How to Make a Paint Stick Boomerang

A lesson plan by Steven Graham

Kane Elementary School, Art Teacher, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Also see Indoor Paper Boomerang

Get two paint stir sticks (paint paddles) for each boomerang you want to make. If the sticks are curved axially (concave on one side), make that side the bottom of the boomerang (figure 1). If a stick is extremely warped, twisted, or weak it should not be used. Every box of paint sticks has some of these.

figure 1

Use a bench grinder, sanding disk, sanding drum on a drill, or even sand paper to shape (carve) the wings. Round off the ends of each wing tip (figure 2). The edge of the wing that cuts through the air first is called the leading edge. Round off the topside of the leading edge as shown (figure 3). The trailing edge of each wing is carved at a sharper angle, but do not make the edge too thin (figure 3). The top view of each stick (figure 4) shows where wood has been carved away. The green lines mark the edge of carving, and the green dash line shows where to carve on the under side.

figure 2

figure 3

figure 4

At this point the students can be given the sticks to decorate. I have my students put more elaborate decoration on the topside of the sticks, and their names on the bottom. Students can use markers or acrylic paint as long as the paint is brushed on smooth. The sticks can be sprayed with clear sealer after students are done. To finish the boomerang the two sticks are attached together with a rubber band (figure 5).

figure 5

Throw only in zero or very light wind, less than three miles per hour is ok. This boomerang can also be thrown in a gymnasium as long as the ceiling is high enough, and the throw is not over powered. Throw the boomerang to the right of the wind (figure 6). Tilt the boomerang at an angle like this / and never throw it flat (figure 7). The thrower should be able to look over to the right and see the topside of their boomerang (figure 5). The boomerang will circle counter clockwise. A counter clockwise circling boomerang, often called a right-handed boomerang, because it is easier for a right-handed person to throw. If you want a left hand boomerang, or clockwise circling boomerang, you can make a mirror image of the plans and throw mirror image of a right handed throw.

figure 6

Note: After painting the sticks can warp and must be twisted back to almost flat. If one wing has some negative angle of attack the boomerang may not fly or may even turn to the wrong direction in flight.

figure 7

If you are making boomerangs for the first time with your class, you may want to test fly each undecorated boomerang before giving them to your class. Some paint sticks work better than others. If the paint paddles you get are made of a soft lightweight wood, you may need to make the sticks shorter. You can tell if the boomerang loses too much rotation or falls at your feet, you may need to shorten each wing. Take a little off the sticks' length and check its flight until it hovers and flies nice.  I have been getting my paint paddles from Solon Manufacturing.  You can find them on the web at:   I get the 12-inch long paint paddles.

This boomerang lesson is not a complete lesson by itself. I also teach my students the history of the boomerang (they were not used just in Australia). I teach the aerodynamics and physics that make the boomerang work. I teach my students what the boomerang was used for by primitive people (not for hunting), and about the modern sport and recreation of boomerang throwing.

Have fun throwing your boomerangs and follow the safety rules on the USBA web site.

My students have fun throwing the boomerangs they make in a competition.  We do this at recess time.  We have played a modified accuracy game before with students getting points for accuracy and extra points for catching the boomerang.  I have also played boomerang relay games with teams of throwers sprinting to a marker and throwing. If they catch the boomerang they can run back and tag the next player.  If they miss the catch they throw one more time and then tag the marker and run back and tag the next thrower to run to the marker.  The team that finishes throwing first wins the relay.

For more on boomerang competition the Vermont Boomerang Association has a good web site.

Indoor Paper Boomerang Plan

Links with Science information

Unspinning the Boomerang by Hugh Hunt

How Boomerangs Work

Ted Bailey's How Boomerangs Work Links For Kids

More Links

United States Boomerang Association web page

My own boomerang web site. (This is my own personal web page and not part of the Kane web site.)

My how to throw page 

Boomerang Terms to Teach Students


Australia is one-place boomerangs were made by ancient people. Australia is a country and a continent.

Aboriginal is a native person. The Australian Aboriginals are one group of people that invented boomerangs.

Kylie, Hunting Stick, Killer Stick, or Throwing Stick are curved flat sticks used for hunting. Killer sticks fly in a straight path.

A Boomerang is an offshoot of the hunting stick.  It is used for playing games and they come back to the thrower.

Aerodynamics is the study of airflow and the forces associated with fluid dynamics.

A Wing is a part of an airplane, boomerang, or bird that provides lift.

Lift is a force that pushes or pulls up on a wing surface.

The Leading Edge is the front edge of a wing.

The Trailing Edge is the back edge of a wing

Dihedral Angle is a bend upward in a wing towards the tip of the wing. It can be seen in most airplanes, boomerangs and many kites.

Positive Angle of Attack is a bend upward in a wing toward the leading edge of the wing.



Some good articles at the Australian Boomerang Association   A good glossary of boomerang terms.



Some Fun Australian Terms 


Ankle Biters - small children

Aussie Salute - characteristic waving of the hand to chase away flies

Battler - someone who works hard to earn a living by honest means, one who struggles to make it by

Billabong - watering hole

Bush - wilderness, the Outback

Billy - tin can used to boil water over a campfire for tea or stew

Bloke - man

Boomerang - curved stick that will return when thrown, used for games not as a weapon

Corroboree - Aboriginal celebration, similar in meaning to Pow-Wow

Didgeridoo - instrument made from a hollow log

Dinkie-Die - the whole truth

Dinkum or Fair Dinkum - genuine, true

Dreamtime - A time of creation, sacred to Native Australians

G'Day - a greeting (good day)

Good On Ya – good for you

Jumbuck - sheep

Kylie, Hunting Stick, or Killer Stick - curved stick used for hunting, will not return to thrower

Lagerphone - percussion interment made with bottle caps

Mate - your buddy or friend

Matilda - belongings carried by a swagman, wrapped in a blanket

No Worries - that's okay

Outback - remote part of Australia away from town, Australian dessert

Sheila - woman

Swagman - hobo who carries his swag

Straight Away - right away, very soon

Tucker - food

Vegemite - yeast extract used as a spread on toast

Woomera - spear thrower

Yidaki - traditional name for a didgeridoo


Dreaming and Dreamtime


In the Aboriginal worldview, every event leaves behind a vibration image in the earth, as plants leave an image of themselves as seeds. The shape of the land -- its mountains, rocks, riverbeds, and waterholes -- echo the events that brought that place into creation.  Everything in the natural world is connected to the memory of its origin.  The Aborigines call this the "Dreaming" of a place, and it helps explain the sacredness of the earth.


The book "Dreamkeepers:  A Spirit Journey Into Aboriginal Australia" by Harvey Arden, gives more information on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs, from the view of an outside to the culture.


Aboriginal Arts


Aboriginal art serves both religious and social purposes.  It is often associated with Dreaming stories and plays an important part in ceremony and ritual.  Outside influences have traditionally been incorporated into indigenous artwork, and that is true today as modern tools, materials and ideas continue to transform the art process.