Slingshots strike fear into the hearts of many parents. Apocalyptic visions of broken windows, shattered car headlights, mangled small animals and angry neighbors with junior at center stage run through their heads. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Not only is building a slingshot a bushcraft-type project that deepens parent-child bonds, there are other benefits too. It builds great hand-eye coordination and is a natural conduit to experiments and problem solving as kids practice with, and search out, projectiles with the best ballistics. It’s also a great teacher of responsibility, as kids must carefully follow the rules to safely continue to play. The rules are simple: always know what is behind your target and never aim your slingshot—loaded or not—at a person, an animal or anything expensive and fragile.
As with anything risky, the best approach is prevention. An easy response might be to do away with slingshots altogether, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Consider another option: get rid of the house windows, car headlights and angry neighbors—go camping. Making a slingshot is a perfect rainy-day camp activity and requires minimal preparation.
Start by cutting your forked stick down to size, about eight to 12 inches from top to bottom, with the fork at roughly the midpoint. Leave the ends a bit longer than you think you need, as you can trim them later. Notch both top ends of the “y,” between one and two inches from the end of the stick, and at the same distance from the fork. These notches will hold the latex in place.
Cut tubing into two, equal-length pieces. The ideal tubing length will vary depending on width of the fork of the slingshot and the child’s arm length. Too short and it’ll be hard to pull and aim, too long and you will not have enough power. A good rule of thumb is to make both pieces of tubing the same length as the distance between the child’s wrist and elbow. Fold one end of the tubing around one notch, leaving enough overlap to tie it securely back onto itself with dental floss. Do the same to the opposite side.
Cut small holes in opposite sides of the leather then taper the edges of leather on those same sides, creating a rough diamond shape. Run the loose ends of tubing through the holes, and tie them back to themselves. Ta-da!
Remember, when looking for ammo, the rounder the rock, the truer it flies. Experimenting with curveballs is also fun, as flat rocks tend to arc one way or the other. Fire away!