Paper Airplane Crossbow Launcher




Introduction: Paper Airplane Crossbow Launcher

About: I'm a middle-schooler who loves to build and experiment!

This crossbow is perfect for shooting paper airplanes, and not making your arm tired in the process!

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Step 1: Materials

For this project, you will need:

  • A LOT of Popsicle Sticks
  • Clothespins
  • Electric Tape/Duct Tape
  • Utility Knife
  • Glue Gun and Glue Sticks for the Glue Gun
  • A lot of cardboard (preferably a large sheet)
  • Scissors
  • Thick rubber-bands
  • Twine
  • Sandpaper
  • Sharpies and Pencils (marking measurements) and (designs - optional)
  • Several sheets of paper (for making paper airplanes) NOT PICTURED
  • Dental Floss NOT PICTURED

Have all your materials gathered before you start to make sure you have everything.

Step 2: Preparations - Cutting the Cardboard

  1. Start by cutting four 9" by 3" pieces of cardboard out with a utility knife and/or scissors.
  2. After that, cut two more pieces of cardboard out with a knife and/or scissors. These pieces will be 3" by 3" squares.
  3. CHECK: You should have four 9" by 3" pieces of cardboard AND two 3" by 3" cardboard squares.

Step 3: Beginning Assembly

  1. After you have the cardboard pieces, glue all the 9" by 3" pieces together to form a rectangular box.
  2. Glue the two 3" by 3" pieces on either end of the rectangular box.
  3. CHECK: You should have a fully formed box.

Step 4: Marking and Making the Cut

  1. Mark two square holes on either long side of the rectangular box, so that they align perfectly.
  2. Mark and cut another, slightly larger hole on the bottom of the box, in-between the other holes.
  3. CHECK: You should have two holes on either side of the box, and one hole on the bottom in-between.

Step 5: Drawing a Line - Marking the Runway

  1. Flip the box over so you are looking at the top. Draw a line straight down the middle with a pencil (or Sharpie). Use a ruler to make the line as straight as possible.
  2. CHECK: You should have a line straight down the side without the hole (the top).

Step 6: Making the Runway

  • If the cut ends are too jagged, sand them down using sandpaper.
  • Glue the four craft sticks to the top of the box, following the line you drew for the runway. Leave enough space in-between for the paper airplane to slide through. IMPORTANT: Leave enough room for your clothespin triggers to fit (as seen in the last picture).
  • Optional: Decorate your craft sticks!
  • CHECK: You should have four craft sticks, ends cut on one side, glued to the top of your box following the runway line. There should be both enough room for the paper airplane to slide through them, and enough room for your clothespin triggers to fit in a later step.

Step 7: Adding the Triggers

  • WARNING: In this step you will be using a glue gun in slightly awkward positions. Make sure you are careful and don't burn yourself!
  1. For this step, you will be making the triggers for the crossbow.
  2. First glue two clothes pins on both sides of the runway (glue on side without the holes).
  3. Now, glue two craft sticks on the very end of the clothes pins.
  4. Flip over and repeat Step 2 and 3.

CHECK: Your trigger should look like the 6th picture above.

  1. Cut off the excess ends of the craft sticks and sand them down.

CHECK: Check your work against the last two pictures.

Step 8: Making the Crossbow Limbs

  1. Now it is time to make the crossbow limbs. Glue two craft sticks side by side. Repeat this step three more times until you have four pairs of craft sticks.
  2. Draw the marks on the ends of the craft sticks. This is where your rubber band will be. The marks should be about 1/2" away from the edge of the craft stick.
  3. Use a knife to cut the marks into notches.
  4. Now, glue one pair of craft sticks on top of the other pair. Do the same with the last two pairs. You should now have two sets of craft sticks.
  5. Cut two rubberbands so they lay in flat ribbons.
  6. Duct tape the two rubber band ribbons in-between the two pairs of craft sticks.

