I took a little time off at xmas to make some toys for my grandsons. I haven’t done anything like this for a few years. It seems I’m always trying to get some piece of furniture or a lamp out the door at the last minute & never have the extra time for “frivolities”.
This year, though, I got lamps done only a week late (see earlier posts) and my other project is already over a year late so a few more days won’t matter.
I found this great picture of a catapult on the web that I figured I could make in a couple of days. (HAH!) All went well until I dry assembled the piece and my ammunition (a cotton ball) shot straight forward about 1-1/2 feet and rolled across the floor. It took a few redesigns of the catapult arm and basket before I finally got a really nice arc to the ball. The kids seemed to enjoy them — don’t know if the parents will. The secret seems to be the size of the basket. Mine is a cut down plastic Easter egg hot glued onto the arm. The basket is very shallow allowing the ball to leave the arm early in the arc. I also have the arm angled back about 15°, but I don’t know if that really makes any difference. The spring I used is probably too strong. When I release the catapult arm and it hits the uprights, it really WHACKS. I started out with rubber bands but because the arc was nill, I switched them out too. Anyway, as you may be able to tell, the catapults shoot pretty well.
My other home-made gift was a “Bug Bot”. This is a little motorized critter that scoots along the floor & changes direction when it hits a wall, etc. I only made one; for my oldest grandson, Michael who is 10. Jalin is 3 but he really liked it too. Problem is, when Jalin played with the Bug Bot and it got caught under the stove/refrigerator/buffet, he would just abandon it (with batteries on & wheels turning). The switches & antennae are a bit fragile so this toy may not last too long.
It was really fun to make. In fact I had hoped to set it up as a “kit” so Michael could do some of the work of construction. But it was difficult enough for me so I abandoned that idea. The plans came from Make Magazine. They have a great podcast you can download from iTunes. all the parts I got from Radio Shack