DIY Weekend Project: How to Make a Slingshot

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 14, 2012 · 54 comments

in Manly Skills, Projects

Imagine the idealized rough and tumble boy depicted in literature, movies, and TV shows. Go ahead. Do it. Done?  Whether you imagined Tom Sawyer, Dennis the Menace, or Bart Simpson, chances are you pictured him with a handmade slingshot dangling from his back pants pocket.

The humble slingshot has been a fixture among boys across cultures and across generations.  The first modern-type slingshots probably didn’t make an appearance until vulcanized rubber was invented in 1839. 19th century boys used old rubber tire inner tubes as the bands to catapult their rocks and pellets at cans and unsuspecting cats.

The slingshot was the first product WHAM-O made, and it gave the company its memorable name. “WHAM-O” was the sound the slingshot’s projectile made when it hit its target.

The popularity of the slingshot really took off though after WWII and commercially-made slingshots became widely available. While we typically associate slingshots with bucktoothed, freckled-faced boys, placed in the hands of a skilled user, a slingshot can become an efficient hunting tool and even a guerrilla warrior weapon, and 80% of slingshot sales in the post-war period were to adult men, who used the slingshot for hunting and also took part in emerging slingshot clubs and competitions.

Manufactured slingshots are still available today, but, because they require very few materials and tools to make, slingshots were and are the perfect toy/weapon to make yourself. There are hundreds of variations and tweaks you can try when crafting your own slingshot, but today we’re going to show you how to make the old classic natural fork variety. Whether you’re making it for yourself or for your kid, this is a great weekend project that takes only about 60 minutes to complete and will provide hours upon hours of entertainment for you and your family.

Materials & Tools Needed

Materials

  • A Y-shaped tree branch with at least a 30 degree fork
  • 1/4″ latex surgical tubing (available at Home Depot)
  • Leather strips
  • Dental floss

Tools

  • Saw
  • Knife
  • Awl (optional)
Time Needed
  • About an hour

Step 1: Find Your Fork

The first step in making a natural fork slingshot is finding a Y-shaped tree branch with an adequate natural fork. Look for hardwoods like oak, ash, dogwood, hickory, and (hard) maple. Buckthorn bush, an invasive plant, creates some good solid Y-shaped branches too, and the wood is pretty strong.

Don’t worry if you can’t find the perfect Y-shaped frame. Chances are, you’re not going to find it. As long as the fork forms at least a 30 degree angle, you’re good to go.

Sometimes you can find branches lying on the ground, but if there’s a dearth of grounded tree limbs, you’ll need to cut one off a tree. I’ve got a bunch of oak trees in my front and backyards, so I strolled around with my saw in tow looking at the low-hanging branches for my fork. I chanced upon this beauty below:

Jackpot!

I used my handy dandy bow saw to cut down the limb. Cut your handle longer than you think you’ll need. You can always shorten it later; lengthening it won’t be an option.

Time to trim some branches off until I am left with an unadorned “Y” shape.

Leave more of the fork than you think you’ll need. Again, you can always shorten later.

Basic slingshot frame.

Step 2: Dry Your Wood

Branches that have just been cut from trees will have a lot of moisture in them which gives them a bit of flexibility. That’s not good for a slingshot frame. We want something that won’t bend while you’re pulling back on the bands. So we need to suck all that moisture out of the wood.

The natural way would be to just set the branch somewhere and let it dry out for a year. Since we want to finish this project in a weekend, that’s a not a good option. A faster natural drying method would be to start a campfire and set your branch near the flames. As soon as you hear your fork stop hissing, you’ll know the water is all out of it. While certainly faster, this method will still take hours or even a day before the fork is completely dry.

To keep your slingshot project under an hour, we’re going to utilize a bit of space age technology: your kitchen microwave.

Place your fork on top of a rag.

Wrap it up like a babe in swaddling clothes. This will protect your microwave.

Unlike what you should do with a babe in swaddling clothes, place the wrapped fork in the microwave.

You need to take it slow with drying your fork. Don’t just set the microwave on high for 10 minutes while you go swing some Indian clubs. Your wood will catch fire (this happened to my first slingshot). Rather, microwave it on high in 30 second bursts and let it rest for about a minute in-between each shot. Keep repeating until your wood stops hissing. Mine took six, thirty second zaps to completely dry.

