Introduction: Paper Stomp Rockets

Picture of Paper Stomp Rockets

I used to run a free summertime activity program for kids as part of a past job.

I've got a lot of fun little projects up my sleeves, and I'm always on the lookout for more. One of the more popular summertime activities in my repertoire was homemade stomp rockets. Stomp rockets are great because they are both creative and physical.

There are many versions of paper stomp rockets and launchers out there. They all work essentially the same way: air is forced through a PVC contraption which launches a lightweight paper rocket up into the air. This particular launcher design is a combination of a handful of ideas I've seen, along with a few of my own additions.

I have a basic rocket design that I drew up that uses a single sheet of paper, which I've included in step 6 as a PDF.

Read on, and then go have some fun. (And hey, if you like this you should try out my Paper Stomp Jets!)

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

This launcher design produces no waste, and should cost around $10.

For one launcher, you will need:

  • One 10-foot length of 1/2-inch PVC
  • One 1/2" 90-degree elbow (all fittings are of the slip variety)
  • One 1/2" four-way fitting
  • Two 1/2" end caps
  • One 1" coupling
  • One 1" by 1/2" bushing
  • One 2-liter soda bottle cap
  • Lots of 2-liter soda bottles

Other supplies you will need for this project:

  • PVC cement
  • Hot glue
  • White glue
  • Cotton balls
  • Tape
  • Sheets of 8 1/2" by 11" paper
  • Lots of copies of the attached PDF rocket template

Step 2: Cut the PVC

Picture of Cut the PVC

From your 10-foot length of PVC, cut the following pieces:

  • One 40" piece
  • One 18" piece
  • One 5" piece
  • Two 12" pieces
  • Three 11" pieces

Of all the pieces to be cut, accuracy is the most crucial on the three 11-inch pieces. These will be made into forming tubes which will be used to help make the actual rockets. Construction of the forming tubes is covered in step 5.

Step 3: Buld Basic Launcher Assembly

Picture of Buld Basic Launcher Assembly

The photos should provide enough detail on how to construct the basic launcher assembly. Use PVC cement to put it all together.

The 12-inch pieces are the side supports that make the base. The 18-inch piece is the riser from which the rockets will launch. I used my palm sander to quickly knock off the sharp edge of the launch-end of the 18-inch piece of PVC.

The 1" coupling and the 1" by 1/2" bushing go together to make the bottle end of the launcher.

Step 4: Make the Bottle-end of the Launcher

Picture of Make the Bottle-end of the Launcher

2-liter bottles make great bladders for stomp rocket launchers because they're readily available and they're pretty durable. This set-up is especially nice because it allows you to quickly replace bottles when they've been completely worn out or cracked.

Begin by drilling a hole through a 2-liter bottle cap. This is easiest to do while the cap is screwed onto an old bottle.

I prefer to use hot glue to glue the bottle cap into the opening of the 1" coupling. Hot glue is quick, fills the gap between the bottle cap and coupling nicely, and it's only semi-permanent.

When the bottle cap itself begins to wear out and the threads are stripped, you can just grab it with a pair of pliers and yank it out to replace it with a new one.

Step 5: Make Rocket Forming Tubes

Picture of Make Rocket Forming Tubes

The three 11-inch pieces of PVC will be used to make three separate rocket forming tubes. These will help you make perfect rockets every time. It's nice to have a few on hand so more than one person can be working on a rocket at the same time.

You want the forming tubes to be slightly bigger than the tube that the rockets get launched from. This is accomplished by gluing a sheet of 8 1/2" by 11" paper around each forming tube. I used white glue and glued each sheet directly to the tube, and then to itself after rolling it on tight.

A piece of tape (I used electrical tape) was wrapped around one end of each paper-covered tube. This is to aid in the construction of the rocket, as detailed in the next step.

Step 6: Make Some Rockets

Picture of Make Some Rockets

Print out and make plenty of copies of the attached PDF rocket template.

There are basic building instructions on the rocket template. Decorate and cut out areas as directed.

Roll the rocket body section onto forming tube, with the bottom of rocket (where the fin placement lines are located) just above the tape at the end of the forming tube. This creates an open space at the top of the tube, where the cotton balls will go.