CHECK: You should have two sets of craft sticks with two rubber band ribbons (doubled) taped between them (AS PICTURED).

Step 9: Finishing the Bow Limbs and Bowstring

  1. Now, measure the width of the runway. Mark the width on a piece of paper.
  2. Using the marked piece of paper, put your crossbow limbs that you made on the marked piece of paper. Make sure the space between them is the right length.
  3. Insert the bow limbs inside the two holes in the side of the cardboard box (you made these in a previous step). The double rubber band will be concealed inside the box. They should look like the third picture above.
  4. Now, you need to complete the bowstring. For the bowstring, cut one of the remaining long rubber band ribbons in half. Tape each of these short rubber band ribbons to either side of the bow limbs.
  5. Now, tie each of the ends of the short band ribbons to a piece of twine. The twine should be around 3" (or 4"), and I used waxed dental floss to tie the rubber band to the twine, so it would last longer.
  6. Tape over where you tied the dental floss to make it even stronger.

CHECK: Make sure your project looks like the last picture!

Step 10: The Stand (OPTIONAL)

  1. In this step, you're going to create a stand, which is entirely optional. The crossbow is fully functional without the stand.
  2. Take a clothespin and twist it to the side. The clothespin should easily pop loose, and once you remove the metal hinge, you have two separate pieces of clothespin. Do this so you have four individual pieces.
  3. Glue two of the clothespins together, tip to tip, in a triangle form. The big notches in the wood should both be facing each other.
  4. Glue the two other clothespins to the triangle in the same way, until you have a raised triangle using four pieces of clothespins. Refer to pictures above.
  5. Turn your crossbow over to the hole you made in the bottom a few steps ago. I inserted the top of the triangle in this hole and then used the glue gun to fit it in. Make sure that the stand looks and works the way you want it to before you glue it in.

Step 11: Finished Product

  1. To shoot your paper airplane crossbow, make sure both bow limbs are sticking out of the holes on either side of the contraption.
  2. Pull back your bowstring and clip it using the clothespins on the back of the crossbow.
  3. Slide in a paper airplane. (The paper airplane I am using is the best for this. I have provided a link below that shows how I found out to make it.)
  4. When you are ready, use the lever to open the clothespins, release the bowstring, and make your paper airplane fly!

I learned to fold this paper airplane from The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes. There are a lot of cool airplanes that you can experiment from in here!

Step 12: Modifications (OPTIONAL)

  1. For the modifications, I put two rubber bands in the bowstring to make it more powerful.
  2. I also shortened the bow limbs to only about 1" to make them more powerful.
  3. I added bent paper clips to the side to support the paper airplane so it won't slide to one side when the crossbow is firing.
  4. I reinforced the front and side of the bowlimb holes with craft sticks so that the strain wouldn't rip the cardboard.

Step 13: Modifications in Action

1. This is the video of how the modification crossbow shoots. It shoots a lot better and the airplane flies a lot better.

Step 14: Thank You!

Thank you for reading, and remember to vote!

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    12 Discussions


    5 years ago

    Good job dude! It looks awesome plus I like you added mods too!


    4 years ago

    Could you post a how-to video on YouTube?

    I looked, but no one has posted one... and this has been out for a year!


    4 years ago

    I was trying to make this with my son... and got stuck. The early steps were fairly straightforward, but the crossbow portion was not well explained. It seems to assume I already know something I don't, and there is no video of how it is done.

    Really a bit frustrating. The mechanical thrower didn't arrive in the mail on time, and we needed this for a science project ASAP.


    5 years ago

    Where's the video?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The video(s) are in Step 11 and Step 13. You have to click the link provided and let it play in Windows Media Player!

    Jeph Diel
    Jeph Diel

    5 years ago

    very cool! voted!


    5 years ago

    Nice work! Where's the video?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! The video(s) are in Step 11 and Step 13. You have to click the link provided and let it play in Windows Media Player!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is a really cool idea! My kids would love this. Thank you!