Step 3: Carve Notches in Your Fork

With your wood dry, we can now carve the notches where our bands will go. Create one notch on each of your fork’s “prongs” at roughly the same height.

Finished notches.

I had a lot of extra wood on top of my notch, so I sawed them down a bit using my table saw. Make sure to leave a bit of wood above your notch or else your band will slip off your frame when you fire it.

Step 4: Cut Your Tubing

Eyeball how long you want your tubing to be. Remember, the shorter it is, the more oomph you’ll have in your shots. If the bands are too short, though, you won’t be able to pull them back. Once you have your length, double the band and cut it in half into two equal length pieces like so.

Step 5: Attach Tubing to Fork

Wrap one end of the tubing around your notch so that it doubles back on itself like in the photo. Tie the end of the tube to the rest of the tube with some dental floss. Wrap the dental floss as tight as you can, tie it off, and cut off any long ends. Repeat on the other side.

Step 6: Create Pouch

I bought a strip of leather at Hobby Lobby for $2. Cut a rectangle that’s about four inches wide and two inches high.

Create a long octagon shape by cutting off the corners on your rectangular leather strip.

Create two holes at each of the longest ends of your leather strip. Your tubing will attach here. I just used my knife, but you can use an awl or some other puncturing tool.

Step 7: Attach Pouch to Tubing

Slide tube ends through holes, like so.

Similar to how you attached the tube to the frame, fold the end of the tube back on itself and tie it off tightly with some dental floss.

Have Fun!

Have fun with your homemade natural fork slingshot. This bad boy shoots pretty dang accurate and far. I was able to plink a tree trunk with a stone from about 30 yards. 

You may have to adjust the length of your bands so that you get the right amount of force. The latex bands will degrade after extended use. Replace them as soon as you see any wear and tear. The last thing you want is a band to snap and smack you in the eye.

It goes without saying, but be smart and safe when you or your kid play with a slingshot. At the end of the day, a slingshot is a small weapon that hurls projectiles at fast speeds.

Before you try your hand at hunting squirrels or other small varmints with your slingshot, check your local hunting laws to see if hunting with slingshots is permissible and if it requires a license.

Tin cans don’t stand a chance against my trusty handmade slingshot.

Further Reading

In researching this post I was surprised to discover that there’s a vibrant and extremely helpful community of slingshot enthusiasts out there. If you’re interested in learning more advanced slingshot making techniques, I highly recommend you check the following websites:

Slingshot Forum. This place is amazing. Lots of useful guides and friendly folks to answer all your slingshot questions.

The Slingshots Page. Don’t let the rough and simple web design of this site fool you. It’s packed with some fantastic advice on making your own slingshot. The most useful sections are on how to attach your bands to the fork and how to attach your pouch to the bands.

 

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aaron H May 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm

So awesome, I’m all over this. I have one week before I start my summer job and I am filling it with AoM-type activities.

2 Bill Gargan May 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

This guy obviously never really grew up making these. Never cut the tubing and the ends will soon come off and smack him. There is a whole lot to drying that wood too. When you force wood to cure the fibers are so much shorter after drying as drying such as that breaks down the wood fibers and the wood gets brittle..

Be careful as this one like you made is actually dangerous. Will knock your eye out..

3 Andy May 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Try this site too, I’m under the name ‘bootneck’ on there, a very good site and quite hunter orientated, rebelslingshotforum.freeforums.org/slingshots-catapults-and-resorteras-f12.html

search posts from FROGMAN and nico, you won’t be dissapointed

4 Brett McKay May 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Bill- Can you explain how you can make a slingshot without cutting the surgical tubing? The stuff comes in four foot ropes, so I don’t see you how you cannot not cut it. And I’m not sure how cutting the tubing would make it slip off.

Using the microwave to dry the wood is perfectly fine and safe. That’s the consensus on all the slingshot forums. Heck, even professional woodworkers will use the microwave to dry small projects.

I admit that my slingshot is pretty basic and that there are more advanced ways of fashioning one, but I’ve been using mine regularly for weeks and haven’t had any problems with breaking, snapping, or slipping.

