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Three posts on the subject of sling braiding, and sling ammunition

Last updated 1/2/98

Date: Sun, 1 Jun 1997 16:53:21 -0700
From: "James E. Burdine" (
Subject: Fiber sling after action report

Made another fiber sling at the request of a friend of mine that had seen the first one I made and wanted one. I had changed a few things on it and thought that I would include the after action report to the group.

#18 seine twine White
#18 seine twine Yellow in slightly harder twist.
Large bulldog clamps x 2
Macrame knot tying board
T pins
Home made netting needle
variety of darning needles
rubber bands a variety of sizes

Measured out 4 lengths of twine , 2 yellow and 2 white each 8 arm lengths long (roughly 72 1/2 inches for each arm length) The four lengths were then folded in half and cut at the fold, making 8 lengths. The middle of each cord was found and marked. The cords were clamped together with the bulldog clamp at the middle and exactly one half of the desired length of the finger loop was decided and then the cords are tied together with a rubber band and the bulldog clamp removed.

A 4 element braid is started with two strands of each color acting as one element. Once the length of the finger loop is achieved, each end is brought together and fastened with a rubber band. Then separate the individual strands into two 4 strand elements of each color. Make your butterfly bobbins for each element and fasten with rubber bands. If you made your bobbins correctly then all you have to do is pull on them and more cordage will feed, if not then you will have to take the bobbins down and redo them when you need more cord. ( I usually wind up retying them a couple of times) I then started a 4 element braid braiding up, using the finger loop as an anchor in my palm. The first couple of inches comes easy and then you wind up with trouble as the elements start not laying up quite correctly, and then I wound up weaving the same color elements through each other for an improved less frustrating lay.( see diagram)

x		X
x		X
x		X

You deal with only two elements of the same color at a time while the other two elements are held against the anchor in the palm of your hand. You continue criss crossing the same color elements , smoothing them against the anchor , then pull the other color elements forward pulling tight , then weave them through. Continue braiding in this manner until you have a braid that is about 27 to 28 inches long. tie an over hand knot one set of elements to keep the braid from unraveling. Eight strands of # 18 seine twine about two feet long are sewed through the end of the braid leaving about one foot on each side, this will make the other 16 extra warps for a total of 32 warps. The braid will then be pinned down or clamped down onto the tying board. The bull dog clamps are used to hold some of the surplus length of the cordage after you take the bobbins down to free up the individual warps.

Now load up your netting needle with whatever cordage you are going to use to weave the sling pocket. Anchor this cordage by whipping the first inch of so of the braid before you come to the warps. Now divide the warps into groups of 11 on each end and 10 in the middle and start whipping and tying double half hitches working your way across the three groups of warps. After about one half inch start weaving with the the Ghiordes knot using up two cords as a single element so that there is a gradual spread from the three groups of gathered warps, gradually separating until individual strands are acting as a single element except for the outer two strands that always act as a single element.

I noticed that there was a convex appearance to the weave and compensated by adding more loops to the outer warps and using half hitches instead of the ghiordes knot in the center elements until they were level by the time the center of the pouch had been reached. Once you are satisfied that you have reached the center of the pouch, start planning to taper the pouch by gradually using extra strands as single elements. Then end the pouch by dividing into the three groups of warps again. I actually burned the extra elements off with a butane lighter(melts and seals the cut as well so that it won't unravel) instead, but in the next sling all of the elements will be gathered up until the braid is restarted.

The cordage used to weave the sling pocket is left attached while the release cord is braided. Then whip the braid after the end of the pouch and finish with several double half hitches. Then use the butane lighter to cut the weave cord(if it is nylon) Now put your middle finger into the retention loop and put the release cord in your hand and decide where you want the release node, and use the weave cord to whip your release node. You can use needle and cordage to reinforce any weak areas, and to reinforce any other areas. Some of the whipped areas can feel a bit rough and a embroidery floss can be used to soften those areas and add a bit more strength. I also used yellow embroidery floss to soften and cinch up the retention loop a bit. I had thought about using some contrasting color to decorate it a bit, but I left it simple.

Well that's it . I like this sling especially the way the pocket forms a natural cup, and that the pouch is larger. It will take a tennis ball filled with water if you want to use that as backyard practice ammo.(take a hypodermic needle and a 30 cc syringe and gradually fill the ball with as much water as it will take, gives it a nice weight and won't destroy windows or people if it should accidentally hit someone)

Date: Tue, 3 Jun 97 17:23:53 CDT
From: Marty Jones <>
Reply to:
Subject: Another Sling-Construction Posting

Now I've gotten into this sling-making stuff, and have come up with a design that rolls up really small, yet is sturdy and powerful. It seems well-suited to tossing a variety of ammo, as it is lightweight with low wind resistance. I'll add my technique to the growing list of publications.

Here's how I've been doing it, although I'm still a rookie at slings. Most of the braiding technique was lifted from reference materials I got from Jim Burdine and modified per my own interpretations:


1. Using nylon fishing cord ("trotline"), measure out four lengths about 1-3/4 times as long as the finished sling is to be. Be generous - the penalty for too much string is just that it's harder to work with, but too little and you won't have enough to finish the sling. I start with four ten-foot pieces.