Tape the body tube together, but NOT to the forming tube. Fold the fins and tape them in place on the fin placement lines. Place two cotton balls into the open area at the top of the paper tube, and cover with a couple of pieces of tape. Remove rocket from forming tube.

Step 7: Launch!

Picture of Launch!

Before you launch your rockets, be sure to explain some safety rules to everyone involved so nobody gets shot in the eye.

After each launch, you will have to refill the bottle with air. I tell the kids to hold the top of the launch tube with their hand and blow through their hand to fill up the bottle. This way germ-passing is somewhat minimized.

I have made a total of six launchers, a couple of which were made with 45-degree-angled risers. These have been especially fun.

Be sure to post a comment and some photos if you make some stomp rockets of your own!


Erfunden made it! (author)2017-10-30

I made a super simple launcher and drew up some rocket plans for my daughter's birthday party. I shortened the body tube so that the whole rocket, including nosecone and fins, could be made out of a single sheet of paper. For the launcher, I eliminated the bits that keep it standing and the attachment to the bottle; instead I just held the launcher in place and held the bottle onto the pipe. It worked fine and none of the kids acidentallystomped my hand!

seamster (author)Erfunden2017-10-30

Nice! Glad you found this and it was helpful. Thank you for the comment and photo!! :)

katgum (author)2017-06-06

I've made something like this a couple of years at a professional development, and wanted to do this with my students this coming year. So glad I came across your instructions, love the bottle cap idea.

tchaplinski01 (author)2017-04-28

It's perfect. I'm doing a science project in class and this is just what I'm looking for. Thank you :).

mtairymd (author)2015-02-14

I used your glued bottle cap on my project...thanks for the idea.

Step 14

fn2187 (author)mtairymd2017-04-12

I like this keep it up

wink wink!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mydoggylives (author)2012-03-10

I modified the bottle attachment end. I used what I had on hand already, plus a couple pieces that I got from Lowe's. The Transition Adapter fits snugly inside the neck of the 2-Liter bottle and you don't have to worry about any hot glue or bottle caps. (I did have to cement the Couplings so they wouldn't come apart.)

2.... 3/4" X 1/2" PVC Bushings
1.... 3/4" PVC Coupling
1... 1/2" CPVC Transition Adapter w/ male threads
1... 1/2" CPVC Transition Adapter w/ female threads

(I think I could've just used a 1/2" PVC Coupling in place of the first two items, though. I'll try that on my second one and see how it goes.)

seamster (author)mydoggylives2012-03-10

Ooh, nice!

Looks like a good way to do this. Thank you for sharing this.

mydoggylives (author)seamster2012-03-17

I made another one today using just a 1/2" PVC Coupling in place of the two bushings and the 3/4" Coupling. It worked just as good as the previous one! :-)

NickN9 (author)mydoggylives2015-07-30

If I am following correctly, you would not need to use any connectors. Just use the main 1/2" pvc pipe into the pop bottle should be a fairly tight fit. Just add some duct or electrical tape at connection point for a good seal. Great project!!

JimTiffinJr (author)2013-10-20

This was a very easy project to do. My kids had a friend over not to long ago, but couldn't decide on a game to play. So in true Phineas and Ferb fashion, I said, "I know what we are gonna do today!"... went to the store and got the supplies for a pair of launchers... and spent the late afternoon shooting off rockets.

I liked it so much, I made some lessons out of this for my students!

Plus we made one small addition to the rockets to make them last longer: we taped down the paper on the inside of the tube so that it wouldn't crumple when we slide it onto the launchers. The rockets we did this to last three times as long as the ones without tape.

Thanks for sharing this idea with us!

seamster (author)JimTiffinJr2013-10-20

Nice! I'm glad you had success with this little project. It's a fun one. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

rhr1 (author)2013-05-22

i have a question, i make my rocket with paper but i do't know if it's gonna work, can someone tell me, where i put the cotton balls inside the PVC or what?

seamster (author)rhr12013-05-23

The pvc used as a form to roll the paper into the proper size tube, and then the paper tube is removed from the pvc. (The rocket itself is not made of pvc.) Steps 5 and 6 cover this in more detail. Hope that helps!

rhr1 (author)2013-05-22

i have a question, Can i make my rocket with paper??

nec92 (author)2013-02-28

How high do they usually go?

