Fast Simple Bead/Boilie (fish Bait)/Slingshot Ammo Roller





Introduction: Fast Simple Bead/Boilie (fish Bait)/Slingshot Ammo Roller

About: Just your typical Evil Mad Scientist, constantly thinking of new inventions to subjugate the world with! I'm big on hydroponics, electronics, and small portable nuclear fusion power plants. I just go crazy...


Polymer clay bead rollers seem a bit expensive to me. Plus they only make them in one size and a set of shapes. So I thought I could make a quick and simple one for cheap! First off I should make the disclaimer that "I made it at TechShop", so I had a lot of great tools at my disposal. One of the other members in the shop had some clay that he used for a project that had gotten plaster and dirt in it so he was going to throw it out, so I rescued it to make slingshot ammo out of. I'll be writing an instructable on making a slingshot soon!

The basic concept is you have a cylinder sawed in half lengthwise to give you two half cylinders. You put a measured amount of your medium (clay or polymer clay) into the center, rub the two halves together and you get a perfect sphere.

Now you can use these for making polymer clay beads for your jewelry project. You can use these to make perfect little spheres of fish bait, the English call these "Boilies". We in the States just call them dough bait balls. I also used this to make perfect ammo for my slingshot out of clay. It's biodegradable and non-toxic.

I should also mention that I have plans for other ways of making bead/ball rollers so I will be adding to this instructable in the future. One of the issues with this method is that it only does one ball at a time. I want to make a tray so that I can roll multiple balls/beads at once! And I'm working on ways to do just that.


1/2" PVC pipe, you only need a 2-3 foot length of this. This makes beads/balls about 15mm in diameter. You can experiment with other sizes.

Saw, I used a band saw with a thin blade

Sandpaper, I used a belt/disc sander

Clay or Polymer Clay

Step 1: A Word About Kerf, and a Little Bit of Strategy.

Kerf is a word I'm going to use, and many people may not be familiar with the concept. Basically it's the amount of material removed by the tool you are using to cut with. We could just cut our PVC pipe and use the two halves, but then we would end up with a more oval shape because the two halves wouldn't be perfectly semi-spherical. So the most important part of this project is that we want to adjust for the kerf. My solution is to cut just shy of center and throw one piece (the smaller piece) away.

Actually I cut just shy of the center line of the tube, and then sanded the good half down on the belt sander to get a somewhat perfect semi-sphere. This also gets rid of some of the bits and pieces that stick around after cutting.

Now the other important issue is that we want a straight cut. We don't want the tube to rotate at all while we are cutting it. So to alleviate this issue, I glued the pvc tube to a spare piece of wood. I used Gorilla glue because it foams up and makes more contact with the round PVC tube. I let this dry overnight and picked the project back up the next day.

Step 2: Make a Jig and Cut the Tube

I clamped a scrap piece of wood to the band saw as a guide so that I could get an almost perfect straight cut. I didn't bother to measure and mark the perfect center line of the tube, I just eyeballed it. Basically I want to have a smidge more than half on the right side of the picture.

Once the tube has been cut, I threw out the waste piece glued to the wood. Then I just cut my good perfect semi-spherical half in half so that I have two pieces instead of one.

Step 3: Roll Your Balls!

The basic technique that I use is to roll out my medium in a snake like shape until it's about the same width as the inside of our nifty new bead/ball roller. Then I pinch of what looks like the appropriate amount and place it in the bead/ball roller. Then rub the two halves together to form the ball. If you have too much you'll get a weird shape, so just pinch some material off and re-roll. If you don't have enough you'll be able to tell as well, so just add a pinch of material and re-roll.

I used this ball/bead roller to make a bunch of clay ammo for my slingshot (Instructable on how to make that coming soon). I just baked the clay (after drying for a day) in an oven at 450°F (230°C) for an hour. You don't need a kiln, we want these puppies to explode in a poof of clay dust, they just need to hold up long enough for use to shoot them.

I also made some slingshot ammo/balls out of Polymer clay. This just bakes in a toaster oven at 275°F (130°C) for 20-30 minutes. Some polymer clay is different and you should follow the cooking time and temperature on the package. You should also never use a toaster oven that you used for polymer clay for food. Keep it for projects only. They are cheap anyway. I just popped mine in the powder coating oven at the shop.



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29 Discussions

Hi DrPeper

here is a link that shows you how to make a sawdust kiln, not they don't actually show him make it but use it, but it is a simple brick lined pit in his garden that has a removable slab. He put in a good layer, adds pottery, more layer, more pots, making a sawdust, pottery lasagna. He starts a top down burn, then covers it. 12 hours later....pottery.

When the items finishes playing you can see other links more "official, if you look around you can find plans, but this is not rocket science for what we want to make, I think a simple brick hole will suffice. and if you are in a place with literally tons of clay, you can make a huge ammo dump worth in 1 firing.

I did a little research on clay and found if you add a lot of aggregate , small size (like sand), you will experience less explosions due to air pockets. What you want is non combustible aggregates as they will not get gassified and need a vent, causing items to crack and pop.

again, thanks for writing a very usable article

Nice use of line drawing to explain kerf. A photo probably wouldnt be as clear.

