The first step is to decide on the slingshot's dynamics. This determines the way that it shoots. It is the most fundamental part of the design process.
- The orientation - the way that the slingshot is held (upright or on its side)
- The biomechanics - the way that the slingshot will work with the body to resist torque and tension, absorb shock and release the slingshot staying on target
- The ergonomics - the fit of the slingshot in the hand with reference to the orientation and biomechanics
- The balance - weight and balance
Once these positions and their path is fixed, I just need to fill in the remaining space with a slingshot. That's not some Zen-like statement about finding the statue of Buddha in the tree and carving away all that is not Buddha, it literally means to plan the position of the fingers and the fork tip which together determine the dynamics and then connect the dots with an elegant looking frame.
The foregoing is simple and sequential. The great challenge is to fill in around these positions to not only fill the hand comfortably, but to balance the slingshot, and make something pleasing to the eye. That may come in an instant flash of inspiration, or just through constantly obsessing about it in the shower, on the daily commute, or basically any time you should be working.
In the case of the T1, I was looking for a small, flat board cut to be a standard frame for testing new bandsets and to make with less labour so I could trade with other members. I also wanted to showcase the use of plastics for boardcuts. Up to that time, the use of plastics or composites was rare and most slingshots were made of wood and/or steel. The first choice of thin acrylic was less than totally robust - I was making the point that even supposedly weak plastics could be used if the design was complementary.
The shape was based around two concentric circles for the fork and then a fat handle with a cut out for three fingers. The wide forks and web combined with high fingers reduce the likelihood of fork failure.
I like to document my work and this forms a body of reference material that I can turn to later. Here is some design study work I did when coming up with the T1 Model:
The T1 design is copyright© and this image and blog post does not constitute permission to copy the design.
The shape of the T1 was partly based on my prior experience designing The Shootist. The Shootist used low forks and a high finger grip to reduce wrist torque and a narrow raised ridge for the lower three fingers to grip onto. If you look at the T1 Ergonomic design study above, you can see this replicated in one side of the handle loop. On the whole, the ergonomics is more or less the same.
I like to design my slingshot frames around a theme. In the case of the original T1, the Candy Apple, I wanted it to look like pooled candy or burgundy wine, so the design had a lot of flow to it. I wanted The Shootist to look like a target shooter's carved stock.
My Desert Ironwood and Steel fork was to introduce myself as a hobbyist knifemaker and incorporates many techniques and design elements common to custom knives.
Desert Ironwood Forged Steel Slingshot
Scallops was intended to showcase the design and creation process for a cast slingshot, and I wanted to come up with a design reminiscent of the classics from the days when commercial cast metal slingshots ruled. I gave it the same kind of flow, with a blocky shape that nevertheless typified the master pattern maker's art. With tips from Pete at Hogancastings, a true mater pattern maker, I came up with this:
The Scallops design is copyright© and this image and blog post does not constitute permission to copy the design.
It does incorporate several design cues from other maker's slingshots. As I wrote in my original post:
There's a lot to acknowledge here, as I endeavour to stand on the shoulders of giants. I started with Performance Catapults' grip geometry. I widened the fork a little and was influenced by A+ Catapults' PS seties, though my curves will be scalloped like the recent BMW car bodies. The overall shape and cuts differ from the PS series too. The lanyard hole borrows from Dankung's and Smitty's bent wire slingshots. The V-plunge is my own. It sounds like a hodge-podge of stolen ideas, but it comes together in a unique way.
What makes it special is the way it comes together. I adopted a common theme, a sort of Art Deco flow and line and the complementary scallops of a German car.
With so many excellent designs being shown every day, it is a major challenge to design a slingshot which is totally fresh and has never before been seen, yet has an elegant simplicity so that it is obvious in retrospect and an instant classic. As I have shown above, the trick is to find a new aspect, either to imagine a new theme in which the design can come together, or to come up with a totally new geometry like the T1. Jörg Sprave and Bill Hays are two designers that come to mind that have mastered that and their portfolios are rich and exciting because of that.
If you are a new maker, the temptation to copy all the great designs that you admire can be irresistible. I myself learned knife making that way, buy working from kits, duplicating knives I couldn't afford to buy and from learning under direct instruction by master smiths. When I started making slingshots, I copied Geko's 'Favorit' shooter as he encourages people to do so, and I duplicated A+ Slingshots' PS-1 under paid license. However, the danger in duplicating others' work is that one never goes through all the design step and becomes a slave to precedent. This is especially so if the majority of the work is farmed out. Unless you go through whole design and making process, you don't really develop as a maker.
Another problem with copying designs is often you miss the details that really make the design and come up with an imperfect clone. Here, I copied Perry's (A+ Slingshots) PS-1 design. I wasn't trying to be cheap; I happily paid him the price of an original slingshot to be allowed to make and show it, but I just couldn't wait for the post. At the same time, i placed an order for a real PS-1. However, I used super-duper Jade G10 and figured I'd done a really good job of creating an exact clone. When the real deal showed up, I was astounded. I had gotten it completely wrong. You'll have to look really carefully at these two photos to spot the differences, but if you saw them in person, held them in your hand and shot them, it would be completely obvious.
The Clone Trooper
A+ Slingshots Maple PS-1 #071
For a start, the PS-1 is much smaller than my copy, and I have very small hands too. Secondly, I had rounded over, but I completely missed the way Perry cuts his gorgeous and deep symmetrical scallops. You can see them below:
A+ Slingshots Bamboo PS-1 #035
Thirdly, he makes his slingshots out of very light woods like maple and bamboo. The way he cuts his hole feels different in the hand to the mine turned out. The bands are completely different it look and performance. Altogether, my slingshot proved to be a very different thing to the one I had copied. They were like chalk and cheese. If I had not bought the original slingshot, I would have learned very little about Perry's design. My re-make was one of the closest clones to Perry's that I have seen too.