project log!

  • Fixed the Front End

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 14:50 0 comments

    I wanted the staff to open like in the “SG-1 Carter demonstrates the p90” video, but that is all CGI.

     On my staff, the bottom half opened fine, opening just enough to reveal the front of the flash. Now I needed the top half to clear the staff barrel.

    I made a lever from a wire coat hanger, hinged into the actuator plastic with a screw and a bunch of nuts, washers and locking washers to get the right length and tension. The actuator pushes down, one lever end rides with it, tied with a rubber band to allow for arc. The other lever end pushes the front of the top half up. Good thing it worked because I don't think I could have squeezed anything more into that space. Pictured stretched open for view. 4 AA battery holder cable tied inside for convenience.


    I salvaged two momentary switches, one DPTP slide switch, and a small plastic holder from dead desktop computers. I wired them close to the front end so that they are hard to see in the videos.

    Here [kmancreeper412] shows off what the five foot staff looks like in daylight.

  • Staff Assembly

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 12:14 0 comments

    Front End Assembly:

    The main structure is a hose clamp with 2 #8 screws threaded from the inside out, one facing up and one down. A top and bottom door hinge on each screw is held tight with washers, locking washers, and nuts. Two half football cake pans were cut with a dremel. We cut a 3/4” slot through the back of each pan so that the PVC could slide through the back and the font could close evenly. We drilled the back of each pan to match the hinge holes, then more screws again.

    The actuator was hacked from an old broken CD player (really old, no DVD). I never did this before, but it was a risk that payed off. I used a hacksaw to cutaway just the bits I needed: PCB and motor, gearbox, front latch and tray switch. The tray was cut to about a one inch width to get the strip that has gear teeth. Held on with a hose clamp and a cable tie.

    The off name, cheep, 25+ year old flash was begging for a hacking. I only needed access to the on off switch and test fire button. I worked around this by replacing the batteries with alligator clips and wires to send it power only when the staff was on. My multimeter found the battery springs that were ground and hot. A hot shoe adapter was spliced to fire it. Two cable ties hold an old door latch jam then that is hose clamped to the pipe.

    One of the Fails I had at the beginning was thinking I had enough time and patience to fabricate the front end with a wire frame, aluminum, and JB Weld (bad idea).

    Back End Assembly:

    Running out of money, time and ideas, I salvaged a juice bottle from recycling. I cut out the bottom for easy access, then mounted the ignitor. The original plan to have four AA's mounted in the back, but that got moved and cable tied to the front end.

    Spray painted matte black on the inside, “forged metal” texture paint everywhere else. Rubber bands (blue) keep enough tension to keep closed, but not so much so that it binds the CD player motor.

    With that strip of CD tray attached, and electric tape to hide the ugly:

  • Testing

    frankstripod05/09/2014 at 10:50 0 comments

    The only pressure rated schedule 80 PVC I could find here was one inch diameter, but it did come threaded at one end. This saved me a bundle because I didn't have to buy a separate size PVC pipe, reducer, threaded adapter, larger cap, primer or glue (this would bite me later). The PVC and a cheap grill ignitor were all I needed for some tests.

    I couldn't afford the grill ignitor with the remote switch, so I hacked the button built into the built in AA 'flashlight like' battery holder. Removed the rubber button, attached two wires; positive to side spring to complete the circuit.

    Screws with washers, locking washers, and nuts were drilled into opposite sides. My multimeter found both grounds and hot connections, so I doubled each together for extra spark. I had to adjust the gap inside between the screws to get a spark large enough (not all sparks can start a fire).

    (Opps! Sorry it's fuzzy)

    I made a make shift blast area against brick and cement, and a wire long enough so I could duck around the corner.

    I ended up hating the hairspray. The residue is smelly and it leaves the barrel very sticky, which I thought could eventually lead to a jam and explosion. The residue also stays on fire, and ended up scorching the PVC. The worse part is that it was inconsistent and would not fire in my cheap set up most of the time. I tried a few experiments with butane, but it was still inconsistent. I had some foam rubber darts shoot out, but it all had a risky feeling to it. Getting it to work would require money for a larger back chamber.