2. Tie the four cords together, using a temporary knot, about 1-1/2 feet from one end of the bundle. You should now have a bundle of four strands, with a knot near one end, 8-1/2 feet of cords on one side of the knot and 1-1/2 feet on the other.

3. Ball up each of the four cords on the "long" side into what you weavers call a "bobbin" or "butterfly", so that cord may be conveniently pulled from them but they don't tend to tangle so badly.

4. Anchor the "long" side to a convenient object and begin a four-cord square braid in the "short" side, beginning at the knot. Continue the braid for five or six inches, then bind it temporarily with tape. You should now have five or six inches of braid and about a foot of unbraided strands, on the "short" side of the temporary knot.

5. Double the braided section over on itself, untie the temporary knot, and use another piece of tape to now bind all 8 strands together at the ends of the braided section. You now have a braided "retention loop" with eight strands hanging from it; four one-foot strands and four long strands in bobbins.

6. Now anchor the retention loop to the work surface. Create four dual strands by pairing each short strand with a bobbin strand. Begin a four-strand braid using the four dual strands. This serves to close the retention loop in a neat, integrated fashion that feels good in your hand.

7. After about six inches of braiding with eight strands, "drop out" the short strands from the weave and continue with the four bobbins. When you reach the correct length for one thong of the sling (probably a little more than 30 inches), stop and temporarily bind with tape to prevent unbraiding. You should now have the retention cord, a finger loop at one end, about half a foot of eight-strand braid, and the remaining length of four-strand braid. Where the eight-strand braid becomes four-strand, there will be a few inches of the four loose strands sticking out.

8. Trim the four loose "short" strands to maybe 1/16-inch from the body of the main cord. Using a butane lighter, melt the end of each into a little ball. As soon as one of the ends is melted, quickly press the metal body of the lighter into it to "mash" the end into a flat head. This will prevent it from ever slipping out of the cord, and also makes it flat so it doesn't snag anything.

9. My reasoning for putting in the transition from an eight-strand braid to a four-strand braid is that, while going to eight strands produces a nice closure for the finger loop, four is plenty for strength when using nylon cord and produces a more compact thong with less wind resistance. Larger thongs may only "feel" right with the heaviest projectiles, and I wanted the latitude of using whatever I found laying in the road.

ABOUT POUCHES: I've been making my pouches of leather and weaving the cords through them. So far, I've not tried a pouch woven from the sling cordage, but I may try a Burdine-style in the near future.

10. The pouch is made of soft suede leather. The basic shape is a rectangle, 4 inches long and 2-1/2 inches wide, with the corners lopped at about a 60-degree angle so that the ends are about 1-1/2 inches wide. Make a card- board pattern first, so that you get it right before going to leather. Trace around the cardboard onto the leather, and cut it out with scissors or a scalpel. The result is just about perfect for golf-ball-sized ammo.

11. All along the upper and lower edges of the pouch, from end to end, make a series of SMALL holes for weaving the cords through. I tend to make mine about 1/8-inch apart, and about 3/32 from the edge. There must be an EVEN number of holes, so that the cords will finish on the same surface of the leather as they begin. In other words, there is one line of holes, even in number, along the edge ABCD and another along edge EFGH. The holes are SMALL - something you punch with an awl or, better yet, one of the chisel-tip leather-sewing punches available from craft stores.

                          B             C
                        *                 *
                 A  *                         *  D
                    *                         *
                    *                         *
                    *                         *
                 E  *                         *  H
                        *                 *
                           F            G

12. Now is the time, if desired, to make any additional perforations in the pouch. An array of holes does seem to allow the pouch to "stretch" and more easily conform to the ammunition, thus holding it more securely during a wind-up. The most favorable hole size and density I have used to date is ten holes cut in the pattern below, using empty brass shell casings. I sharpen the edges of the casings using a reloader's deburring tool. The holes marked "X" are 32-caliber, and the holes marked "O" are 25-caliber.

                        *                 *
                    *      O     O     O      * 
                    *                         *
                    *   O     X     X     O   *
                    *                         *
                    *      O     O     O      *
                        *                 *

13. Now back to the thongs - remove the tape that temporarily bound the four cords together at the braid's end, and terminate them permanently. This can be done either by tying a knot (easier, and sometimes more secure) or by whipping with light cord (looks neater). Segregate the four cords into two groups of two. Treat each pair as a single cord, and tie a knot in the pair about one inch from the whipped/tied braid. The end of your retention thong now splits like a "Y" into two pairs of cords, each pair having a knot about an inch from the split.

14. Examine your pouch. If the finish is not identical on both surfaces, decide which surface you wish to become the "frontside", touching the ammo.

