Introduction: How to Make a Paper Crossbow [HD Video Tutorial]

I noticed that there was no decent tutorial out there for making a paper crossbow that didn't utilize rubber bands. This is what I came up with as a result. The crossbow is actually quite durable in design and should stand up to use for for a very long time so long as it doesn't get wet. Hopefully a good deal of office boredom can be solved with this.

The working mechanism for this crossbow is in the arms made of rolled paper and supported by tape. Typically a bent tube of rolled paper would tear when bent, but a layer of tape seems to distribute the load evenly enough to not only prevent the paper from tearing, but also give it a strong and fast spring action when released. This allows for a rigid bow string to be used which utilizes the energy in the arms to propel the projectile - Rather than most toy crossbows which use rigid arms and an elastic band which propels the bolt more like a slingshot than a crossbow.

This crossbow can throw a pencil or pen a good 100 feet. A possible modification for even more power might be to make two arms on each side that the bow string would tie together at the tips. Having double arms is about the only way to go about adding more power because adding much more paper to the first set will only result in them tearing or being completely rigid. Similar to how you can only fold a piece of paper so many times.

Have fun!


I_boom5245 (author)2015-10-10

I think I have seen your video on YOUTUBE.

Cool instructable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

shotgunshane (author)2013-06-02

You have seen paper now wait for card stock! ;)

ElCubano (author)shotgunshane2014-03-09

What do you mean?

shotgunshane (author)ElCubano2014-10-13

card stock would be much more springy than flimsy paper thus producing way more power behind the bolt

Ace Guyas (author)2014-06-01

I made this a few years ago during a high school study hall where I had nothing better to do. It turned out pretty well. I modified the trigger with a bent and broken paperclip and I covered that one in orange duct tape in an attempt to make it more water proof, because we all know the dangers of high school lunch tables.

I now want to make another one and improve on the design to make it pack more punch. Longer more flexible arms, better string, custom made darts, that kind of thing. As I make my Mark II I'll be posting it on instructables and I will mention your name and also have your video linked as reference.

Thanks for making my high school study halls so much more constructive while also freaking out the monitor.

myxgenius (author)2012-07-14


Plo Koon (author)2012-05-17


yapoyo (author)2012-02-18

I like this but it doesn't fire at all.

the dashing hero (author)2012-02-14

could you make it with one piece of paper?

flabadaba (author)2012-02-12

having a flap doesn't help rolling it stuffed up my paper

iHazImaginationz (author)2012-01-10

Hello NightHawkInLight, I really like your creations. I have a question about the crossbow though. Is it possible to make a smaller version of the crossbow? I don't have printer paper, and apparently, any store that actually has printer paper here in the Philippines is far away.

NIMROD0804 (author)2012-01-05

mine only goes like 5 feet though probably since i replaced the trigger with parts of a dowel

VersatileHobbies (author)2011-12-06

I have a problem. Does the thickness of the string affect the shooting? because when i made mine the string did'nt push the pencil out at all. just rode over it. Its extremely frustrating. Please help =(

what i did it wasnt on purpose but i dropped the trigger and the first thing i saw was a thin dowel and i broke it twice. after that i put the trigger as low as possible on the flat end of the dowel but you have to push the trigger forward so the string doesnt just let go and thats it.

meaner6788 (author)2011-12-29

do you ever think about using a counter weight

NIMROD0804 (author)2011-12-28

So when your taping the arms do you tape on the mark or only on the ends and back and bend it near the mark or is there a specific distance that you do it from the mark (yea yea im a nerd)

NIMROD0804 (author)2011-12-28

um i have a question i have not made one yet but just wondering if you could replace the pencils with ninja darts for the mini cannon to shoot instead

No they wouldn't fire right. You can make your own darts but they would have to be smooth all the way down, not have a tuft of cotton on the end like the mini cannon darts do. They are also way too small.

If you have a minute I would be very grateful for a vote for my How to Make a Fire Wire instructable in the Make it Glow contest!

ok thanks for telling me and for the quick response

swiftsilentgwx (author)2011-12-03

You could modify the materials to make them more long-lasting and durable. How about duct-taping the paper to make it waterproof, or giving the crossbow a wire frame?

ArchEnemy#1 (author)2011-11-30

If you dont have popsicle sticks is there anything you can use as a substitute?

swiftsilentgwx (author)2011-11-30

Amazing! I've wanted to make something like this ever since.
But one question: can the crossbow be a 'silencer'?

gideon_artemis (author)2011-11-29

Nice, managed only 15 feet on first try though.

bkinner (author)2011-10-03

can i use penciels insted of popsical sticks???

ccadiz (author)2011-09-20

i have a very big problem with the trigger

Zachintosh (author)2011-08-27

It's cool, but definitely doesn't shoot 100 feet.

1derman (author)2011-08-20

i don't have popsicle sticks so do you think pencils can used to make the arms?

Lord Jon Bigglesworth (author)2011-08-17

Well, I made one. But for some reason, the twine bowstring lost its tension and now has very little power. I know that a longbow loses its power if left strung, but I thought crossbows kept their strength. Has anyone else encountered this problem?

I just checked to see if the crossbow I made in this video was still working. It was good as new. You must not have made the arms quite right if they have lost their spring already. It's difficult to roll paper tightly without having practice.

How long was it strung for? If left strung for a long time I'm sure it will lose power, but it should last quite a while if made properly.

ninjasfly (author)2011-08-17

1 word..... AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

Lord Jon Bigglesworth (author)2011-08-13

I assume that it's 8 1/2 by 11" paper for the arms, right? Nice tutorial, I've been looking to make a crossbow for a while now, and I have all this stuff just lying around at home. Thanks!

Yep, plain printer paper.

an1153 (author)2011-08-12

brillant not to hard to do either :D

ilpug (author)2011-08-10

pretty amazing. i wonder if this concept could be modified to full scale, or given a clip to hold the pencils and act as a trigger.

Saitu (author)2011-08-10

i have been looking all over the net for a crossbow which dosen;t use a rubberband. and this is AWESOME!!!thanks a lot!

zazenergy (author)2011-08-09

Great job on this paper crossbow!


About This Instructable




Bio: I like turning boring things into awesome things! Usually on video.
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