5 Mike M. May 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Never made a slingshot, but in my somewhat misspent youth I did make a bola and a boomerang. :-)

6 Dave May 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm

The microwave works fine. In my experience it actually toughens the wood and makes it stronger. I came up with the idea several years ago (and wrote of it in a tutorial for one of the websites linked in the article) after seeing industrial lumber mills using microwaves to cure whole logs.

For the pouch I recommend using a leather hole punch, rather than a knife or awl. Having a perfectly round hole will make it less likely to tear.

And, as always, wear eye protection when you shoot.

7 James May 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Great article. I remember making crude slingshots with sticks and rubber bands. Wish someone had shown me how to make one like this when I was a lad. Maybe I’ll find an hour or two sometime soon to relive some of my youth…

8 Alex Barbolish May 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I made my first slingshot when I was 8, after my dad read my brothers and me Tom Sawyer, the cover of which had a picture of Tom with a slingshot in his pocket. Never could quite make one that had the firepower and range I wanted though, so after awhile I made a regular sling, like the kind David killed Goliath with. Took a bit more time to make and learn to use, but let me tell you, I would take one of those hunting over a slingshot any day.

9 Sam May 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Alex B. – how do you make a sling?

10 Adrian May 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Curious about the statement that “19th Century boys used old rubber tire inner tubes as the bands…” What were the inner tubes from? As far as I can tell, pneumatic tyres didn’t come into use until 1895 for cars, and five or six years earlier for bicycles.

11 Greg M May 15, 2012 at 4:11 am

My father taught me to hold the fork in one hand while stretching the band and end together. An accomplice then wraps and ties the string.
It takes two people this way, but his logic was that if you wrap and tie it tight while stretched out, it won’t come loose during use.

12 Mick May 15, 2012 at 5:29 am

Made many a sling shot (we called them Shanghai’s) when I was growing up in the bush. My cousins and I were the epitomy of all the Tom Sawyers, Huck Finns and Dennis the menace’s out there. Like Alex though, I now have a preference for a Sling. Much simpler and much better for hurling heavier shot and longer distances.

@Sam to make a sling cut two lengths of any sturdy cordage natural or man-made as is your preference, one lengthe will need a finger loop tied into it at one end and the other length will need a knot. Tie the opposite ends of your cordage to a pouch like the one dipicted in the above sling shot making instructions. Make your pouch to suit the size of shot you want to hurl. You can lob just about anything you want with a sling, from marbles to tennis balls. The description I’ve given is just a basic starting point. All the best in your slinging efforts.

13 The Dutch Dastard May 15, 2012 at 7:28 am

Anybody notice that every boy is always depicted with the slingshot in his back pocket?

When i was a kid i noticed it’s extremely uncomfortable, and the very best way to lose your slingshot.

Now: Upgrade it to a slingbow!

14 M May 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

Hold the slingshot like that and you’ll lose your thumb in no time.

15 Man May 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

Brett, i don’t think you should hold it that way, you might accidentally hit your finger. I also think its better to have a smaller fork so that your bands can’t move around as much.

16 Steve May 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

Check out the slingshot channel http://slingshotchannel.blogspot.co.uk/ and Jörg Sprave. He’s like a German version of R Lee Ermey. Seriously this guy is hilarious!

17 Iggy May 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

There’s a German guy who makes incredible slingshots and posts a lot of his stuff to youtube — Joerg Sprave is his name. His videos are pretty entertaining. He posts a fair amount of how-to information for a variety of self-created slingshots, from simple to very complex.

http://slingshotchannel.blogspot.com/

18 Iggy May 15, 2012 at 10:25 am

There’s a German guy who makes pretty amazing slingshots and posts a lot of how-to information on his site. He’s got a kind of cult following because his videos are oddly entertaining to watch. Search for ‘Joerg Sprave’ on youtube, if you’re interested.

19 Iggy May 15, 2012 at 10:25 am

oops, didn’t mean to duplicate…

20 prufock May 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

We didn’t have surgical tubing readily available when I was a kid. We would make our slingshots using rubber lobster bands chained together (probably about 10-15 links on a side? Can’t remember exactly). This worked well with the exception that the slingshot would twist over itself after a few shots.

21 Alex Barbolish May 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

@Sam: Yeah Mick pretty much nailed it. I would just add that I used braided leather to make the cords because it looked cool and seemed a little sturdier. But you could use any type of thin rope/cord. Two pieces of old clothesline rope would work.

