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Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices
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Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  665 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Ordinary folks can construct 13 awesome ballistic devices in their garage or basement workshops using inexpensive household or hardware store materials and this step-by-step guide. Clear instructions, diagrams, and photographs show how to build projects ranging from the simple—a match-powered rocket—to the more complex—a scale-model, table-top catapult—to the offbeat—a ten ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Chicago Review Press
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  665 ratings  ·  51 reviews

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Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I go to this reference so many times. Cincinnati Fire Kites last night for example. We first used this when Bennett was 5, and it was a great help this year when Will wanted to install a grenade launcher on the lawn mower.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
AWESOME book !!!
Michael Roop
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diy-books
This book is down right savage. Thirteen do it yourself backyard ballistics. Each has a degree of danger to them, but then again what kind of fun is it if it's not dangerous in a small amount? There is also the possibility of that it might violate some laws depending on what area you live in. Again, what kind of fun is it if you ain't breakin some kind of law? This book is at the top of my weekend do it yourself project list. Lots of fun to be had, and if you search for this book on youtube; the ...more
Jul 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wanna have a fun day with family? Follow the potato cannon instructions in this great book! BAM! Flying spuds across the field. Inside the pages are instructions for lots of cool ballistics, explainations behind the simple science of each ballistic, and this history of ballistics and their inventors.
William Schram
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, physics, diy
Backyard Ballistics is a book that explores physics through DIY projects. The main focus is on making the projects. The underlying physics is explained in the book along with step-by-step instructions on building these items. It also has troubleshooting points with things that can go wrong and how to combat those things. On the other hand, the book has few equations and all of the units are imperial rather than metric. However, in this case, it might be better for all involved. Engineers are pra ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Fun, safe experiments and also the history behind the ancient arsenal.
Chris Allen
Jun 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting and with enough detail to make the projects accomplishable.
Douglas Lord
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Superbowl 47 is over gentlemen; start your potato cannons. Gurstelle’s 2nd edition improves an already-awesome tome that instructs budding Makers, geeks, and Just Plain Fun Having Folk in the gentle art of stuff that ‘splodes. Who among you hasn’t fired a tennis ball mortar? Or launched a Jellyfish of the Sky (a dry cleaning bag fueled by canned heat)? Gurstelle somewhat gleefully notes that BB “is about being creative in the name of science and experimentation,” adding that “you might learn som ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Great book about making homemade things that go boom and splat. It'll be great when my boys are teenagers and wanting to make big things, but I actually wanted a book on smaller scale homemade machines. My son's WeBeLos book showed me how to make a catapult out of a shoebox--that's more on my level than putting together pvc pipe to make a potato cannon. Still cool to see what you can make from a hardware store. I REALLY liked how he explained (in simple terms) the physics of the machine and adde ...more
Matthew Hendel
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you have kids and want to build a potato cannon or a dry-ice tennis ball cannon? Then look no further: this is the book for you.

I have not built every item in this book, but I have built both the potato cannon and the dry-ice cannon, and can heartily recommend the book. The instructions for the items is clear, the parts are obtainable and the theory and safety of the items is explored.

I built both cannons with my two sons, ages 10 and 13, and both were able to participate extensively in the
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Although my library has it shelved with the adult books, this book seems more like it's geared toward middle school/teenagers. (Which is not to say that younger kids would not have a delightful time with these projects with adequate adult help/supervision.) It does exactly what the title says, and has plenty of caveats about safety precautions. I think I may get my younger cousin a copy for his birthday.
Logophile (Heather)
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I built 4 of the projects from this book with a group of two dozen boys, grades 5-8.

match head rockets (24)
potato cannons (2)
tennis ball mortars (6)
flingers (4)

We had a really good time doing it. The Match head rockets were actually the least cooperative project and we all had a great time with the other builds.

If you are looking for some awesome science/ballistic fun, this book is the way to go!
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting, but I would have liked some more complex designs. The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery had more interesting designs, and I was hoping for something more in line with that. ...more
A manual that shows how to make fun shooting and flammable things such as a potato cannon, a paper match rocket and a Cincinnati fire kite. Far beyond the ballistic fun to be had are the opportunities to explore physics through the scientific method. The author explains the science behind each project and provides further thought for study. Includes sidebar stories about relevant scientists and emphasis on safety.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ok this is seriously good fun but be warned the temptation to make some of these are far to tempting but GREAT fun, have tried out a few of the ideas (have scrounged all the paper match books from all my friends and caused chaos with them) and already starting a shopping list for my next big project. If you want something to do (and dont mind annoying the neighbours) this is one for you.
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty good book. Some of the projects might be too difficult for a beginner. I got this book to work through with my 6 year old son. We were able to build the potato gun, match rockets, and fire kite. The rest of the projects were well documented but far too advanced for him. Overall a good project book with good documentation (explanations), imagery, and diagrams.
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-office
I bought this book to use in an after school science enrichment class I teach. It did not disappoint, the kids thought all my exploding stuff was great. Along the way they also learned terms like exothermic and velocity. Pretty decent for elementary school. Plus? Now I'm the coolest mom in school. :-D
TJ Anderson
Apr 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2012
It was alright. I would honestly recommend checking it out from the library or glancing at it in the books store and writing down the projects that sound fun and then looking them up online.
This book was a gift, and while I enjoy it, the book doesn't provide any tutorials that aren't better on
Basically: Good, no fault to the author, but not something that you need to own.
Jun 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Guys, technical types
How to build and blow up stuff, how to amuse yourself with little or no materials (fire kite).

The application of the concepts in this book is interesting, if not a little dangerous.

I highly reccomend to tinkerers and hacker types for exploration and afternoons of fun projects.
Sep 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
THIS is what Jack would rather read than From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. And I'll admit -- this book is an interesting read. But we live in Chicago with a standard city lot. He will NEVER fire a potato cannon in our yard!
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Safe with adults, and lots of fun. Some items, like a match rocket and mini-catapult, are suitable for science fair projects. Also included is info on the science behind the projects (which not all project books cover.)
Jun 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
My son loves this book. He has done several exploding things from it. He carries it around planning his next project all the time. His dream is to make a large catapult. Boys! My husband has really enjoyed going through this book helping him put together some of these things.
Chris Coppola
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My sons and I love building anything and anything, whether it works or not. Gurstelle’s precise plans with historical reference have helped up build tennis ball cannons, potato guns, and catapults. I love the way this book brought us together around an objective.
Mar 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
remember the cow/piano launcher in Northern Exposure...? this book is THAT good! i got it as a gift for a ballistically-minded guy (are there any non-ballistically-minded guys?) and wow, it was a hit-and-a-half! The equivalent of buying me chocolate - wahoo, i earned major points!
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: pyros, boys and men.
i got this book from my mom.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
February is a long month and the kid and I need a family activity.
Apr 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Hysterical but I'd definitely lose an appendage or two and end up burning someone's house down
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
An interesting read of experiements, I have yet to try one out thought.
Buck Taylor
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a must for all of the Big boys in your life. Fun on every page.
Alexandra (Alex)  Richardson
it is super fun and good for boys
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