A Clothespin Gun

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Young lad letting fly with the clothespin gun.
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Diagram shows parts and assembly method for clothespin gun.

One sultry summer’s evening about 20 years ago, my
grandfather–who was quite an ingenious old
gentleman–sat whittling away on the back porch while
Grandma cooked supper for the family. When Grandpa turned
his finished handiwork over to me, I found it was a new
plaything, one that kept me fascinated for days

Granddaddy’s clothespin gun or clothespin popper is an easy-to-put-together
homemade toy. You can make it for your youngsters
(or your grandchildren) in just a few minutes using
only a handful of common household items. All you’ll need
to fashion one of the child-pleasers are two spring-type
clothespins, a pocketknife, and a strong rubber band.

First, remove the spring from one of the clothespins, pick
up your whittling knife, and square off the rounded inner
notch on one of the halves … and on the same wooden piece use the point
of the knife to deepen the outside notch just a
bit. Then put the two sections back together, wrap a
rubber band several times around their tapered ends, and mount the spring so that its round
coil is on top of the toy.

The other clothespin, when it’s taken apart, will provide
two rounds of “ammunition” for your popper. Simply whittle
away about 1/8″ from– and square
off–the tapered end of each piece, and you (or an
eager youngster) will be able to wedge the stick into the
popper. Cock the “trigger”–or spring coil–by
sliding one of the tapered pieces
into the popper until it pushes the inside lever of the
spring into the square notch you whittled out. (If the
spring won’t stay in place, you’ll have to take the device
apart and carve the “catch” a little deeper so that
it’s closer to a right angle.) Then position the popper’s
“ammunition” just in front of that ledge. (Wrap the rubber
band tightly enough to lodge the “shell” snugly between the
jaws of the popper.)

At this point, the down-home toy is ready for action. Hold
it (with its open end pointing away from you) by grasping
the bottom section between your thumb and index finger.
Then aim the device at the ceiling–or at a soft,
unbreakable object–and pull the trigger toward you
with your other forefinger. (You’ll probably find that you
need to balance the rubber band end of the popper with the
thumb of your “trigger” hand.) The spring lever will push
forward and send the pin flying 10 or 20 feet.

Once you’ve tested the popper, remind the young’uns to
point their new toy at things instead of people, and then let them try out Grandpa’s invention. They’re
sure to have as much fun with the old-fangled plaything as
I did!

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