One of the most interesting tools, in my opinion, used by paleo hunters was the sling. Unlike other hunting implements, it could be created on a moment's notice with very little effort and utilizing supplies that were available regardless of where they were. They were also extremely portable. Tied around the waist as a belt, or wrapped around the wrist, a sling made a perfect secondary weapon, in the event that the hunters primary tool became damaged or lost. Slings were extremely effective for hunting, however they required quite a bit of practice to master, tho an experienced slinger was known to take down animals as large as a wolf. With the advent of the bow, the sling fell out of favor, only showing up, occasionally, on the battlefields in great numbers as a cheaper alternative to archers, however it's general use as a hunting implement was rarely employed.
These days, slinging has become somewhat of a sport, with a loyal following that share designs and innovations mostly in online forums. There are even clubs that hold slinging competitions that test the slingers construction skill, and prowess with their sling. It's also becoming popular in dog parks, where owners are using slings to achieve more distance when throwing balls for their pets.
I've used a variety of different materials in sling making including hemp, jute, wool, alpaca fur, leather, even gathered dog hair, if you can imagine that. For this instructable, I'm going to concentrate on my favorite material which is deer hide. Deer hide has the advantage of being one of the strongest, lightest leathers available, allowing for finer string making, while retaining enough strength for an effectively powerful sling. It is also, somewhat, elastic, and unlike the rigid qualities of hemp, can give a bit of 'spring' to your finished sling, if only improving it's power somewhat. If you don't have any leather on hand, it isn't a problem. This instructable can be created with any material you have readily available, even and including creating your own. If you would like to start from scratch, I cover string making in my instructable on net weaving here;
Net Weaving and String Making Instructable
I'll also be including a video, I'd made quite a long time ago on sling making. If you can get past the quality (early days of youtube) it's pretty informative and shows some of the techniques I use. As usual, I hope you enjoy this instructable.
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
- Sharp Knife
- wheel cutter (preferred but not essential)
- cutting mat
- Deer Hide or Jute, hemp etc. 12"x12" piece
- Leather Glue
Step 2: Cutting Your String
You're going to need to make roughly 50' of rope for one sling. This isn't as hard as it sounds using one 12x12" patch of deer hide leather. To start, cut off the corners to round your leather patch. You can use a sharp knife, but the entire process is 100x easier if you use a wheel cutter. The pink and purple model you see in the image was purchased from a local dollar store. Please don't judge me on it. Now, start cutting a strip, roughly 3/16"-1/4" wide from the circumference of the patch, rotating it as you cut. Keep cutting around and around, as the patch becomes progressively smaller, trying to maintain the width of your string as much as possible. Don't worry if you cut too wide or too thin. You can cut out pieces that are too thin and splice the string back together using the leather glue without affecting the strength of your sling. If all goes well, this should provide you with roughly 60' of usable string.
**I find that wetting your leather prior to cutting actually makes the process easier. It's not necessary, but you'll find your string will have better consistent width if you do.
Step 3: Measuring Your Strands
One of the most important aspects of this sling, is that it will be customized to your size and arm length. You can measure with a tape or ruler, however it isn't necessary. A functional sling should have a half length that is exactly the length of your arm. There are some that suggest that its total length should be from finger tip to finger tip of your outstretched arms, however I'd suggest that this would be too long for the beginner slinger. If you're just getting into slinging, an arm length is optimal.
You're going to need three 12-14' strands for the body of the sling and a fourth 14' strand to create the pouch. Measure from your finger tip to the shoulder of the opposite arm three times, then cut the length of string from your bundle. Repeat this two more times. For the pouch, you can measure it the same way, adding one full arm length to it.
Step 4: The Finger Loop
Line the three strands together then, folding them in half, find the center (image 1). Once you've located the center, measure over two finger thicknesses and tie off the strands. (Image 2). This should create one end that is longer than the other.
Now, clamp (or tie) down the shorter end to a solid surface, then separate the three strands of the longer end. Begin braiding the three strands (image 3) by using a system of left over center, right over center, left over center, right over center etc. until you have a braided piece that is roughly 3" long. Be certain that your braid is nice and tight. Don't be afraid of using force as the deer hide should be more than strong enough to handle it.
