It's not a toy, but that doesn't mean you can't have
fun with this homemade "plinker. "
Here's a riddle for you: What's black and white and blew
all over? You'll never guess in a million years, so we'll
tell you: the darts from an honest-to-gosh homemade blowgun
...one that even a big spender would have trouble sinking
more than two or three dollars into!
Yep, that's right, no longer is the blowgun the bane of
Amazon explorers. It's now graduated to the other extreme,
the realm of high-tech-with coated, thin-walled alloy
barrels, modern plastic-and-steel darts, and even specially
designed mouthpieces. And make no mistake: This new breed
of diaphragm-powered dart launchers has evolved beyond the
casual toy stage and into the bailiwick of the serious
The trouble is, fancy blowguns sell for $25 or $30, which
might be fine for a serious fan, but it's a bit steep for
the uninitiated ...and that's precisely why we developed
this kitchen-table-tech version.
Our blowgun's barrel is made from a length of 1/2"
electrical conduit, and the mouthpiece is the dust boot
from a Volkswagen "beetle" ball joint. The darts are simply
drywall nails or stubs of spring wire, fastened to
polyethylene cones fashioned out of discarded plastic milk
jugs. Yet, elementary as it is, our cheapo homemade model
can hold a 6" pattern at 20 yards and come close to
penetrating 1/2" plywood!
If you're game for giving it a try, get yourself a 6'
length of 1/2" electrical metallic tubing; a worm-drive,
fuel-line-size hose clamp; a tricycle handgrip; some
friction or handle-bar tape; a VW ball-joint dust boot (any
rubber boot of a similar size and shape would work); an
assortment of grooved-shank and box nails or stiff wire
rods (half the fun is experimenting to see which dart
points suit your needs best); several plastic milk jugs;
and a tube of silicone sealant or some modeling clay.
In the way of tools, you'll need a hacksaw, a plumb bob, a
file, a propane torch, scissors or a knife, wire cutters, a
hammer, a minia ture screwdriver, and a block of soft wood.
Begin by cutting the tube to a length of 3-1/2' to 5' . The
shorter the barrel, the easier it'll be to wield the gun
...but you'll be trading of power and accuracy. Next, saw a
piece about 4" long from your scrap. To make this into an
adjustable handle, merely contour one end so it'll make a
clean joint with the barrel, then cut kerfs into the tube
about 1/4" below the high sides of the contour. Pass the
hose clamp through these slots and around the barrel, then
slip the tricycle grip onto the stub. After you've painted
the surface of the conduit, tighten the handle at a
position that allows your arm to be outstretched but bent
slightly when you aim the weapon. Finish up by wrapping
fore and aft of the grip with tape. The rubber mouthpiece
can then be sealed to the barrel with silicone.
To make the darts, all you have to do is lay one of the
empty milk jugs on its side, and with the propane torch set
at a low flame, carefully heat an area about the size of a
quarter until the plastic turns clear. Then push the
pointed end of the plumb bob into the soft spot and hold it
there until the dimpled area clouds. Make several rows of
cones in this manner (leaving a bit of room between each),
and cut the dimpled wall from the jug.
You can use a short piece of scrap tubing to separate the
cones from the rest of the sheet. Just bevel one end of the
conduit to a sharp edge, then place the plastic-points
up-on your wooden block. Center the tubular cutter over
each cone to be removed, and give the back of the tube a
smart rap with the hammer.
Once you've freed a number of cones, it's easy to make
darts out of them by pushing nails or wire stubs through
the pointed ends from the inside. A dab of silicone sealant
or clay set behind the metal will serve the threefold
purpose of securing the point, sealing it, and giving the
dart some necessary weight. A bit of research will help you
to determine which combination of points and putty works
best-though we're partial to drywall nails backed with
Using the blowgun properly is merely a matter of setting a
dart in the mouthpiece end, placing the rubber cup around
your mouth, and huffing sharply with your
diaphragm. (Don't draw in your breath or you'll
risk swallowing the projectile!) Remember, above all, that
even though your completed blowgun can be a heck of a lot
of fun, it's definitely not a child's toy. Used
improperly, it can be a dangerous weapon. So always
exercise plenty of caution and common sense during play or
practice, and you'll enjoy your "loose change" investment
for quite some time.