Welcome to Camp Megan, kids! Today’s campers are my niece Maddux and nephew Eli. Since this is our first day, we’re going to start simple by building a small wooden catapult. (Total ulterior motive: this project may show up in my physics classes next year.)

We’re building the Tabletop Troll from Storm the Castle. The provided directions are excellent — the kids and I found it simple to follow along just looking at most pictures.

Gather your materials


A few modifications from the pictured materials: swap wood glue out for hot glue because it bonds faster and swap twine for rubber bands cause I didn’t read the directions well enough.

What tools do we need?

We used a mitre saw, belt sander, and drill press because I have access to them in my school’s workshop. You would be fine with a mitre box and hand saw, a sheet of sandpaper, plus a drill.

Measuring provided a great opportunity to practice multiplication.

Fun math moment: I wasn’t sure I’d purchased enough wood — each kid had two 36″ pieces. Eli and I looked at the plans for the catapult and helped me modify the design to fit it all on the two pieces. In our design, the cross pieces are just 4″ long.

Eli, heading off to 5th grade next year, hesitated over the mitre saw because it’s loud and powerful. I made the first few cuts for him before he was comfortable.

When gluing the pieces together, we had trouble getting right angles, something the kids noticed right away. I used a carpenter’s triangle but it was tough to hold in place next to a hot glue joint. How would you suggest helping kids glue things “right”?

Here are the finished catapults. They take up 12″ x 4″ on the table.

Our original design called for screws, but the smallest I had split the wood, so we ditched them all together. The glue won’t hold up so next time I build these, I need to get tiny screws.

Build time

We spent 2.5 hours on this project.

Eli and Maddux test the catapults

Classroom use

I want to build a projectile motion project out of these catapults. Any readers out there want to share theirs?