Yumiko Mori

Internet Version [Naruhodo no Mori] Vol.59

by Yumiko Mori


Vol.59   September 15th, 2001

Potato shooter

Fun playing with toys

Home science experiments for mothers of elementary school children

Bullets are coming out fast from a hand-made potato shooter.

Mom: "I like this sound!"
Satoshi: "I can shoot well too."
Mom: "Let's compete how far you and I can shoot!"
Satoshi and Mom are shooting pieces of potato from straws.
This potato gun works like a air gun. Compressed air pushes a potato bullet, and consequently the bullet shots out.

Satoshi: "My bullets are flying further."
Mom: "It's so flustrating! Shall we compete for targeting instead?"
We have decided to use toilet paper roll cores as targets. We let them stand on the table.
Experiment Mother: "I can't hit targets. It's so difficult!"
Satoshi: "I hit it!"
Mom: "I lost again."
Satoshi: "You lost again."
Mom: "Satoshi, do you know why bullets fly off?"
Satoshi: "I don't know why."
Mom: "What happens is that air inside this straw is pressed so much it can not hold any more."
Satoshi: "It can't hold any more?"
Mom "That's right. Just like when you have to go to toilet."
Satoshi: "I know the feeling."


A potato(A big one)
Straws Two types with slightly different diameters (6 mm and 4.5 mm), several each (Straws should be relatively rigid.)
A pair of scissors, a small dish, and a knife Materials

How to make a potato shooter

How to make a potato shooter

Required time: 5 minutes

  1. Cut a wider straw at 15 cm from one end. Cut a narrower straw at 18 cm from one end.
    If there is a bendable part, cut off the part.

  2. Cut a potato in 1 cm of slices.
    Hold a wider straw with your thumb on its end.
    Poke a potato slice with this straw and push the straw all the way through. You will have potato bullets.

How to play with a potato shooter

How to play with a potato shooter

  1. Fill two potato bullets into both ends of a wider straw.
    Insert a narrower straw into the wider straw and push one of the filled bullets up to the half way.

  2. From the half way, push quickly the narrower straw all the way through. The potato bullets should fly out of the straw.

* You can make bullets from tissue paper. Tear off a portion from a tissue paper, wet the piece of paper, and round it up to shape a bullet.

* If potato bullets get dry, you can not shoot them well. Keep bullets in water.

* Occasionally potato bullets become stuck to the narrower straw. To avoid this problem, you may want to fill the end of the narrower straw with a potato piece before shooting.

* You can also use a sweet potato or a daikon radish for bullet material.

* Never aim at people! It's very dangerous!

Fun playing with toys

This hand-made air gun is very simple to assemble, but it makes such a refreshing sound. Because of this sound, playing with this toy is such a fun. Initially I thought hand-made toys needed a long time to assemble, but this one is so simple even children would be able to make easily. But if you play with this toy for a long time, your may feel pain in your hands. So please don't overdo it.

AuthorYumiko Mori (Zushi, Kanagawa, Japan)
IllustrationMitsue Ogata
TranslatorAkira Ishihara
HTML formatMuneo Kume

Copyright © 2001 Yumiko Mori