Monday, June 20, 2011

Slingshot! The Sequel

Well, it took all of about two days to become totally, completely, absolutely obsessed with slingshots.  Maybe it is the fact that I can get the wood to make them from a craft store or the local Home Depot or Lowes.  Maybe it is because holding a slingshot takes you back in time, or at least it takes me back. 

I remember as a kid walking up to the railroad tracks that ran above my home.  I'd get up to the tracks, and get down in my hands and knees and crawl along looking for these small round balls.  I don't know what they even were, I think my brother told me at one point, but they were black and round, and made the perfect slingshot ammo that you could ever hope to find.  I'd come home, knees black from the creosote on the ties, with a pocket full.  I kept them in an old coffee can, and shot them out into the woods past where we parked the cars.  I looked for them the last time I was at the tracks, and I didn't see any.

I thought about that train track ammo as I stood at my work bench and cut my latest slingshot out of a piece of laminated birch plywood.  I also thought about how there should be an easier way of cutting out these shapes.  I'll see what I can come up with for when I make number three! 

Enough of my rambling!  Let there be pictures!

First off, I drew this on a piece of white computer paper, I used the ruler pictured and a child's cup to draw out the circle.  Both arcs are made from the same cup.  I like the way it flows.  I ended up extending the forks higher than in my drawing.  Probably by about 1/2 of an inch.
Here is the cutout and sanded slingshot.  I sanded down the finger supports to make them feel a little more comfortable in the hand.  As an afterthought I drilled a hole in the bottom, thinking that it would be nice to add some sort of lanyard.

Just another random shot, on the deck out back.  What does this picture tell you?  It tells you that my deck needs to be stained ASAP!
Here I am holding it, gangsta style.  This sideways style of shooting is actually pretty popular in the slingshot community.  You are able to use the lower fork to aim and it makes for a more natural wrist and arm position.  Plus it is really cool to tell people that you shoot gangsta. 

Finally the completed slingshot.  I just put a single flat band on it, it makes for a very easy draw weight.  I also made a pouch out of some 3 ounce buffalo leather.  I punched holes into the pouch with a leather punch.

I'm going smaller with my third slingshot.  I want something that is much more portable.  More on that later. Happy carving!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Setting my sites on a slingshot - Part 2

The time it takes to have a package shipped to you is directly proportional to how badly you want it.  I've been waiting for my band material for what has seemed like forever, but it finally came today.  A quick refresher on band installation techniques from the Slingshot Forum and away I went!  Well not quite.  I had to cut the bands first.  I need to get a circular cutter this weekend, using normal scissors just isn't the best way to cut latex band.  I used a ruler to lay out my bands on the Thera-band black I was using and cut them out.  They are tapered, 1 inch wide at one end and 3/4 of an inch at the other.  Why?  No clue, but the guys at the forum suggest that a tapered band works better.  Who am I to disagree?  Abyway, after some careful cutting, I had a set of slingshot bands.

Band installation is actually pretty simple, but I know that I still have some practicing to do there.  I fumbled around a good bit before getting them installed.  It is one of those things that after you do it one time, you immediately see ways to do it better.

I cut out a pouch from my 3 ounce buffalo upholstery grade leather and punched two holes into it to attach the bands.  I had to do a quick study on the constrictor knot and I am not 100% sure that I have it down yet, but the pouch seems to be fairly secure.  I'll check that out tomorrow when I shoot it a few times. 

So here you go, my first slingshot.  I hope it shoots okay.  Even if it doesn't I have learned a lot from making it.  Things that you can't understand until you experience them first.

I added a coat of polyurethane to the slingshot frame.  Not sure it will be my finish of choice though.

I used a double thickness of bands on each side.  In retrospect one would have been plenty, and a lot easier to tie.  I saw in a video that one option would be to just make the bands wider and fold them.  I might do that as well the next time.
I have had a ton of fun making this slingshot.  I have found a wonderful group of people over at the Slingshot Forum.  I have learned a lot about frame design, shooting styles, band materials, pouch manufacture, and most importantly perhaps, a good working understanding of how to make a slingshot.  Happy Carving all, and may your bands never break and your shots fly straight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Setting my sites on a slingshot - Part 1

I had one as a kid, did you?  My first slingshot was homemade from a tree fork, an old piece of leather, and some rubber bands that my Aunt gave me.  She made ceramics and held her molds together with huge rubber bands.  They just screamed slingshot whenever I looked at them.  I can't remember it being very accurate, but I sent more than my fair share of rocks flying out into the woods near my house.  A few weeks later, I upgraded to a Daisy Wrist Rocket and used it until the bands broke.  I didn't have enough money to buy new ones, so my slingshot career was over.  That was probably 25 years ago and I don't think I've even thought about a slingshot in those 25 years, not until a few weeks ago at least. 

