Monday, January 4, 2010

Building a Spring Firing Cannon

In this entry, I will illustrate the steps I followed to make a cheap plastic cannon into a matchstick shoot artillery piece suitable for an FLW game.

I actually started with two cheap plastic models. The grey, “Civil War” cannon is the model that was actually converted. I used the spring and plunger from the green model (this green cannon would be perfect for playing FLW in 28mm on a tabletop. Since I have 5 more of them, I may fix them to fire better and use them that way.). Aside from the Gun model, spring, and plunger, I needed a 2 ¾” piece of 3/16” brass tubing, super glue, and some epoxy putty. For tools, I used some wire cutters, a hobby knife, and the dental picks I use for sculpting.

Step 1 – Remove the old barrel.

I used the wire cutters to clip away the original barrel, saving the breech and trunnions. With the hobby knife, I cut away any other excess plastic to smooth out a spot for the new barrel. This method of barrel removal works well for soft plastic models. Because this model was a semi-hard plastic, it cracked at the breech end. I will fix the crack with super glue and epoxy putty.

Step 2 – Glue on the new barrel.

As the title of this step implies, I super glue the brass tube on to the trunnion/breech piece.

Step 3 – Fill in the gaps.

Using the epoxy putty, I filled in the gaps between the trunnion/breech piece and the barrel. I also built new bands over the barrel at the breech and trunnions.

Step 4 - Drill a hole in the breech.

I drilled a hole through the breech into the barrel. The end of the plunger will pass through this hole.

Step 5 – Insert the spring and plunger.

I dropped the spring and plunger down the muzzle end of the barrel. By jiggling the barrel and pushing on the plunger with a skewer, I was able to get the plunger end through the breech hole. I then bent the plunger end 90 degrees to form the handle.

The cannon is now ready to be painted, put back on the carriage, and used in a game. If you do not have access to a ready-made spring and plunger, these can be made or acquired from other sources. For the plunger, I use a wire coat hanger. Clip off a straight section of the hanger and build up one end of this. I use nested aluminum tubing in 1/8” long segments which I super glue then epoxy putty in place. For a spring I use two springs from retractable ball point pens stacked one on top of the other. I’ve found that this works better than a single ball point pen spring. If you do you the ball point pen spring, you will need a slightly larger diameter tube for the barrel.


  1. Brilliant disseration, Herr Doktor!

    Now that this information is on the Internet, what can stop the world from making even more terrible artillery pieces, threatening the welfare of toy soldiers everywhere!

    How long before some madman puts THREE or--Good Lord!--even FOUR springs in one barrel? Is the tbe beginning of the end of Civilization as we know it?

    Oh, I HOPE so!


  2. Hi,

    Out of interest who is the manufacturer of the green field gun? I used to have a few that looked like the one in the photo, but they had green wheels not black and were lost many years ago. I'm now getting back into creating a WW1 diorama and they would be ideal.


    James A

  3. To be honest, I don't know. My friend ordered them from a site found on the web, but I can't find a link to that site either. I'll look on my other computer and see if I can find the link.

  4. Hello I'm interested in where to find both cannons as well thank you.

  5. The Grey cannon is made by Hingfat and is listed as Civil War Union Cannons (6pcs) (Bagged) 1-32 Hingfat on Amazon. The green cannon is listed on the Toy Soldier Depot ( ) site. Theirs does not have the spring and is out of stock.