Introduction: Inexpensive Snowball Launcher Construction + Operation

In this instructable, I will be showing how to construct and operate a snowball launcher I created from recycled materials at my engineering institute.

This snowball launcher makes for a fun and inexpensive project which can be constructed with ease.If you're looking for a project to have some fun in the snow then this is the perfect option. It's capable of launching snowballs up to 5 meters (16ft). This device works by inserting a steel contact cylinder inside of a cardboard tube. In each side of the contact cylinder, there is a threaded steel rod extruding out from the barrel. The user can then pull this threaded rod back and into the loaded position. Bungee cords attached to the barrel and threaded rod oppose this motion and allow the launcher to fire the contact cylinder (and snowball) once released from the loaded position. The barrel itself is shaped out of recycled tubing retrieved from a carpet company. The remainder of the components were reclaimed from previous engineering projects, excluding the bungee cords, which were bought. It is important to note that you do not need to follow the exact sizing I used, you can use different sizes depending on what is available to you.

Materials for Snowball Launcher:

  • Cardboard tubing (I used tubing with 7.4cm inner diameter)
  • Two bungee cords
  • 30 cm of threaded rod (I used 3/8 in diameter rod)
  • 2 nuts for each side of the rod (same diameter as rod)
  • Steel cylinder (doesn't have to be steel, anything that fits with little gap between cylinder and inside of barrel)

Tools Required:

  • Jigsaw (or utility knife however much more tedious)
  • Power drill (with a bit the same diameter as rod)
  • Clamps
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler
  • Tap
  • Hammer

Step 1: Design Your Snowball Launcher

The first and most important step to creating your own snowball launcher is going to be the design process. Here you will have to decide what you want to use for each of the components and what measurements they are going to be. The only part you don't want to decide here is how far your barrel slot ( the section where the puller extrudes from the barrel) needs to be from the opening, we will get to that in Step 2.

When I was designing the barrel for the snowball launcher I started by selecting the tubing I wanted to use and recorded its diameter. From here I designed all of the other components based off of the barrels measurements. Next, I designed where I wanted the bungee cords to connect onto the barrel. As for the contact cylinder, I selected one that would fit inside the barrel and then designed for holes to be drilled into it for which the threaded rod would be inserted.

When you're designing your snowball launcher it is important to make sure that the contact cylinder you select is going to be strong enough for repeated use and not brittle. A plastic cup could make for a nice alternative as well. You must also ensure that the contact cylinder is a perfect size. If it is too large it will not be able to fit in the barrel, and if it is small it will not follow the path of the barrel as well and reduce its efficiency.

Step 2: Bungee Cord Attaching

As per my design, I began by using the jigsaw to cut the cardboard barrel to the required length. Now that I had the general design finished I now wanted to determine how far the pulling slot needed to be and where to start it. For this, I first had to drill the holes into the front of the barrel for the bungee cords to go through. These bungee cords were looped from the outside in and then back over the outer rim, this was to ensure that the large black end of the bungee cord would keep itself in place while not impeding the motion of the contact cylinder. Now that the bungee cords were installed I then marked the points on the barrel where it reached during no tension and where it reach when I pulled with all my force.

When you're completing this step it will be important for you to determine how thick of a drill you need for your bungee cord to just barely fit through. If you can not find the exact bungee cords I used you may need to improvise to keep it in place. I would suggest tieing a knot out of the bungee cord ends and it will act just like the black ball on the end of my cords.

Step 3: Shaping the Slot

Since I now had the required start and end point for the barrel slot I proceeded to cut it out on each side. It's a good idea to remove the bungee cords at this stage to avoid damaging them. I began by using a 3/8 inch drill bit at each end of the slot to start the incision. Once these holes were drilled I connected them with two lines with the help of a measuring tape and I could now use these as a guide during the cutting procedure. I had to then ensure that the barrel would be stationary as I used the jigsaw, for this, I placed a clamp on the opposing end. I found it useful during the cutting stage to only progress an inch on one side of the slot and then do the same to the other side to keep the section of cardboard as rigid as possible. Once the slot was removed any excess material that did not detach must be ripped off or it will impede the motion of the contact cylinder.

You will want to select a drill bit that is the same size as your puller rod for the starting holes. If you do not have access to a jigsaw the slot can also be cut out using a utility knife. This is will be a tedious job but it can also yield a more precise slot.

Step 4: Contact Cylinder Drilling

During the drilling of the cylinder, It is important that you follow your design plan and drill it the same distance on both sides. Prior to commencing the drilling, you need to secure the cylinder to something (make sure you don't mind if it gets slightly damaged) that can then secured to a table of some sort. This will hold the cylinder in place and allow you to drill safely. It is also useful if you have a tap that can be used to start a grove by hitting it with a hammer at the desired location. This will prevent the drill from slipping as you puncture the contact cylinder. Once you have the hole made flip the cylinder over and repeat this process. For my design, I placed the holes near the end of the cylinder you don't want to drill too close to the back of the cylinder or you could risk it breaking during use.

Step 5: Assemby

You should now have all the parts required to assemble your snowball launcher. To start, insert the contact cylinder into the barrel. While doing this you will need to ensure you orientated the cylinder properly to allow its drilled holes to be visible through the barrel slot. You need to now take the threaded rod and insert it into the contact cylinder. Once it is approximately centered, screw a nut onto each side of it leaving half an inch between it and the barrel. Now you can place your bungee cords into their positions again and pull them down over the rod. You want the nuts to be just tight enough that they keep the bungee cord from slipping but do not cause the cords to hug the barrel and create unwanted friction.

Step 6: Operation

In order to operate your snowball launcher effectively, you will want to implore the following tips. As you pull back on the threaded rod place your hands on the bottom section of the rod. Doing so is going to allow you to release quicker and your hands won't interfere as much with the launching motion. Another important aspect of operation is how quickly you can grab the barrel after you release your hands from the threaded rods. As you release you are going to feel the launcher want to move towards the bungee cords, however, if swiftly grab the barrel you can keep the contact cylinder moving toward the end of the bungee cords. In order to maximize your launching distance you should also try and hold the barrel at a 45-degree angle to your waist, this will give you the best trajectory possible. I should also note that you need to use this device responsibly, keep your distance from people and never point at someone's face.

Step 7: Reflection

This project was a great experience and was a good way to develop some hands-on skills while having some fun in the process. I also enjoyed the fact that it was mostly constructed out of recycled materials from previous projects. I would recommend this build to anyone who is looking for an inexpensive winter project. I hope you enjoyed this instructable and I challenge anyone who attempts to build this to use only recycled materials, it makes it that much more rewarding when the final product is successful. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below.



Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest 2017