Post-Christmas Post


The week before Christmas, I attended a Christmas party with a small group of friends. Aside from bringing a dessert, everyone was supposed to bring a gift for the gift exchange. The catch was that the gift must cost no more than $5. Due to inflation, $5 doesn’t get you as much as it used too. I knew that if I was going to stay within budget, and still give a decent gift, I was going to have to get creative. A few ideas ran through my head, but I settled on a classic toy, a pop gun that launches corks. I subsequently procured the following materials:


-1 x 1/2″ PVC expansion joint

-2 x 1/2″ PVC coupler

-1 x 1/2″ PVC 45 degree elbow

-1 x 1/2″ PVC plug

-2 x 2″ length of 1/2″ PVC pipe (not pictured)

-several small corks that fit snugly into 1/2″ PVC

-1 x 4″ length of 1/2″ CPVC pipe (optional)

-1 x 1/2″ CPVC coupler (optional)

-1 x small piece of plastic (optional)

-Plastic Epoxy (optional)

-Nerf darts (optional)

You will notice that several of these things are listed as “optional.” This includes the Plastic Epoxy. While it is true that gluing the parts together will make for a much more durable toy, I found that the parts still work well when they are merely friction fitted together. Now, on to the build!

First, I unscrewed the expansion joint. I used some silicon grease to lubricate the o-rings inside. (Any lubricant that is safe for plastics will do, but silicon grease is the best that I have found.) After reassembling the expansion joint, I attached one 1/2″ coupler to the smaller end, this became the muzzle. To the other end, I attached one of the lengths of 1/2″ pipe, the 45 degree elbow, the second length of pipe, the other 1/2″ coupler, and finally the 1/2″ plug. Connected in that order the pieces created the grip. The end result looked like this.



By capping off the rear end, I created what is essentially a manually operated reverse plunger system. Operation is simple. Pull the expansion joint all the way out, then load a cork into the muzzle. Hold the grip end, and point the muzzle at your target. Quickly pull the expansion joint in to create pressure behind the cork, sending it flying.

This, in and of itself is fun, but I didn’t want to stop there. While gathering the parts for this build, it occurred to me that I could easily adapt it to fire Nerf darts, so I set out to make a “caliber conversion kit.”

Starting with a 4″ length of 1/2″ CPVC, I first used my Dremel to bevel the inside of one end. This would make it easier to load the darts.


Next, I cut a notch into the opposite end.


Into this notch, I glued a small piece of plastic.


This serves as a dart stop to keep the dart from vacuum loading. Finally, I glued the 1/2″ CPVC coupler to the muzzle end.


This whole assembly fits snugly into the barrel of the cork gun, making it, effectively, a manual pump dart gun.


When firing corks, it gets ranges of 15-20 feet. When firing Nerf darts, this range is doubled. However, due to the pump action firing, accuracy is pretty pathetic. That said, it is cheap, fun to build, and fun to play with. The friend who received it in the exchange seemed to get a kick out of it. I wasn’t the only one that got creative with gift giving. My wife made a candle, one of our friends made a coconut hand scrub, and I went home with a pound of bacon!