22 jamil May 15, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Genius! I never thought to use the microwave to soften the wood.

23 mike May 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Brett,

I think Bill meant not to cut the ends at the pouch – obviously you have to cut for total length. We used to feed the single piece of tubing through both holes in the leather pouch and tape/tie off the pouch to hold it in front of the tubing. I don’t think that it is any safer, but it is easier.

24 Anthony K. May 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Great article. I think I’m going to have to put one of these together myself. I never had a sling shot when I was a boy, but you are right in many depictions of what a boy should be he has a slingshot. Great post.

25 Lalo May 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm

My uncle taught me to how to make a sling shot about 21 years ago I was 10 at the time. It was basically the same concept, the only difference was, instead of dental floss he taught me to use strips of rubber from tires to tie the tubing. Since that time I have made my fair share of slingshots, i have now passed the knowledge down to my sons who are 10 and 8 years old.

26 Charles May 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I built a slingshot as a kid and had lots of fun with it. Then I progressed into real weapons like slings, which are much easier to make and also much more effective hunting tools, though they require a lot more skill to use. Interesting tidbit: roman soldiers (corpses) have been found on British battlefields with sling bullets lodged in the rear of their armor, having punctured shield, front plating and carried clear through the torso; still think it’s not an effective tool? It can be built in about 20 minutes and concealed by wearing as a belt.

27 Creek May 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Now that’s a survival slingshot! Great post!

28 C. Fielding May 16, 2012 at 3:23 am

It seems to me that this is something a child would make, not a man. I cannot imagine myself, 32 years old, going outside to play with a slingshot. I am really disappointed with the latest posts on AOM and I am seriously considering not returning unless the subject-quality improves.
eg. “bug out bags”: Improvisation would surely be better than lugging a bag of stuff around with me for the rest of my life.
“spy tech”: do I really need to say more?

29 Joe May 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Fielding,
I’m 30 and made a sling shot 2 years ago. It’s fun to kill some time plinking in the back yard.

Everyone else,
To secure the band to the frame, I punch a hole in one side of the tubing about an inch or so from the end. Flip the end inside out so the tube doubles over itself, then pull the tubing through the hole to make a sort of slip knot. It takes some work. Using a thread or bobby pin to lead the tube through the hole helps.

30 Austin May 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I can think of no better creation to pair with a beer. Drink the beer, shoot the can. (And maybe an eye out). I haven’t shot one since I was a kid… Another reminder of how the world takes the man out of ya.

31 Will May 20, 2012 at 6:20 am

I agree with the comments about a sling being much more effective than a slingshot – but certainly harder to use. Many ancient armies had divisions of slingers. The Romans also incorporated them, often recruiting slingers from their conquered neibours.
There is a variation on the standard slingshot (we call it a slingshot cannon) which will easily hurl water ballons (or rocks) across a football field. It takes three people to work it (unless you lie down) and is really pretty dangerous (fun though). Got hit by a water baloon shot from one on the arm. Strangely not all that painful – even after the feeling returned about half an hour later…

32 DAN May 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

I can remember me and my dad making one of these, good job.

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34 John May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm

C. Fielding, while you may not agree with this post being the subject matter of a mature adult man, it does depend on how you look at it. For me, the archetype of manliness was my dad. It seemed like he could make anything, knew everything, play something on every type of instrument, etc. My favorite and most memorable toys were the things that he made for me. Maybe a slingshot is more of a toy than a weapon, but being able to make them for your sons and daughters and teach them how to use them in a safe and responsible fashion is, to me, very manly indeed.

As for the bug out bags and spy tech stuff, everyone’s definition of manliness is very different. I feel like this site represents the diversity very well, ranging from men sometimes being big kids who enjoy fun things (slingshots, high tech spy toys, baseball, etcetera) to being a well prepared individual able to take on any situation (dressing appropriately, survival) to being a good dad. If you only like one of these things, it seems like you’re going to not like most of the articles on here. So think about what you’re complaining about. If a post doesn’t meet your definition of manliness, think about how other people’s ideas of manliness may be in sync with it. Neither definition is wrong, but neither is definitely right either.

