How to Build Catapults


A catapult is a machine used to hurl objects. Catapult is derived from the Greek "kata", which means downward, and "pultos", which is a small shield. The word katapultos is translated as "shield piercer." The catapult was invented in Syracus, Greece circa 400 B.C. Catapults are powered by torsion, traction, tension or gravity. During the Middle Ages, catapults were commonly used in battle to break down castle walls.

Things You'll Need

  • 1-by-1 inch board, 8 feet
  • Hand saw
  • Wood glue
  • Screwdriver
  • 14 screws
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 2 threaded hooks
  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 2 thumbtacks
  • 1/4-inch metal bar, 4 1/2 inches
  • Rubber band

Build the Sides

  • Cut a 1-by-1 inch board into the correct sizes with a hand saw: three 12-inch sections and eight 6-inch sections.

  • Cut a 45-degree angle on both ends of two of the 6-inch sections.

  • Place an angled section on one end of a 12-inch section. The angled end should be flush with the edge of the board. Attach the sections with wood glue.

  • Place a 6-inch section on the 12-inch section. The side of the section should be flush with the angled board and the bottom edge should be flush with the bottom edge of the 12-inch section. Attach with wood glue.

  • Secure the boards by using a screwdriver to insert a screw through the bottom board and the attached sections. Place a screw through the end of the angled board and into the 6-inch section. This is the first side.

  • Build the second side in a similar manner. It should mirror the first side.

Assemble the Sides

  • Place a 6-inch section on the top of the first side. The edge of the section should be flush with the side. Attach with wood glue. Attach the section to the second side in the same manner. Secure both sides with screws.

  • Attach and secure a 6-inch section to the other ends of the sides in the same manner.

  • Place a 6-inch section on the two 6-inch sections attached to the bottom boards. The edges of the board will be flush with the top and sides of the boards. Attach with wood glue and secure with screws.

  • Attach and secure a 6-inch section across the top edges of the angled boards. Place the board 3 inches from the bottom of the angled boards.

Build the Arm

  • Drill a hole 1/2 inch from the end of the remaining 12-inch section with a 1/4-inch drill bit. This section will be the arm. Screw a threaded hook 3 inches from the opposite end of the arm.

  • Cut a 1-by-4 inch section from a piece of poster board with a pair of scissors. Crease the poster board every 3/4 inches. Glue the ends of the strips together to form a square. This is the cup. Attach the cup to the end of the arm against the hook. Secure by pushing thumbtacks through the front and back of the cup into the arm.

  • Insert a 4 1/2-inch piece of 1/4-inch metal bar into the drilled hole on the arm. Place the arm between the upright sections on the sides and push the ends of the bars into each board just above the bottom boards.

  • Screw a threaded hook into the center of the 6-inch section at the base of the catapult. Place a rubber band on this hook and stretch it to place it on the hook on the arm.

  • Place an object in the cup and pull down the arm. Release the arm to fire.

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  • Photo Credit château de predjama image by Julien Leblay from
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