seamster (author)nec922013-02-28

I'd say about 40 to 60 feet, realistically. We made conical nose cones for some of them, and those seemed to go a little higher.

snoo (author)2012-08-22

thats cool it might it might do a little damage if not centered properly

cvilchis (author)2012-06-24

I had some pvc pipes in the garage but was missing the 1" fitting... I was about to head out to the local hardware store when i tripped on my bike. which tripped this idea...
I used an inner tube to connect the bottle to the pipe.
The inner tube for a racing bike can fit perfectly around a 1/2" pipe.
I used a small piece of pipe duct tape made the connection even better.

see the picture. no bottle the last bottle i was using was destroyed after a ton of launches...

seamster (author)cvilchis2012-06-24

Nice! Use what you have, I say. Thanks for the idea and the photo, I'm sure someone will use it.

knexboy586 (author)2012-05-07

lol first pic kid has crocs

IITO (author)2011-10-06

to easy...

mikeasaurus (author)2010-07-11

I think the angled launchers in the final picture look great. simple fun for summer, great idea!

seamster (author)mikeasaurus2010-07-11

Thanks! Yep, the angled ones are fun. I like to wait to bring those out until the kids start to get bored. I just set them out and suddenly all the kids are lined up to have distance contests against each other.

swake (author)seamster2010-07-22

You could place an L on the end of the straight tube, but turning to the side rather than up. Connect that to a union (available for about $2.50 at Home Depot), then to another L, then the launch tube. The union will allow adjustment of the launch angle. It would also allow the launch tube to fold down for storage.

to Stomp Bottle                     |
=================|        |
                                        |        |
                                     | union  | 
                                      |           | ==================
                                      |                to launch tube
dsekules (author)swake2011-07-25

We built our own version of this this weekend; used 22mm overflow pipe and push-fit right-angles. Three lengths and two right angles were all we needed; one right angle parallel to the ground for stability, and the next pointing straight up for the launch.

The push-fit fittings are airtight, but can be twisted to adjust the angle (yay ballistics!) and the whole thing can be disassembled for storage.

Only thing I'm having trouble with is a good, reliable way of marrying up the whole thing to the bottle cap; there isn't much to grip on to, and nothing seems to stick all that well. Swathes of gaffer tape, with ends tucked in, seem to work reasonably well, but it's hardly elegant...

Fantastic post, Seamster! Thanks for the fun this weekend, and next...

swake (author)dsekules2011-08-11

This fellow is using a smaller diameter pipe and has instructions on his web site for using a melted bottle cap to provide a tighter fit to the pipe. I've used this method for a while and it seems to work well. Just be sure to do the cap melting and fitting outdoors just in case the plastic catches fire.

dsekules (author)swake2011-08-12

Nice link, Swake! Much additional fun...

On trying to apply the suggested technique, I made the unexpected (and delightful) discovery that the 22mm PVC Overflow pipe we used for our launcher actually fits very snugly into the open neck of pretty much every 2L drinks bottle I've tried, so I can abandon all fiddling about with lids, candles, gaffer tape and suchlike nonsense. Just chamfer the end of the pipe and push it home. Result... :)

seamster (author)swake2010-07-22

That's a pretty good idea. I especially like the drawing! thanks!

GaryB101 (author)2011-08-09

My 41/2 year old son is home all month - camp ended and school doesn't start for till Sept. That means I'm alone with him and his 2-year old sister all month. This was a GREAT project to do with them - and it took up several days. (Day 1-buy the stuff. Day 2-Put it together. Day 3-paint it...and so on.) Thanks for helping me keep sane this month!

seamster (author)GaryB1012011-08-09

Thanks! I'm glad you did this project with your kids. Always makes my day to know I helped somebody have some good old fashioned fun with their kids.

chrispix (author)2011-08-09

We've been playing with this a ton the last few weeks. One thing I did that I'd recommend is attach the vertical tube using an elbow with threaded ends. You can then tilt it to any angle (see attached pics).

Another tip: Nerf darts stuff nicely down a 1/2" PVC tube, and they shoot as far as a paper rocket. You just have to stuff them all the way into the tube.

lumsmore (author)2011-05-08

A couple details that helped my launchers...
>> I had issues of the bottle cap disconnecting from the 1" coupling. So I went to eBay and got a high temp glue gun and surebonder "best stik" glue sticks. (cost all of about $20) Next I loaded up the inside edge of the 1" coupling with glue and then seated the cap in past the edge. It sat in within the coupling by about 1/4" of an inch. I then ran another bead of glue around that.

