Potato cannons can provide entertainment over Christmas break


Mitch Hopkins

Junior Will Bolton prepares to shoot his homemade potato cannon. Potato cannons can shoot proectiles over 400 feet.

Inside the homemade device, an explosion is concentrated through the barrel propelling the projectile a distance of over 400 feet.

Although this sounds like something from a Middle Eastern war zone, it is not. This explosion is taking place on a Churchville farm and the projectile is a potato.

Potato cannons use the explosion from hairspray or similar products to propel potatoes or pretty much anything that can be crammed into the barrel. The one I built was made of a common material, PVC pipe, because it is cheap, effective, and simple to use.

A trip to any hardware store will yield the necessary supplies:

  • Three feet of two inch diameter PVC pipe
  • A foot of 4 inch diameter PVC pipe
  • A two to four inch connector piece
  • An unscrewable “cleanup lid”
  • “Purple primer”
  • PVC cement
  • An electric grill lighter
  • Glue (I used Gorilla Glue)
  • A drill

After the materials have been bought, the rest is quite easy. First, paint the ends which will be cemented together with Purple Primer. After it is dry, apply the PVC cement and push the ends of the pieces together. Once that is dry, drill a hole in the combustion chamber and slide the grill lighter into it leaving the push button exposed. Glue it down. After everything has dried, your cannon will be nearly finished. The last step is to file the edges of the barrel down so it will shave the excess potato off when the cannon is loaded.

Using the potato cannon is even easier than building it. To begin, you will want to push the potato down the barrel using a stick until it reaches the back of the barrel. The “cleanup lid,” which is an unscrewable lid on the back of the cannon, allows easy access for spraying the hair spray. Start with about 5 seconds of hairspray and move up from there, keeping in mind more hairspray does not always lead to a further shot because oxygen also has to be present for the explosion.

Once you have sprayed the hairspray, quickly screw on the lid and aim the potato cannon in the general direction of where you want it to end up. It will not be very accurate, so make sure there is a wide area for the potato to land. It can exceed distances of 400 feet, so be careful.

Just shooting potatoes becomes boring time after time, but you can change things up. Loading the barrel with a half cup of ice on top of a crumpled piece of paper, which serves as wadding, makes an entertaining shotgun effect and pumpkins do the darndest things when they get hit from close range.

Will Bolton is an Opinion Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.