Building a catapult is a fun project for parents and children, scout troops, and those who like creating wood models. Catapults are sometimes called slingshots, especially when they are small enough to be used as hand-held devices. Catapults can range in size from something large enough to shoot a giant boulder to something small enough to sit on a desk or shelf. There are several ways you can make a catapult, but the cheapest way is to use items in your home and backyard.
Find or Create the Base
Your first step is to find something that can be used as a catapult base. If you can find a sturdy piece of wood shaped like the letter “Y,” it will save you some time. You can carve the shape from a full branch of a tree or a board. It should have a handle, if you plan to build a hand-held catapult, with a “U” or “V” shape at the top. If you are planning to make a catapult with a sitting base, you will need to insert the handle into a solid piece of heavy wood or board. The base MUST be stable for the catapult to be effective.
Once you have found or carved the base, sand it so it is smooth and splinter-free. If the wood is freshly cut, it will need to be dried before carving. Next, form the spring function of the catapult. You will need a piece of strong elastic that is just long enough to stretch from each of the tops of the U-shape. Secure the elastic piece to either side of the U with strong rubber bands. Using more than one piece of elastic gives you more security, especially if one breaks.
Improve Your Catapult
It is possible to use the catapult at this point, but it will work better if you create a pocket for the projectile. The pocket should be shaped like a small cup or bucket. Dixie drinking cups are the ideal shape and can be cut down to the correct size. Connect the cup to the elastic piece by poking holes in opposite sides of the cup and running the elastic through the cup prior to connecting it to the other side of the U. Place the projectile into the cup and test the catapult by pulling until the elastic is taut, so the release pushes the elastic and cup forward.
If you have access to it, you can use surgical tubing in place of the rubber bands. It is sturdier, but more expensive. In place of the cup, you can use a piece of fabric to create the pocket. It will need to be tested several times to ensure the projectile releases when the catapult is used. If you are using a hand-held catapult, you can wrap the handle with grip or duct tape to make holding the catapult comfortable. If your catapult will be sitting on a surface, add grip tape to the bottom to prevent sliding. You can also paint the wood of the catapult or add custom decorations to your device. When shooting the catapult, be sure not to point it toward your own or anyone else’s eyes.