Have You Ever Made Your Own Slingshot?
I recently visited the neighborhood where my father grew up.
On an earlier trip I’d seen the street that was closed off for sledding and the one closed off for ice-skating where my father and his cousins went sledding.
I would like to imagine many weekends in Schenectady, New York when children were allowed to skate and sled on closed streets.
But, what did they do in the summer?
Robert Paul Smith, author of How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself, grew up in the 1920s, as did my father, who was born in 1918.
Smith describes how to make a slingshot. Did my Dad ever make a slingshot?
First, you go out in the woods and find a stick that has a fork in it.
The neighborhood around my father’s old house had lots of trees, so this would have been easy.
The stick can’t be so thick that it won’t bend a little.
But, it can’t be so thin that the stick breaks as soon as you try to shoot anything with it.
My grandson found one that was just right.
The stick is a handle just about child-sized, about six to eight inches long.
And, it has must have a fork coming out the top, with the shape of a V at the top of the handle.
Break off the ends of the V until you have about four to five inches on each branch of the V above where it joins the straight part of the stick that will be the handle.
Then, you cut a rubber band to make a long, single rubber strand.
You may have to experiment to get one that is thick enough so it won’t break when you use it and long enough to be able to pull it back when loaded.
Our mail sometimes comes wrapped in a rubber band that is just the right thickness and length.
Next, get a soft piece of leather and cut it into an oval or rectangle about three inches by two inches.
My father’s grandfather had a livery that boarded horses for the day or night, so may have had pieces of scrap leather from harnesses lying around that would be suitable.
I used a leather label from an old pair of Levi’s jeans.
I left it intact as the two-inch by three-inch rectangle that the label comes on.
The next step will require an adult, not even adult supervision, but an adult.
Three-year-old Louis Braille injured his eye trying to put a hole in leather using an awl in his father’s leather shop. That, and an infection that spread to the other eye, left him blind the rest of his life.
These are not tools to mess around with.
Use an ice pick or an awl to poke a hole on each end of the oval or rectangular piece of leather.
Lay the leather down flat on a piece of scrap wood and drive the ice pick through the leather.
This will create a hole you can thread the rubber band through.
You are going to tie one end of the rubber band to one branch of the fork, thread the rubber band through one hole, across the long side of the leather, then through the other hole.
Tie the other end of the rubber band to the other branch of the fork.
Test the sling shot by pulling back the piece of leather a little to make sure the rubber band and stick are strong enough.
Go outside and gather a handful of nuts that have fallen off the trees. Acorns and hickory nuts work well.
We used old, worm-eaten hickory nuts and they were perfect.
Don’t use rocks. They are too hard and dangerous.
Seeds for these trees are samara, or winged, as the maple wings, known for floating to the ground like helicopters. They are too small and light for a slingshot.
But, also native to New York are butternut, hickory and black walnut trees.
Any of the nuts from these trees would be perfect sling-shot material.
Pick out a tree as a target.
Put one nut in the leather pouch, pull it back a foot or so, then let go.
Pick out a tree to aim the nuts at and see how many times you can hit it.
If you’re hitting it every time, back up a couple feet and try again.
See how far you can stand from the tree and still hit it.
My grandson and I spent a fun afternoon hitting a tree in our backyard with nuts using the slingshot we’d just made.
He’s a great aim!
Thanks to How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone By Yourself, by Robert Paul Smith, for this activity
What kinds of toys did you make as a kid?
What kinds of toys did your children make?
Do you and your grandchildren have favorite toys?
To you and relaxing on a summer day with your grandchildren.
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Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
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- How to Do Nothing With Nobody
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- My slingshot (practical-parsimony.blogspot.com)
- 50 dangerous things: make a slingshot (theriskykids.com)