  • Bad Planning and Fails

    frankstripod04/29/2014 at 20:54 0 comments

    Had hundreds of problems. So many that I dismantled the entire thing and gave up. After some inspiration from [kmancreeper412] and my mom, I took the parts I had and started over. 

    Also the propellant cannon fired a few homemade foam rubber darts, but we decided to put that to the side for now because firing was inconsistent, hairspray is nasty, safety risks, and just not as much fun as we first thought. We would much rather have a separate project dedicated to an air pressure cannon.

View all 9 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Mike Szczys wrote 05/07/2014 at 21:22 point
Skillful hacking of whatever you can get your hands on. Well done!

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frankstripod wrote 05/07/2014 at 22:45 point
Thank you!!! I am considering reworking the entire project page, now that I'm starting to get the hang of this whole blog/video upload/social media thing, it deserves to look better. I'm happy so far as a first try.

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davedarko wrote 05/07/2014 at 08:23 point
this is screaming for a potato gun :) That is an impressive build for $0 ! I always buy and buy stuff but forget it in my project boxes... I'm still undecided, whether I like the shopping more than building stuff, but I guess its a draw.

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frankstripod wrote 05/07/2014 at 10:01 point
Thank you for the comment! The original concept was non-projectile flaming assist for the flash, but screams potato in the back of my head also. It could have been possible, except for a few snags: 1 No funds for a larger sch80 back chamber. 2 My friend [kmancreeper412] really wanted it, and I couldn't say no, so I removed the ignitor. 3 Turns out I hate hairspray! (inconsistent ignition, stinky sticky residue that stays on fire). I did a few experiments with butane also, but, like the hairspray, was hit and miss, and felt risky like playing with shotgun shells and a hammer. If I had to make another projectile launcher, I would use compressed air, pressure rated parts, and the shopping would be awesome!

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Chali Baicunn wrote 04/22/2014 at 23:38 point
Instead of a mechanical relay, have you thought about using transistors like a MOSFET? For fuel delivery you could always use a slightly pressurized container with liquid fuel; i.e. alcohol, naphtha, etc. You could connect the pressurized container to the combustion chamber via a small car fuel injector. The injector could then be activated with your electrical signal used for arming the electrical system.

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frankstripod wrote 04/24/2014 at 05:06 point
thanks for the advice. the project is still developing. some pros use metered propane and call hairspray projects like this "spray and pray"

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nicksnow42 wrote 04/20/2014 at 23:08 point
Just be certain that the pipe you use has a pressure rating suitable to handle the force of the explosion in the ignition chamber. Also, keep in mind that your ignition chamber needs to be significantly larger in diameter (or was it chamber area to barrel diameter?) than the barrel. As such, it may be challenging and or expensive to form that out of copper or join it to a different material.

I always used PVC for potato cannons back in the day. I made one with a 20,000 volt (stun gun) , 4-gap, ignition system and fuel mixing fan in the ignition chamber. I was pretty bad ass.

Be sure not to use ABS pipe, as it can explode . And if possible set up a remote firing system for the first dozen or so tests.

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frankstripod wrote 04/24/2014 at 05:03 point
Some good advice there. These things are dangerous when not taken seriously.

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nicksnow42 wrote 04/24/2014 at 12:05 point
Meant to say "It was pretty bad ass". Embarrassing typo, hahah.

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OneShot Willie wrote 04/14/2014 at 21:00 point
Here's a great pic for your project, though I bet you've googled it more than I have. This is a great idea!

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frankstripod wrote 04/14/2014 at 23:26 point
Got it. Thank you! Hoping to see some pics of Evette soon

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frankstripod wrote 04/14/2014 at 23:55 point
That link said the replica was made of copper tubing. That may be a consideration if the size and price is right. I will try to check out the used building supply store near me. Anyone know of a reason not to use copper?

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