Customer Reviews: Da Vinci Catapult Kit, Wood
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on February 20, 2011
I purchased this educational model / toy from a different supplier, so I cannot comment on customer service, etc...

This review is for the Leonardo da Vinci Catapult science toy.
I will cover the general experience and age suggestion, assembly and contents, materials and quality, and performance.

I shared the experience of assembling this catapult with my 9 year old, and the instructions were a little over his head (That is OKAY, because package is marked for 12 and up).
I mention this because despite the complexity, his eyes were still fixated to the project, and most steps were simple enough such that he could accomplish them with guidance. (ex. glue pieces together, and assemble parts with wooden rods)
Due to tight fit of wooden rods in holes, some increased strength may be needed, but the kit also includes sandpaper just in case the holes are too narrow for the dowels; sand the dowel a bit, and check for fit--easy.
Please note that the project does NOT need any major modification or drilling out the holes, etc... perfectly fine for assembly the way it is.

With regard to the complexity, the instructions contained are very detailed, and appear as if much care went into creating them--definitely a bonus for being represented as an educational product.
I dare say there is even some light humor to breathe a bit of life into the documentation.
Fun facts about da Vinci, some age-appropriate questions and experiments for critical analysis, etc... too.
Everything is labeled in the documentation, and the shapes of the pieces are clearly marked for easy recognition.
Surprisingly, the project includes everything needed for assembly.
Admittedly, it was a very nice surprise to find glue contained--not that we lacked it in the household, mind you, just the thought that counted & definitely set us off with the best attitude & confidence in the project.
The whole project takes about an hour or two to complete depending on skill and interaction / explaining things to curious 9 year olds.
Interestingly the documentation also includes a "snack break".
This gave me a bit of a chuckle, but masks a more important step of the process: to let some of the glue dry a little bit before continuing!

Materials (wood and bamboo) are very thoughtful regarding the function of each piece: pine(?) for static support structures, and bamboo for pieces which need to flex repeatedly.
Even contains a small patch of leather to soften the blow of the swing arm on the downswing.

Performance is as expected for a science project.
The device flings small bits of clay (also included!) about 10 feet with the right tension.
Careful not to over tension the arms; though they are made of bamboo, there is still a natural limit to the material.

Bottom line: the catapult works marvelously for its intended purpose: learning a bit about the history of mechanical engineering / physics, and slight demonstration of concepts in physics.
The project is fun to share with a child.
Assembly is easy, entertaining, AND educational!
The materials are solid, and with normal use, it should far out-last the price tag.
Performance is okay, but more importantly the learning experience is definitely worth the price to us!

By the way:
PLEASE understand that this is DEFINITELY NOT a toy to be carelessly cast aside into the bottom of some child's toy box when finished playing / learning.
I believe that once completed, this deserves to be displayed safely on a shelf or desk for the interest of all.
I really look forward to sharing time with my step-son while assembling more of these high quality and FUN projects!
(probably great for community/group activities, too)

Thanks for reading!
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on June 8, 2011
I gave this catapult to three kids, ages 9, 11, 13. They loved it. They became fully engaged in the task of assembling it. It wasn't too hard to assemble, but also not too easy. The information sheet that came with it was very clear, and the parts fit together well. The sheet also gives historical and kid-level scientific information. When they were done putting it together, they felt proud of themselves; it increased their self-confidence, that they could manage it. And they loved playing with it. Now their lego fort could be attacked properly! BTW, American Science and Surplus, the vendor, is a first-class provider of educational toys. Buying from them via Amazon is never a mistake. They're the best, and stand behind all the products they offer.
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on November 14, 2012
I bought this for my grandson, age 11, and he thought it was great fun putting it together. Unfortunately, the dowel that comprises the launching arm is not sturdy and broke right away. If it has enough tension on it to launch the ball more than a few feet, the arm slams down hard on the stop, causing the arm to snap. I repaired it a couple of times, once with glue and once with glue and string wrapped around it and glued firmly in place, but it broke again. My husband has now replaced the dowel with a larger one, and we're waiting to see how long it lasts.
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on November 26, 2012
This was fun to put together, not too complex and the directions were simple enough to follow. Some of the dowels had a rather tight fit. When you're putting it together be careful putting glue in the holes the dowels go into as it can make them very difficult to get completely in or through.

As for it's performance I have to say it was a bit lackluster. I fired off my first shot with no problems, it went about 7 feet. Since the directions say it goes up to 15 feet I tightened the strings up a little and fired it again. Went about 10 feet that time. Fired it a third time and the arm snapped. That was a bit disappointing which is why I don't rate this 5 stars. The directions do state this can happen, but I still feel like it should have lasted more than three shots. I'm going to replace the dowel with something stronger and see how it goes.

Also as a safety note be careful how close you pull the release string from as the arm swings very fast and can whack your hand.

UPDATE: I bought a 1/4" aluminum tube from [...] and replaced the broken wooden one. This thing is deadly now :)
[...] (0.049" Wall Thickness (±0.003")1/4" ±0.004" 0.152" 9056K623)
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on October 3, 2012
What a terrific kit. My 6 3/4 yo grandson and I put it together in about 2 hours. His attention did falter. He only glued, but was essential to construction. The pieces all fit and went together smoothly. All pieces were present. After I explained that there was a DeVinci before Pokemon we went on to discuss Medieval warfare and how things were made. Construction is by numbered drawings which were easy to follow. I made 1 mistake, but was able to rectify with a Dreml drill. Excellent toy and learning device.
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on April 23, 2012
Got 25 kits for Bring Your Child To Work Day.
The kits all went together without problems.
They took about one hour for a 12 year old to build - with a bit of help. A great project. The kids loved them.
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on June 6, 2013
As many people have noted, the catapult's firing arm snaps after a few launches. I upgraded the catapult by purchasing a Threaded Rod, USS/Coarse Zinc Plated 1/4" - 20 x 12" (Barra Roscada Rosca Gruesa Enchapado en Cinc) distributed by Crown Bolt of Aliso Viejo, CA 92656 (UPC 0 30699 17000 5). Made in China. I purchased this at my local Home Depot for about $1. The threads work nicely for screwing into the existing wood pivot and the launching spoon. I will need to reinforce the arm padding a bit as with one launch it has flatten the end and left deep impressions in the foam. I also believe it would make more sense to have the pull trigger setup to pull the trigger arm to the side (left) rather than to the front of the catapult which is inconvenient and possible dangerous.
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VINE VOICEon December 29, 2011
First, I agree right up front with the other reviewer who says that when completed you have something worth displaying.

This is a great kit.

Everything you need comes in the kit, including the clay to make little balls to toss with this catapult. The directions are easy with clear drawings and written instructions. There is even a bit of humor injected into the directions as one of the required items you will need is a healthy snack with snacking included in the directions.

When you have finished you will be able to throw clay balls, marshmallows, and other small items clear across the room.

The directions include a section about Leonardo and some of his inventions and the times he lived. This is very educational and very interesting.

There is not one bad thing I can say about this kit. We will be buying more like this. It is excellent and worth every penny.

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on January 9, 2013
Bottom line, I would not recommend this product. Purchased as a Christmas fun project for my son and I. Pieces do not fit well, and directions are poor. It would have been Extremely Helpful if an extra peg or two were included due to the fit issues with some of the pieces.
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on December 7, 2012
Easy enough to put together, some parts were more flimsy then the others. My problem was when i fired the thing for the first time the main shaft snapped in two. I was really hoping this would at least last for a few weeks.
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