1 reply

Thank you. I find Illustrations to be easier to convey certain topics.

great I was thinking in build something like this to make cake pops the one they sell is way to expensive but the principle is the same

3 replies

Cake pops?! Interesting, all the molds I've seen for cake pops have been spherical. I'd be interested in knowing how it came out when you are done.

That video was pretty cool. It gave me some ideas. Particularly in how they used a form to roll the sheet, and then used the roller plate to make strips. I was thinking of making an extruder to get perfect strips, but their method might be easier/quicker/cheaper to implement.

Great instructable. This reminds me of an antique pill roller.
That design was more like a washboard and had a flat spot and ridge so you could measure the thickness of the roll. Then lay the roll across all the parallel half tubes that were cut into two slabs of wood. Rub back and forth to create your pills.

Glad to see this because it gives me some ideas on how to roll Masanobu Fukuoka type seed balls.

4 replies

I came here to say the same thing. I saw one of the pill rollers you described (two sliding plates with several mating half round channels) in a video on tv about Chinese medicine. I had actually considered trying it for rolling round stars for making fireworks, but never did. Then on my way to a convention in Idaho back in the mid 90's I guess, we drove through Wall South Dakota and saw the famous tourist trap Wall Drug. They had just such a vintage device in one of their pharmacy displays.

"Bolie" as a search term brought up so many images that I had not seen before. Never heard of the term before I saw this on my email subscription.

I had forgotten completely about those old fashioned pill rollers, and the concept of Boilie rolling trays is the same. I've been working on a method to make one using some ABS sheets, something shaped like a cylinder cut in half, and a vacuum former. But my results so far have been less than I was aiming for. Still working on that one.

Sorry I guessed that "boilie" was just something fanciful. I did a image search and wow what a lot of images. I had no idea. When I first went poking around I found a lot of seed ball stuff where they shake or turn clay with dry dust. The balls are irregular in size and it is a bit of an art form.

I'm impressed to hear that you have already given it a try.

this is fabulous, clay is free if you know where to look. Air dry is good enough , but you can fire them in the yard hard enough to wack wabbits sqwerrels and starlings (yeah like I could shoot straight enough to hit one).

But everything is practice and this is an el cheapo method for good ammo.


5 replies

you do not have to fully bake them, just enough is good enough, fill a can with saw dust maybe 2 inches then layer in some balls more sawdust more ammo till you reach the top, Bury the can light up the top of the saw dust cover it . Look up Rikki or saw dust kiln/japanese kiln.

OH BOY! I handn't thought of that! I can't wait to discuss it with the guys in the shop. We've got plenty of sawdust. There's a restaurant right around the corner that has a never ending supply of #10 cans. Adding fire to the mix will definitely spark some interest. Thank you!

glad you liked it, and I wish I could say I invented it, but alas I did not. If you can't find a kiln plan set drop me an PM.

To add some weight to your "balls" knead in some iron filings.

I did not know that the Greeks made lead "sling" "shot", but I know the ancients absolutely made clay ones saw it on line and in various history tv shows. (no no, no, it was not "Aliens")

A small thing I read about last year, at such small sizes (and that includes True sling, throwers), aerodynamics is not a real issue. Oriental Hero mentions the idea of the lead shot and it was american football shaped. While this is true, the use of clay shot was just as prevalent, if not more so, as clay was easy to get. And if you put them in a camp fire, but not super hot, you may get a nice hard losenger that can whack a wabbit, right into the stew pot, or put a pidgeon on the barbie

I think near perfect sphere would feel better in the sling, but if it doesn't matter, then that makes construction even easier.

Very nice Instructable simple and useful. I too ,noticed the method as akin to the pill rollers of yesterday. I have seen them many times at place like Mystic Seaport Ct. and Historic Williamsburg Va.

Using two paddles with ridges on one side, it is how fancy Inns/restaurants, make fluted butter balls for table service, well, 100 years ago they did!

thanks again

I replied below, but I've been working on making a sling as well. I'm making mine from loops of plastic shopping bags. I have an Instructable on weaving it into ropes/cord. I've been using that to weave a sling continuously from handle to end all as one piece. I just have to finish the basket for the projectile now. And write the Instructable.

But back on the sawdust kiln, I did some research yesterday and I'm going to try it out. I'm working with another person in the shop, who makes pottery. We've been talking about firing some slingshot ammo, some sake cups, and maybe a full sized cup. We don't have a kiln in our TechShop (yet) so this project will make for another nice instructable, so thank you for the inspiration!

Do remember shopping bags are a limited use source material. They degrade in UV from sunlight. Plastic bags left in the sun for a year or so shred and crumble. For immediate use they are fine, strong and free.

I was giving the ammo some thought yesterday and remembered the true sling shot clay ammo was kinda egg shaped then flattened almost the shape of a clay oil lamp in say 2 BC. I have just looked and can not find one pic of them. grrr but many many picks of football shaped pieces, perhaps this is in relation to their slings. Many slings have a pouch that looks like you took a long string, went to the center opened the eave enough to make an eye shaped opening, then wrapped the "eyelids" and tied the string right at the ends of the lids, so it stays open and resists abrasion.

see this page, your pic is there as well


again great instructable, happy wabbit hunting! Or just shoot'n cans off the fence.

I've just published an Instructable on how to brighten up muddy/dark images.