35 Steve May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Went to home depot to get the latex surgical tubing for this project…$18 bucks for ten feet!!! Way too expensive…and you can’t buy in a smaller quantity. So I would suggest buying a replacement tubing/leather combo (Daisy brand) at Walmart for $3 bucks…you will save a lot by doing it this way!

36 Matt May 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm

So… Now for the how-to guide for an evil bow and arrow set… Time to get medieval

37 Mick May 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm

@Alex Barbolish, That’s exactly what I did too. I plaited my own sling using kangaroo hide lace. I love it. I did a round plait with a length of firmly twisted roo hide as the belly. I just wanted to explain a basic sling for Sam to start him off.

38 Adam Archer May 25, 2012 at 1:09 am

If u read this ur a fagg

39 Harry May 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm

It should also be noted here that possession of a a slingshot in NY state is illegal. It may also be illegal in other states, check before you build one.

40 Dr McKay May 31, 2012 at 3:15 am

As a kid, took out a car windscreen with one made as follows:
High tensile fencing wire in a vice bent to shape, 2 rubber rings as used for preserving jam etc… piece of leather in between and off I went. Too dangerous, had to stop.

41 tim June 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I made my first one while in SERE training. Used a dead dry branch some rubber tubing and a hunk of parachute

42 THX1138 June 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm

A wrist-brace type slingshot is illegal in NY state, not every slingshot. Jeez, check your facts!

43 abe September 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm

whats so bad about a 32 year old with a slingshot. while growing up in Mexico my dad made these allot and hunted small game to eat. hes fifty years old and still plays around with them. also the used the exact same directions to make it as Brett except he used waxed thread and let the wood dry by itself

44 Valerie T Swabb October 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Thank you!

45 Midge_fodder November 8, 2012 at 1:10 am

I usually make mine out of 1″ white ash fork and flat bands. I make them small enough to fit in my pocket. A Slingshot with good rubber and proper ammunition makes an easy kill for Rabbit and Squirrel. In Scotland it is legal to use them as a means of hunting, provided you have the land owners permission an that the intention is to kill not injure, a maimed quarry must be dispatched humanly. For me a Slingshot is much more convenient as a means of pest control as we have very strict Gun laws, Air Rifles are out and out illegal unless on private land, getting caught with one is a serious offence if it is in an area where people have free access. That includes access to the Quarry Beat.

46 Mike November 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Interesting how some are saying it’s a child’s toy and not taking it seriously. In my Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Backwoodsman magazine there is an article called The Art of Staying Lost SEAL Style and sports a picture of Madison Parker with two dead squirrels and his slingshot. It’s an effective weapon for small game.

47 wildfarm December 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

At 85, obviously, I haven’t used a slingshot in many years but, as a kid, I was never without one. My bands were always cut from latex inner tubes that have been unavailable for a long time. My pouch was cut from an old shoe tongue. My favorite staff was the perfect fork from a dogwood tree. I became a pretty deadly shot and put a hurting on many starlings.

I once owned a commercial slingshot made of metal for shooting BB’s. It had a magazine in the handle for fast reloading. I wish they were available now because they were great for those starlings.

All this reading has given me the fever again. I have a piece of well cured maple that I think I’ll shape up with my band saw. Thanks for the article.

48 samir March 9, 2013 at 10:51 am

I am so going to make one! My utility closet is dry and warm.

49 Mollykins April 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm

You know, I’ve made plenty of slingshots. And they all worked AWESOME! :D

50 Fanny September 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I got injured at work and currently off sick, I’m broke so looking for stuff to make for ‘the lads’ for Christmas. This cuts the mustard.

Will wrap it with a can of beer and send them all off to play over the fields, out from under my feet while I destroy the Christmas turkey. Again. (Will also include directions to local A&E Dept!) Cheers!

51 bill October 6, 2013 at 5:27 am

I’ve dried many a slingshot blank in a microwave and you should always whittle the bark off before cooking.

52 Collin Crandall November 11, 2013 at 11:39 am

Instead of inner tubing I used gum rubber from amazon.com. Its a great project that raly pays off.

53 Esmail March 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eHqFVn7Xsw

Try that! Quicker and more simple.

54 THE LITTLE MAN April 16, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I can’t wait to make it! I have a slingshot but its old and falling apart! :(

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