The workshop section is a quick primer on how to get started with DIY water warfare. Some sections will not be available for some time.
How Soakers Work
There are several ways water blasters work, and this section details them. Some blasters only have a pump which shoots water directly by drawing it from a non-pressurized source. Most conventional blasters however, allow pressure to build up and include a trigger to release the water which results in significantly better performance. Some blasters operate with a pump and pressure chamber but have no trigger, instead they are self triggered. Others have pumps that merely pump air into a water container.
The diagram below placed under the separate air chamber blaster description visually provides the most basic concepts of how water blasters work. While I have not created visual diagrams for other blasters, most of the fundamental concepts rest in that diagram.
The reservoir is simply filled and the pump pulled and pushed to shoot. Some are trigger operated, meaning the trigger pulling acts as the pump (also known as a squirt gun). Some of the newer piston types have small pressure chambers (typically spring powered), making them capable of shooting continuous streams if you pump fast enough. Some also feature a trigger valve but it is self-activated when the pressure chamber expands to open it. The categorization of these blasters is in question, as they can technically be categorized as spring powered/elastic, but since they cannot be operated independent of the pump, I don’t put them in the other groups.
How it works: Pulling the pump out sucks water out of the reservoir and into the pipes. Pushing the pump pushes the water right out of the nozzle. Some piston blasters, like the stream machines, basically act as large syringes. Ranges vary by user strength and by design efficiency. For blasters with a pressure chamber (usually spring powered; there have been no exceptions yet), the pressure chamber helps create a continuous stream instead of a short burst.
There have been numerous piston powered blasters produced over the years as they are the cheapest to manufacture.
Air Pressurized Reservoir
The reservoir is filled up about 2/3 so that room is left for air. Ideal number of pumps varies by blaster, reservoir volume, and how much water remains. The intake hole or tube in the reservoir must be underwater when pulling the trigger or air is wasted. The pump itself can operate at any angle since all it does is pump in air.
How they work: They’re the original Super Soaker concept. The pump pushes in air, and the cap must remain tightened when there is pressure. When the intake tube or hole is submerged when firing, and the air pressure is at a good level, pull the trigger to release a stream.
The SS50, SC400, Oozinator, all Max-D’s (except for the 6000), and many XP’s are all pressurized reservoir soakers.
Seperate Air Chamber
The resevoir is filled up completely, though usually not before giving several pumps of air into the air pressure chambers. Even after filled, air can be pumped by inverting the blaster so that the intake is not submerged.
Pumping is stopped when the pressure relief valve makes a noise and/or makes pumping more difficult.
How it works: Pulling the pump out sucks water or air through a 1-way valve (called a check valve), then pushing the pump inwards pushes the water/air through the second check valve and into the pressure chambers. The pressure chambers do not allow air to escape, and water is not compressible, so as the fluid builds up, so does the pressure. As always, the air will stay “afloat” like a bubble, always above the water. Pulling the trigger is the only way to release the pressure, which is how this gun shoots.
Seperate reservoir soakers include the Max-D 6000, Arctic Shock, Overload, and many XP’s.
Following is a diagram showing air pressure in action. Blue indicates water with no pressure while red indicates water under full pressure as allowed by the blaster. Obviously, everything “in between” is indicated in purple and pink.
Operation is the same as with air pressure blasters with seperate firing chambers. Fill up the resevoir, but if you are filling up for the first time, hold the trigger down and pump until water starts shooting out. This clears the internals of air which you DO NOT WANT for CPS blasters. After pumping up until the pressure release valve can be heard or felt, top off the reservoir to make up for the lost water.
The water is pumped into a thick rubber bladder which provides all the necessary pressure. Any air in the system will result in an unclean shot and less range. Homemades do not have a pressure relief valve so be careful NOT TO OVERPUMP THEM. At best you will be drenched. At worst the bladder’s end will turn into a projectile.
There are 3 shapes used for rubber pressure chambers. One is a balloon-like spherical sack, which you can actually easily increase the power of by layering on 12in. party balloons with their necks trimmed. Another is like before, but cylinderical, and the last is a flat rubber disk that bulges outward when pressurized. Air inside these chambers will be compressed as much as the water is, so it won’t push the water out anymore than the rubber already is. The air may also get into the shot, causing a misty stream that won’t get anywhere.
CPS soakers include everything on the CPS line (obviously) and the HydroPower blasters by Buzz Bee Toys, as well as the Flash Flood, Arctic Blast, HydroBlitz, etc. The Pulse series is elastic (spring) powered but is not CPS.
HowStuffWorks.com also has an explanation to how water guns work internally.