Toy Catapult - Modified from a poor commercial design

  • Advertise with us
Project by USCJeff posted 09-16-2011 04:53 PM 10139 views 12 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Before I get into this one, anyone want to take a guess at which shot the furthest (see pic 6 to see Alien, Whopper, or Skittle)? See bottom for the answer.

Lowe’s carries a line of simple children’s projects that are designed to be fun and with safer methods. That’s great, but in reality the end product is at best fragile. The method and process are the aim. The Catapult uses a lot of pre-cut pieces that are very similar to Popsicle sticks. It also had wheels on it which would make it much harder to shoot versus a solid base. A couple reviews of the product stated the cross bar that the “spoon” slams into breaks after a few uses.

My 4 year old helped out here and there on this one. He did some sanding, finishing, and got glue on everything. I didn’t sand out most of it since “I like it like that” was his response. The walnut base is face to end grain butt joints (Not normally the best idea). The vertical arms and the braces are glued as well. The braces connect to the arms via lap joints. The crossbar is also a glued lap joint. The Lap joints take the real force making taking most of the pressure of the weaker butt joints. I suppose a dowel or brad could always reinforce it, but it seems as if it should hold under a kids use. The spoon is hard maple and has two holes drilled. One is to allow for the dowel to go through it and the other is for the rubber-band. and Yes, I’m not that big on carving and didn’t really go to town cleaning up the concave portion of the spoon. I put a couple holes near the cross bar to facilitate the knots. The rubber band in all likelihood will break if he abuses it. I found a pretty thick one in a drawer, so I think it’ll be fine for a while.

As to the shooting trials. . . The Alien went about 11 feet (Jacob attached a jet pack (really scuba gear) to make him go further). The whopper was in the ballpark of 15 feet. The Skittle is lethal. It kept hitting the ceiling about 10 feet from the coffee table it was shot from. Took it to the driveway and it easily cleared 20 feet.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

8 comments so far

View Brett's profile


950 posts in 2758 days

#1 posted 09-16-2011 05:21 PM

This is great Jeff! I like that it is more about Jacob and not the catapult. Keep up the good work with your son and your projects. Shaping a soul and some wood are both worthy endeavours but the soul will outlast the wood by far.

We have a couple of catapults that my Dad actually made. One is an onager like the one you made and the other is a trebuchet. The trebuchet looks cooler but the onager really out performs it. Ours (onager)uses a different design to provide the power to launch and we can get about 175’-200’ from a marble! I was amazed, to say the least.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2780 days

#2 posted 09-16-2011 06:25 PM

Brett, do you warn the neighbours when you’re going out to play ?

That’s pretty good range !
Jeff, I’m with Brett on the posting, great to be working with the boy, but I wouldn’t show him this, you could end up making bigger and better units (maybe open the window ?)

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3675 days

#3 posted 09-16-2011 06:28 PM

Nice modification, I’m sure the kids will love playing with you dad! ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View DesertNavy's profile


6 posts in 2444 days

#4 posted 09-16-2011 06:43 PM

Jeff, very cool!

View souichiro's profile


369 posts in 3345 days

#5 posted 09-16-2011 08:18 PM

Very very cool indeed!

-- Dale, Oregon

View KnotCurser's profile


2025 posts in 3068 days

#6 posted 09-16-2011 09:24 PM

Awesome build and design!

One thing you might want to do is to place a piece of rigid foam where the arm meets the crosspiece to lessen the impact and chance of cracking. It won’t diminish the distance either – don’t ask me how I know this. ;-)

Great piece!


-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4067 days

#7 posted 09-17-2011 12:47 AM

Right on Bob. I actually had a piece of self-adhesive felt laying around and had it one the cross bar at first. It didn’t seem to do anything. The difference sound on contact was indistinguishable. Some type of foam as you mentioned would work. Anything spongy I suppose.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Lockwatcher's profile


89 posts in 2691 days

#8 posted 09-17-2011 03:27 AM

I made something like this for our scout group a few years ago…

Marshmellow Catapult

Ken C.


-- Lockwatcher, Ohio,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics