Offbeat: Cannon Creator

May 30, 2006--Posted at 12:00 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--Not many men pose this question to a grandson -- 'Would you like a cannon?' But Ray Erwin of Jonesboro has a grandson in Texas who's a big Civil War buff, and Erwin DID ask that question and got a positive answer, so Erwin built the boy a cannon.

Ray Erwin has a long history of undertaking innovative projects, but his latest may top them all. He said the weapon is about three-quarter size, and its design stems from drawings of Civil War-era cannons and viewing a cannon owned by another Jonesboro man. Erwin started out with a drawing of a 12-pounder, a Heritage model 1857 he copied from a book. Then he got permission to examine a cannon owned by Herbert Parker of Jonesboro.

He said he built the barrel over the winter, using about 25 pounds of welding rods and several pieces of steel pipe of different sizes, and only then started to work on the carriage and wheels. He used mostly white oak and ash he cut on his own property, and hand formed a few steel parts. He said the wheels took the most time to make.