Back-to-school time is a great time to find pencils on sale, and what better use for them than to make them into a crossbow! And what better way to explore the laws of physics? (Actually, that is the opinion of my sons and not necessarily my opinion 🙂 )

A couple weeks ago, Aidan (age 10) had a friend over who built him this awesome crossbow out of unsharpened pencils and rubber bands!

How to Make a Pencil Crossbow

The basic design came from the book “Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare”. I thought this project was super fun, but I don’t necessarily recommend the book. Be aware that this book is not really geared toward kids. The title is very tongue-in-cheek and refers to cubicle dwellers building fun weapons out of office supplies. While the book has a lot of awesome projects, some of them are dangerous! Quite a few are projects that require supervision and adult help.

That being said, building a crossbow is a great project for kids around age 8+!

The design for the crossbow is pretty simple. Use rubber bands to connect four pencils, as shown. Remove the ink from a clickable ballpoint pen, and attach the barrel to the pencils with a rubber band. The fatter the pen, the better. The crossbow requires one long rubber band to shoot with.

Make a Pencil Crossbow

Safe ammunition

The book recommended shooting bamboo skewers with this crossbow, but I said no to that! So then we were on a quest to find something safe to shoot. We discovered that drinking straws shoot really well, and yet they are harmless if they accidentally hit someone. Aidan cut the straw down the long side, rolled it a little tighter, and then taped it to give it a more narrow diameter so that it would fit better inside the pen barrel. We also found that Q-tips shoot really well!

Make a pencil crossbow

To shoot, load your ammunition. Pull back the rubber band, and let go!

When boys arrive at that awkward not-quite-a-teen-not-quite-a-kid stage (age 9-12), it can be hard to keep them busy! Here are some more ideas for tweenage boys:


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  1. katepickle Aug 11, 2013

    My big kids and husband have been building catapults out of Lego... and they are going to love this!

  2. Tirzah Aug 12, 2013

    I would love for you to link these ideas to the pin on your page. I spend so much time searching for the pin on your page.

  3. Matt Nov 8, 2015

    I've been perusing this site for the past couple days looking for DIY Christmas gift ideas for my 3 boys. This is the first one I built and it's awesome. I used 4 more pencils to make a "handle" so the boys wouldn't snap their hands with the rubber bands so now it truly looks like a mini weapon of mass destruction. Thanks for the ideas!


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