There I was, minding my own business, watching a Youtube video about starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together, when over in the right hand column under "suggestions" I saw a video by Joerg Sprave.  A few hours and many many videos later, I was hooked.  I just HAD to make a slingshot.  Joerg has a tutorial video on his channel that includes a PDF template of a generic slingshot called the Phoenix.  It is his own design, but he offers the template to people as long as they are making it for personal use and not to resell.  I printed the template out, traced it on cardboard to make it a bit stronger, and then headed out to my local home improvement store for some 3/4 inch laminated birch plywood.  I traced the design and cut it out using my jigsaw.

At this point, I rounded the edges of the slingshot blank, using a wood rasp and my carving knife.  Laminated plywood isn't really something that you can carve very well, so mainly I used the wood rasp to do the rounding of the blank.  After working for about 30 minutes with the rasp, I ended up with something that looked much more like a slingshot.

I did a bit more rounding, some initial sanding with 100 grit sand paper, and cut two grooves in the end of the forks to hold the bands when they are installed.  It is still pretty rough, but I am ready for band attachment.

I ordered some band material and some upholstery grade leather to make the pouch, they should be here in the next day or so.  I plan on smoothing out some of the rough spots and coating the whole thing with polyurethane to protect it once I am happy with the way the frame looks.  I'll be back in a few days with the finished product and some more ideas about my own design.  Until then, happy carving, and may your bands stay strong and your shots fly straight.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Words from the Barefoot Carver

I asked my brother Jim if he would do a guest post for my blog.  He agreed pretty quickly, which surprised me a bit, but then I remembered that he had just gotten a new knife and was anxious to talk about it.  So here you go, words from the Barefoot Carver himself, my big brother.

Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife

I consider myself a bushcrafter, a camper, and fairly self sufficient. I just started building a survival "kit". A survival kit (as the experts call it) has a list of things that you need in order to survive if you become lost or stranded and have to wait for help or initiate self rescue.  Any kit must contain at least some basic survival needs.  These are often referred to as the 10 C's.  The first five "C"s are Cutting, Covering, Cordage, Container, Combustion. You need a cutting tool like a knife or an axe.  A container for water, preferably metal so you can boil water in it..  A Combustion device used to make fire. A Covering to keep you warm and dry.  The covering could be a tent, a tarp, a wool blanket, a plastic trash bag, or a combination of several of these things. Cordage can be used for many different purposes in a survival situation.  Dave Canturbury, from the Pathfinder School, explains the kit building process in this video. 

Today I would like to talk about the first and foremost item in any survival kit, a cutting tool.  I like a knife as my cutting tool and here is a review for the knife that I just purchased to go into my kit.

Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife

Price $58.00 to $100.00
Knife with drop point shape, 20-degree blade
Made of 1095 cro-van steel for strength
Handle made of Grivory material
Blade measures 5.5 inches; knife is 10.5 inches long

This knife is a bear.  The blade is 1/4 inch thick . I used it to split small logs with a mallet. The blade is painted black and the paint scuffs up easy, but doesn't appear to cause any issues. It fits nice in your hand but has a heavy feel. It weighs almost a  pound.  It comes very sharp out of the box and ready to use.

The sheath is the part I hate. Its made of molded Kydex. The knife is made in the USA but the sheath is made in China.  I think that Ka-Bar should have made a leather sheath for this knife and charged a few more bucks for the set.  Once the knife is in the sheath it is very hard to get back out.  It takes two hands, one to hold the sheath and the other to pull very hard. I almost cut my thumb trying to unsheathe it the first time.

Overall, I am happy with me new knife.  I'm not a fan of Kydex though, so I will be replacing the sheath as soon as I can.  If you what a nice heavy knife that will chop cut and take a lot of abuse this knife is for you.

And there you have it folks.  My first ever guest post.  Go check out what else the Barefoot Carver has to say if you have time.  In the meantime, stay safe, get working on your survival kit, and happy carving.