Picture of Reception Desk Paperclip Crossbow
Like most people these days and in this economy I had two jobs back in 2011. One was working with kids doing all kinds of fun projects and the other was working nights and weekends at a reception desk and filing things away. I actually like both. There's something simple and calming about just putting files away.

Anyway, my last night at work was pretty slow and I was feeling a bit bored. Everyone knows what it feels like as you edge closer and closer to your last day at work. You just stop focusing and you look for anything to grab your attention. For whatever reason, I got it in my head that I was going to try and make a crossbow out of the office supplies I had handy. I blame Instructables - I had been browsing through various little office weapon guides to waste time and I got into my head that I wanted to try and make something super simple that anyone could make because I was using supplies that everyone should have handy.

Thus, after about forty five minutes of abject boredom and some awful 90s movie on the television in the lobby, the paperclip crossbow was born.

It works fairly well. Hopefully I can get a video up soon. My phone was shattered earlier while I was backpacking in Europe but I've finally got it working again so hopefully I can get the video off there. Uploaded!

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Step 1: The Supplies

Picture of The Supplies
Now, the supplies you will need are fairly simple.

You will need the following:
- one rubber band
- four paperclips
- thumb tacks

Additionally, you may choose to have scotch tape or duct tape on hand or an optional step later.

On paperclips, I like to use two long and two short but you can use four paperclips of the same length as well. I've done that as well. Either way it will work just as well.

Step 2: Step One

Picture of Step One
First, we're going to shape the front part of the crossbow. Take a paperclip - in this case a small one - and bend it out straight. You can leave the little hook end curved if you like because you'll basically just be making a smaller curve on the other end to make it match. It's a fairly simple step. Just follow along with the pictures!

Step 3: Step Two

Picture of Step Two
Now, take the two longer paperclips or the two paperclips you are going to use for the shaft of the crossbow. Do the same thing as in step one - straighten them out except for the smaller hooked end. Do not, however, make a hook on the other end of these two paperclips. Again, see the pictures.

Step 4: Step Three

Picture of Step Three
This is where it starts to get complicated.

You will need all three of the paperclips we have used so far. You're going to take the longer paperclips and place the end that does not have a hook up against the front-piece paperclip. See the pictures for a better illustration. You will then wrap both of them very tightly around that front piece.

You want to leave a little gap between the two paperclips to create a little cradle or groove for the paperclip you will launch. It needs to be fairly small, just big enough to keep the paperclip vaguely in place.

Step 5: Step Four

Picture of Step Four
This is probably the most complicated step and the hardest step to explain. This is because there's not really a right way to do this. You basically need to take the other small paperclip and the ends of the two longer ones and make a grip for your crossbow. You can do this in various ways. I chose to straighten the end of one of the long ones and hook it in the bent end of the other. Then I took the small paper clip, slipped those ends into the center of it, and sort of twisted it all together.

The pictures show you how I managed to get them together.

The key here is to make the twists tight so the grip is solid and does not move, twist, or slide around.

Step 6: Step Five

Picture of Step Five
All right, now for step five.

You'll need the rubber band now. The length doesn't particularly matter. Smaller is better and obviously you can't use a big one like I used in my desktop catapult. Play around with the rubber bands you have handy and you'll find one that works best for you. I used rubber bands of various types. You'll want it to be a thin one, though. I doubt the thicker ones would work. (I can't say for certain because I never tried them but I highly doubt it.)

So, take the rubber band and place it in the hooked ends of the front piece. Twist the paperclip ends around the rubber band to keep it in place as seen in the pictures. 

Step 7: Step Six (Optional)

Picture of Step Six (Optional)
Hurray! Technically, your crossbow is completed. It will work as it is.

This is the first optional part of the crossbow design. You might have noticed it back in Step Five. I chose to take part of one of the longer paperclips making up the shaft and bend it upward so I could rest the paperclip on it and keep it permanently primed to fire. It's a fairly simple adjustment to make even if you've already twisted your paperclips together. It just needs to be a little piece to hook the rubber band on to keep it primed.

Step 8: Step Seven (Optional)

Picture of Step Seven (Optional)
You can take a piece of tape and add it to the back of the rubber band to keep it together. It also makes it a lot easier for the rubber band to fully hit the thumb tack that you place in the groove. It will work without the tape and while I used duct tape here you can honestly use any sort of tape for this step.

Step 9: Ready, Aim, Fire!

Picture of Ready, Aim, Fire!
And, believe it or not, you're done! That's it. Fairly simple, like I said. It's not the straightest shot necessarily but it's fairly fast and we actually got it to stick into a cork board when firing from six feet away. It depends a lot on the size of the rubber band and how much slack you have. So give it a shot. (Pardon the pun.) See how yours works. And make adjustments as necessary.

Step 10: Variations

Picture of Variations
I made a few of these as I was perfecting the design and creating the step-by-step pictures.

In my trails I found that different materials used to make the crossbow do sort of matter. The more traditional, silver paperclips are a bit stronger than the prettier, colored, plastic-covered paperclips were a bit more sturdy. The plastic-covered ones tended to bend a bit easier. That was the only real difference. Well, that and the fact that the traditional silver ones were also a bit harder to bend and tended to hurt you a bit more when you fingers slipped and snagged on the edges.

Best of luck in creating your own crossbows and variations of the design!
mikeasaurus3 years ago
This is my kind of office warfare.
Colonel Hogan9 months ago

this is AWESOME, but my biggest concern is that the rubberband's tension may bend the crossbow

weredude2 years ago
I really like this instructable and it's really cool that it actually works, thank you for making this! Also please check out my office catapult:
Schmidty163 years ago
i replay the vidio like 10 times
samaside (author)  Schmidty163 years ago
Yeah... it really is supposed to be just three seconds, lol.
I didn't notice the video was already started... Then, it was over
samaside (author)  emilyvanleemput3 years ago
Yeah, it's literally like the lamest and least useful video ever. But I had it on my phone from about a year ago and I figured, "Hey, why not?" I just wanted to prove it actually did work, lol.
snowfalcon13 years ago
Dilbert secretary with a crossbow nice