Introduction: Crossbow Paper Dart Launcher (The NERF Gun of the 1960s) New Revision, Now Usable With Ordinary Paper Darts

So I shared this with Mick Conway, who is a national expert on adventure play, a master of creative mayhem, and all round good guy. He asked me if it would work with a flying paper dart, rather than the kind of paper pellets that I had described. We had never done that as kids, we were little savages hunting each other through the local woods (William Tell and Robin Hood were the popular heroes at that time) My first thought was it would not work, the rubber band hitting the back of such a slow flying dart would crumble it, or else it would just bounce off and fall to the ground. What would be needed would be some way for the dart to be launched from a notch near the front, but then the dart would be in the way of the trigger... Anyway half an hour later I had the modification required, and it is really simple. So if you have already built the crossbow, and you want to launch proper flying darts from it, then scroll through to step 22 for the modification required.

Original Instructions start here:

Back in the old days, most British houses used two or more coal fires to keep warm, and children over the age of seven or eight were expected to be able to use a saw and a hatchet to chop scrap wood into kindling for lighting these. It was a time of massive reconstruction, and a lot of the wood we collected was in the form of short lengths of old tongue and groove floor board. Here are the instructions for something we used to make from these.

Step 1: Materials

1) A short bit of old floor board. This one is 32 inches (80cm) long, so I will get two crossbows out of it.

2) A traditional wooden clothes peg. I will need two, one for each crossbow.

3) Some screws. We used to use nails, but screws are easier to get these days, and less likely to split the wood.

4) Some rubber bands. I am going to use loom bands this time, because that is what I have lying around. Brown parcel bands are better.

5) some A4 paper

6) Some sellotape.

That is it.

Step 2: Tools

You will need:

1) A saw.

2) Marking tools, tape measure, pencil, and square.

3) A drill with a bit that makes a clearance hole for your screws.

4) A plane. A shaping rasp, or even sandpaper will do at a pinch.

5) A screwdriver to fit your screws.

6) A chisel narrower than your clothes peg, and a mallet to hit it with.

Step 3: Optional Extras

If you have a plough plane, or a grooving plane like these, or even a router, then of course you can cut a groove in any bit of scrap wood, and do not need to look for ready grooved floor board, but for this instructable I will be doing it the old way.

Step 4: Parts of Your Crossbow

There are two parts, the stock and the bow. This sketch shows roughly what they will look like, and the main important dimensions.

Step 5: The Trigger

This sketch shows where the clothes peg trigger will go.

Step 6: Marking Out

This shows the board marked out roughly for my two crossbows. The only important thing to remember is that the groove must be on the top of the stock, so that the dart will run inside it.

Step 7: First Cut

here are the bits cut out.

Step 8: Smoothing Up

Here they are smoothed up so there are no spelks.

Step 9: The Notch in the Back of the Bow.

Two cuts down, and knock out the middle with a chisel so that The bow fits snugly over the end of the stock.

Step 10: Putting the Bits Together

Drill a clearance hole through the bow, and screw it to the end of the stock.

Step 11: Close Up

The bow has to be fixed lower than the bottom of the groove, so that the dart is not caught.

Step 12: Marking for the Trigger

Use your chisel to cut a notch for the end of the clothes peg to fit into. This needs to be loose enough so the peg can move freely. When you pull back the elastic, it will catch over the end of the groove, with the clothes peg underneath. When you flick the peg then the elastic will be free to snap back taking the dart with it.

Step 13: The Peg in Position

Step 14: The Notch Cut

Step 15: Fastening the Trigger

Take your peg apart, and drill two clearance holes for your screws. You can see the holes in the near peg. Screw it in place like the further peg.

Step 16: Assemble the Trigger

Put your peg back together so that it is ready to act as your trigger.

Step 17: Rubber Bands

Fasten a few rubber bands together so that you can use them as your bow string.

Step 18: Fully Assembled

Loop or tie the rubber bands to the ends of the bow

Step 19: The Darts

Your darts need to be very streamlined and quite tough in order to work. Here is the type I usually make.

Start by splitting the paper in two, you will get two darts from one piece.

Fold the first two corners in as usual for a dart, and then fold the point all the way over. This gives enough weight at the front for them to fly. Now start again folding the corners in again, and fold the point back again, but this time only half way. This gives a slightly blunt point that will not get bent on the first launch, making it spin out of control.

Fold the sides in twice more, and then form it into a very narrow dart shape with a blunt point. If you have done it right, then it will be about 4 inches (10cm) long, about the size of a NERF pellet.

Step 20: Finishing the Dart

Stick some sellotape on top at the front to hold the dart together, Then cut the tail end off square, and stick a short length around the back to protect it from being buckled when the elastic hits it.

Step 21: Ready to Go

Pull back the elastic so it is caught on the back of the groove over the clothes peg, place a dart in the groove, and shoot.

Step 22: Modification for Launching Paper Gliders

For launching paper gliders, you need to be able to hook the rubber band into a notch in the front of the glider. The first thing needed is to get a loop of string that is at least twice as long as your glider, and tie this to your rubber band on both sides of center. You now cock your bow using the string, instead of the band. This obviously gives a pretty feeble pull compared to before, but we are launching gliders, not firing missiles now, an altogether gentler and more controlled operation.

Step 23: Launching a Glider

Here we have one of the many popular forms of paper glider. You can see where I have put a notch in it, and how I have loaded it on to the cocked bow.

The last picture shows it ready to launch and a quick video of the final result.