Monday, June 14, 2010

Make Your Own Slingshot


Slingshots have been used for centuries. When people wrote about David fighting Goliath, what weapon did David use? A slingshot, though the slingshot that was used then was probably a piece of fabric which was flung around the head providing centrifugal force to propel a stone or other missile. But it was still a slingshot. This essay will talk about how to make a slingshot, what to make them with, and how to use them properly and safely.

To build a slingshot, I used a handsaw, a knife (which must be sharp since a dull knife can be dangerous), a piece of strong but flexible leather, two wide rubber bands, and a y-shaped stick.

When choosing your stick, you want a fresh unrotten one. I used sycamore which I found in our backyard after a storm. If a slingshot is made out of too hard a wood, it could snap and hit the bearer in the face. Pine can also work nicely for a slingshot.

The forks on my slingshot are about 5 inches in length. Using my knife, I whittled notches at each end of the fork. I cut the leather into roughly a one-and-a-half inch by three-and-a-half inch rectangle. Then I made two incisions near the narrow ends of the leather.

slingshot bands

I attached the rubber bands to the stick by wrapping the rubber band around the stick and sticking one end through the other.

slingshot notches bands

Then I stuck the other end of the rubber bands through the slits in the leather and anchored them with tiny twigs.

slingshot twigs

To work the slingshot, pull back the leather pouch slowly while the slingshot faces the ground. Hold your ammunition in place against the inside of the leather, then life the slingshot and take aim, still keeping the leather taut. Release.

When using your slingshot, be careful! Make sure there is nothing in your way before you pull the leather back. Do not underestimate how far a handmade slingshot can shoot.

I use acorns for ammunition and use my slingshot to see how accurate I can aim at a target. Instead of accuracy, you could practice for distance, or whatever you like.

I invented this pattern and have enjoyed using my slingshot very much. I hope you do too!

Friday, June 4, 2010


The Ramayana is a great Indian epic originally written in Sanskrit about 500 B.C.  It is a central text of the Hindu religion.  I just read an illustrated version of one story from the Ramayana: The Adventures of Rama by Milo Cleveland Beach.  The story in this book tells of Rama, a heroic prince favored by the gods.  He goes on adventures, finds true love, and slays demons to save the world from evil creatures.  It is a classic hero story--very similar to Greek myths, to the medieval tales in King Arthur and Robin Hood, and also to Homer's Odyssey, which was written about two hundred years before the Ramayana.

The illustrations in this book are from a sixteenth-century manuscript currently in the possession of the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art.  The art reminds me of early Egyptian art because the artists often choose to illustrate people with their heads in profile, their chests facing the front, and the legs in profile.  Interestingly, many of the monsters are not drawn that way, although a few are.  I wonder if the artists thought this distinguished between monsters and humans and good creatures like the monkeys?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Note by Note

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 is about how Steinway pianos are made. The documentary follows a particular piano as it is constructed and adjusted by hand. The case (the outer frame) of the piano is built first. It is then left to age for 8 weeks. Then the sound board is put in, the piano is strung, the keys are inserted, the felt hammers are shaved, and the list goes on. It takes an entire year to make this one piano.

Throughout the film, there are interviews with famous pianists such as Lang Lang and Hank Jones. They talk about how and why they are choosing Steinway pianos. Because the pianos are handmade, they are of very high quality. Each piano is a little bit different, and each pianist is looking for a particular sound and feel. So the musicians often try out many Steinways before they find the perfect fit. Musicians giving concerts in New York City sometimes rent specific concert grands just for their performances.

This is a great movie for piano players and non-players alike. I myself play piano and highly recommend that others see this movie.