Once you've finished your braid, fold the section into a loop, separate the strands into three bundles (image 4), pairing the left strand with the left strand, the center with the center and the right with the right.
Step 5: Braiding the Primary Limb
From here on in, we'll refer to the end with the finger loop as the 'primary limb', for clarity. Once you've folded over your finger loop and separated the 6 strands into three pairs, attach the loop to a solid surface and begin braiding in the same way that you did creating the loop itself. I.E. Left two over center two, right two over center two, left two over center two, right two over center two, etc. Repeat this process until the primary limb is as long as your outstretched finger tip to your shoulder. Be certain that you keep the braid of your limb as tight as possible. There will be some stretching during use and you don't want the limbs of your sling to become weak, possibly breaking.
Once the primary limb is the right length, seperate the six total strands into two bundles of three. Tie off three of the strands, for now, so that they don't become unraveled as we work with the other three. (image 4)
Step 6: Creating the Pouch
To create the pouch, we need to add the fourth strand that we created in the beginning, with one end used to form one side of the split, and the other end for the opposite side. Unfortunately, I didn't document it, but the best way to incorporate it would be to add it to the primary limb for 1 or 2 more braids, ensuring, after your done that one end becomes part of the left three strands, and the other end is incorporated into the right three strands. In my video, I use a sewing needle to stitch it through the primary limb, which is another way this can be accomplished.
With 3+1 strands of the other half of the split pouch tied off and placed out of the way, grab the three strands you will be working with and hold them perpendicular to each other. Now take your fourth strand and begin weaving it in an over under pattern, tightly at first then slightly looser till it starts making a patch that is roughly 3/4-1" wide. The process is simple, start over the left, under the middle, over the right and around underneath, now OVER the middle and under the left coming around over again. Repeat this process until you have a woven piece that is roughly as long as the width of your 4 fingers. **As you get closer to the end, tighten your weave so that it creates a taper much like it did at the starting end.** Cut any additional length of the pouch strand leaving roughly 6 inches and tie it off so that it doesn't unravel.
Now take the 3+1 strands of the other half of the pouch and repeat the process until you have two woven pieces of exactly the same length.
Step 7: Setting Your Pouch and Starting the Secondary Limb
Once you have two woven pieces for your pouch, you'll need to bring the opposite end together before you can start on your secondary limb. You'll notice that one piece automatically wants to overlap the other. What we want to to is invert that for the secondary limb side (image 2 and 3). The reason for this is that, when it's being used, the inverted pieces will cause the pouch to form a bowl shape, holding the stone in place more securely. If you don't fold it over, you'll find that the pouch just flattens out and doesn't hold your ammo.
Once you've set your pouch, you'll need to separate the six strands into three groups of two again. Now you'll notice you still have the additional length from the pouch weave left over. Add one strand to the left most bundle, and one strand to the right most bundle and begin weaving as you did when you started the primary limb. Once you've completed 3-4 braids, you can cut off the additional length (image 7) from the pouch weave strands and terminate them there. The tension in the braid will secure them into place and prevent the pouch from unwrapping.
Step 8: Finishing the Secondary Limb
Continue braiding the secondary limb until it is roughly 2" longer than the primary. You can make them the exact same length, but you'll want room for adjustment as you get a feel for slinging. Some people prefer them to be the same length, while others prefer a longer secondary. It's really up to you so I suggest giving yourself extra length just in case.
To finish the secondary limb, just tie a simple knot at the very end. Cut any left over strands down, leaving 1.5" for a 'tail'. This extra tail is to prevent the end of the sling from 'whipping' when released and can go a long way to avoiding you getting struck in the eye by a flailing sling.
Step 9: Finishing Thoughts
Though a sling is really no different than throwing rocks with your hands, there are still risks associated with it. The do's and don'ts are simple: do use in an open space...do make sure nobody is withing a 180 degree arc ahead of you as stones can fly in funny ways...Don't stand right beside someone slinging...Don't stand in front of them either. Basically, have fun with it and keep it safe. Slinging is good exercise and can be a fun way to pass the time, especially if you replace the stone with a ball, and let your dog chase after it.
As usual, I hope you enjoyed the instructable and thanks for following.