I used a 3/8" drill bit for the cap.

I attached a simple template I used for fins and nose cone.

seamster (author)lumsmore2011-05-08

I had the same issues, with the caps coming out after plenty of stomps . . . but I just kept gluing them back in the with the same glue. High temp glue makes sense to really get them to stay in place.

Did you make these to play with your own kids, or for something else?

lumsmore (author)seamster2011-05-09

Today we test the high temp glue. (I guess I should have tested before posting)

I "teach" an after school club at my daughter's school called "Geek Projects". I've got 5 sixth graders this session. Today we will build the stomp rockets! I'll post the results.

HandyMan1959 (author)lumsmore2011-08-01

Instead of trying to glue the bottle cap in, look for a garden hose adapter to use. The threads on the bottle fits the garden hose fittings perfectly.

These three parts cost about $3 bringing the parts costs to less than $9, they are a 1/2 - 3/4 adapter, 3/4 pipe adapter and a pipe - hose connector that fits on the bottle perfectly

lumsmore (author)lumsmore2011-05-09

Reporting back.... They LOVED them and worked AWESOME!! These kids were a little older (6th graders) than my last batch of "geeks" and could make them fly! One boy added 2 "tail fins" to the sides and his rocket not only took off vertically, but on the way down it started flying and landed on the roof of the school, 4 stories high!

The high-temp glue worked like a champ. I gave one launcher a jump to show the kids how high I could get it to go and the cap did pop out.

I started to wonder if it would work better if drilled out the bottle cap almost completely or is there something about having a smaller diameter hold for the air to go through that gives it so much power. I'm still quite amazed.

>> TIP: Another tip I'll add is that we used 60lb weight paper for constructing our rockets. The nose cones take a beating on landing, especially since we were launching in a paved part of the playground for hard surface sports. I had on hand lots of tape and extra paper for repairs.

>> TIP: try to have at least 2 bottles per kid

>> TIP: make a couple spare "bottle-cap-coupler" parts to have on hand as that is the vulnerable component to this design

A HUGE thanks to Seamster and commentators who made this such a fun Instructable! I'll try and post a link to a video.

lumsmore (author)lumsmore2011-05-10

chrispix (author)2011-07-23

If you get "Super Jumbo" cotton balls, only one will fit in each rocket.

kylekosan23 (author)2011-07-03

super creative

zurichko (author)2010-08-18

This made our pack meeting extra awesome! We had our cubs mark their distance with flags, they were so competitive. Thanks again for this safe rocket launcher!

seamster (author)zurichko2010-08-19

This makes my day! And it totally beats not winning a new camera in the recent contest... I swear these things are rigged...

Alright, seriously, this is great. I love to see other people try out the things I put on here. It sounds like the kids got a real kick out of it. I've actually seen adults get pretty competitive with these things... I guess they just bring out the kid in us!

knex_mepalm (author)2010-08-17

How can I get the parts in australia without online? I have been planning to make a pneumatic pvc rocket launcher like yours and I would like to know if it is possible to get the pieces yet, I might go to bunnings a warehouse for making "stuff"

zurichko (author)2010-08-06

My husband built one and we tested it last night, it was so awesome. My Webelos are going to love it!  Thanks for the easy instructions!

seamster (author)zurichko2010-08-06


I'm glad it worked. This is a great project for scouts.

ibanezninja (author)2010-08-03

With the one I made, when the bottle needed to be refilled, I just blew in the launch end and it refilled the bottle.

davidsona (author)2010-07-11

Hmmmm. I wonder if it can be modded to break down. I'm science teacher with limited storage space.

swake (author)davidsona2010-07-22

If you find that the dry fit doesn't work, purchase a part called a union ($2.50 at Home Depot). It will provide a water tight screw-on connection between two sections. There are also adapters from slip-to-threaded that might work. Probably a lot cheaper, too.

seamster (author)davidsona2010-07-11

I think the upright and the leg pieces could just be dry-fit together, so you could disassemble everything for storage.

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Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
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