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How to Make a Rubber Band-Powered Catapult

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.

Rubber band-powered catapult

Rubber band-powered catapult

DIY Wooden Model Catapult

This little wooden catapult is a functional model powered by rubber bands. Though small, it is capable of flinging small objects with surprising force and distance.

Whether you use the catapult to storm a building-block castle in the living room or bring it into the office for launching candy over a cubicle wall, you can make a working catapult that older (and responsible) kids will enjoy, and adults can appreciate.

How to Make a Rubber Band Catapult

This catapult is a fun and simple project to build. I selected several different types of contrasting hardwoods to make the catapult, including pieces of mahogany, cherry, and oak. The different colors of hardwood add visual interest and appeal to this simple design, and a little Danish oil really makes the wood grain 'pop.' Best of all, it takes just a couple of hours to build the little catapult with a few pieces of wood that I found in the scrap bin.

Things You Need

Cut scraps of hardwood into the following dimensions:

  • Base (Part A): 8"L x 3½"W
  • Uprights (Part B): 4"L x 4"H (quantity of two needed)
  • Catapult arm (Part C): 6"L x 1½"W
  • Wheels are optional, either purchased or cut from stock using a 1½–2" hole saw
  • ¼" dowels, 3½" long (quantity of two needed)
  • 3" Heavy-duty rubber band

Use pieces ¾" or thicker to make the uprights and wheels. The catapult shown uses oak for the base, mahogany for the uprights and wheels, and walnut for the arm.

DIY catapult plans

DIY catapult plans

Step 1: Some Assembly Required

  1. Layout a triangle on Part B to shape the upright. For strength, orient the top of the triangle along the grain of the wood. Layout the centerline of the triangle, from the top of the triangle straight down to the center of the base.
  2. Drill ¼" holes along the centerline, positioning the first approximately 1¾" above the base and the second approximately ¾" down from the top. Sand to round over the top of the triangle and smooth the edges. Repeat for the second upright, making sure to match the location of the holes to the first upright.
  3. Layout and draw the arm (Part C). This is a simple spoon shape consisting of a bowl at one end. Use a compass to lay out the 1½" outer rim of the bowl, and then lay out the 1" wide shaft of the arm. Cut out the arm and sand smoothly. Use a 1" bit to drill out the cup.
  4. On the back of the arm, drill a ¼" hole 1¾" from the top of the bowl, approximately ½" deep. Be careful not to drill all of the ways through the arm. Cut a small piece of dowel and glue it into the hole to form a pin. This little pin will hook onto the rubber band to supply the throwing power to the catapult.
  5. Drill a 5/16" hole through the arm to create the pivot point. Position the pivot point approximately 1½" from the bottom of the arm.

Step 2: Make It Mobile

  1. If adding wheels, drill ¼" holes through the base for the dowel axels. Position the uprights onto the base, and dry-fit the catapult arm into position with dowels. The arm should move freely between the uprights. Mark the locations for the uprights, and then glue and clamp into place. Allow the glue to dry overnight.
  2. Cut dowels to length for the wheel axels, and glue the wheels to the dowels. Be careful not to allow any glue to squeeze out along the axles and into the base. The axles need to spin freely inside the base.
  3. To install the catapult arm, slide a dowel through the lower hole of the upright, through the lower hole in the arm, and then out through the lower hole in the second upright.

Use Caution

This rubber band catapult launches real projectiles, which can cause serious injury if not used safely. This is not a toy for small children, and any child must be supervised appropriately. Use caution and common sense.

Step 3: Powering Up the Catapult

  1. Slide a second dowel through the top hole of the upright and the rubber band. Loop the rubber band around the back of the arm and over the pin.
  2. Pull the rubber band around to the other side of the arm and push the dowel through, catching the loop of the rubber band with the dowel before pushing it into the second upright.
  3. If done correctly, the arm will be pulled against the dowel by the force of the rubber band.
  4. Pull the arm back, load the cup with an appropriate payload, and let it fly!

Be careful! The catapult will launch a marble or similar object several feet and can pose a danger if used improperly.

Rubber band catapult ready for action

Rubber band catapult ready for action

Types of Catapults: Facts and Trivia

The catapult is an ancient weapon of warfare, primarily used as a siege weapon for surrounding castles in the Middle Ages. Catapults hurled missiles of rock and burning tar into and over fortress walls, causing massive damage to buildings and other structures. The incoming missiles also inflicted massive physiological damage on the inhabitants trapped within the city walls.

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Read More From Feltmagnet

  • There are three types of catapults: the Ballista, the Mangonel, and the Trebuchet.
  • The Ballista is essentially a large crossbow, firing large spears and sharpened poles at the enemy.
  • When thinking of a catapult, the shape and functionality of the Mangonel typically come to mind. The Mangonel uses a long arm that is pulled back under tension, then quickly released, hurling stones and other objects at the castle or opposing army.
  • The Trebuchet is the largest and most powerful of the catapults. It uses a counterweight to quickly propel a short arm that is attached by long ropes to a sling. The Trebuchet generates a tremendous amount of power as it whips around the slide, propelling the thrown objects with speed and distance.
  • Catapults were the first biological weapons, hurling diseased corpses, body parts, and dead animals at the enemy.

Da Vinci's Catapult

The short video below shows the artistic work of Leonardo Di Vinci come to life as a small model catapult.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Anthony Altorenna

Tell Us About Your Catapult Project

Quesia on December 08, 2014:

Nerd Approved - News and Reviews's CommentDesktop Trebuchet: Need I Say More?If there is one thing nerds love it's medieval weprnoay an annoying our co-workers. So what could be better than hurling objects over the cubicle wall will a mini trebuchet? Not a damn thing and you know it.As you will see in the picture avai

SellClean on May 06, 2012:

Punkin Chunkin looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing this lens!

anonymous on February 25, 2012:

Stooping back to take another look at your instructions on how to make a rubber band catapult, a very interesting technology in its day and it seems to still fascinated. You've added a quiz...I missed England.

anonymous on February 12, 2012:

Sharing it with my friends. Their kids would love these!

julieannbrady on January 28, 2012:

Who seriously knew that you could take a rubber band and use it to make a catapult?

Heather Bradford from Canada on January 06, 2012:

You almost make having a catapult sound like an educational experience... but with 3 boys (big and small) in my house I will not be fooled!! lol I thought Nerf guns were bad enough! Fun lens! Thanks.

ElizabethJeanAl on December 20, 2011:

My students make catpults every year once we finish the projectiles unit, but we build them using popcicle sticks and masking tape. They'll shoot a marshmallow a good six feet.

LouisaDembul on December 12, 2011:

Not sure if I will show this lens to my daughter, she is sure to want to make one! Think this catapult is a great idea for the office....

OldStones LM on October 25, 2011:

I can see this catapult being great fun and causing a great deal of trouble in the office :) Very cool project

mrducksmrnot on September 16, 2011:

Nice lens. Woodworking projects are my favorite past time. Got to make me one of these soon just to play with. Think I'll use it to catapult chicken feed out to the chickens just for fun.

anonymous on September 09, 2011:

Oh my goodness a catapult is such a fun learning project and as always, so well constructed and detailed by you!