15. Select one of the pairs of cord, and unfurl the two bobbins to allow access to the free ends. Now, entering from the "backside" surface, thread the cords through the holes along edge ABCD. This can be done with either a large sewing needle or a small crochet hook. If your holes are small, as they should be, you may have to pull one cord through at a time. The final result should be that the knot is on the "backside" at "A", then the two cords pass through the first hole to the "frontside", go to the next hole and pass to the "backside", and so on until they pass through the final hole and finish up on the "backside" at "D". This keeps all knots (the ones you started with as well as the one you are about to tie) on the "backside", where they won't be abraded by stones in the pouch.

16. After the first pair is threaded from "A" to "D", it is knotted at "D". The pouch is now held in place between the two knots.

NOTE: Before tying the second knot, it is a nice touch to "bunch up" the leather a little bit, making edge ABCD pucker slightly. Doing this forces the pouch to take on a slightly concave shape, which prevents very rounded ammunition from trying to roll out. The amount of concavity is controlled by the amount the edge is puckered. If desired, the distribution of puckering can be further controlled by using a center knot between points "C" and "D". This will prevent the puckering from redistributing itself due to the pouch moving around on the cords during heavy use or handling. Just be careful that the extra knot is on the "backside" of the pouch like the knots at "A" and "D"; otherwise it may become severely abraded during use.

17. Repeat steps 15 and 16, now threading the other pair of cords through the holes along edge EFGH. Pucker and knot as for edge ABCD. Now bring both pairs back together about one inch from the pouch, and fasten by a knot or whipping as was done at the other side of the pouch in step 13. The pouch is now complete.

18. Anchor the pouch to your work surface and continue making the release thong as a four-strand square braid. Braid this thong several inches longer than necessary, then temporarily terminate it by tying a knot or wrapping with tape. You are now ready to create the release node, after which you can trim off excess length and seal the cords by melting with the lighter.

19. The release node can be a simple knot in the release thong, or as elaborate as a carved bead woven into the strands. In the beginning, I would advise you to use something that can be easily moved as you tweak and refine your particular hold and release technique. I am presently using a polished leather bead that I made by glueing two pool-cue tips back to back, then machine-turning and buffing them into a 10-mm diameter bead, which is then threaded onto the release thong and held by a knot. Sounds like a lot of trouble, but I'm a dedicated pool player and thought it good karma to incorporate this bit of crossover.

20. Some final hints:

a) If, despite the warnings in step 11, you punched holes that were too large .... you may find that your pouch will try to slip around on the cords. Don't throw away your sling. Arrange the pouch the way you want it, then use a toothpick to put a tiny dab of epoxy at the points where the knots touch the "backside" leather. After the glue hardens, your pouch will no longer have the tendency to creep around.

b) I didn't really stop in the middle of braiding to make a pouch, but that seemed like the logical place here to describe the pouch-making process. Make the pouch ahead of time, then install it on the thongs when you reach that step.

c) If you can find it, use braided (as opposed to twisted) nylon "trotline" in the sling construction. The twisted variety has more of a tendency to unravel or twist back upon itself in handling and use.

d) Practice, practice, practice ......

Best regards,

Marty Jones

Here's another description of a sling braiding technique from practitioner Lenny Henderson of Lenny's Blades & Things

Date: Thu, 1 Jan 1998 11:11:02 -0700
From: Lenny Henderson (
Subject: Another sling braiding technique.

This is the pattern for my sling. 8 cords of jute or linen or hemp each 19 feet long. Find the middle of the bundle of 8 cords at about 9 feet. Braid a round 4 strand braid using 2 cords at a time. Braid in this manner 3-4 inches and bring both ends togather forming a loop. Match up the groups of 2 cords from both ends so now you have 4 groups of 4 cords. If you study the ends you will find the best match of groups of 2 cords to combine so that you can continue smothly braiding a round 4 strand braid now with groups of 4 cords.

The object in any braiding is to even the tension between all strands. This even or equalized tension is the strongest, any strand that is tighter is taking too much of the work load. To produce this even tension you must work the strands back and forth against each other at least after every 2 steps in the braiding process. If you fail to do this effectively the sling will break at any overly tight areas because that is where the hardest work is being done.

Now that you have 4 groups of 4 cords braided in a 4 strand round braid continue on to your desired length of reach. 30-32 inches is about right for my arm length. Now you make a transition to flat 16 strand braid keeping tensions even as you go. After 2 inches another transition to 2 groups of 8 strand braid is made. This is contiued for 2 inches so now you have a slit or opening between the 2 groups of 8 strand braids. Bring the opening togather into another section of 16 strand flat braid. Now you have a pocket large enough for good sized rocks, with the slit holding or stabelizing the rock.

Another transition is now made back to 4 grouped cords in a round 4 strand braid. Again keep the tension even amongst all cords. Continue this braid the rest of the way to match length to the first round braid and loop. So at about 32-34 inches you want to finish the braid with a turks head knot. If you want a smooth release area just whip 2-4 inches at the end instead of the knot.

Check out this link direct to Lenny's Sling Page

...and now a few words about ammunition

As a nice complement to Marty's article below, have a look at this graphic of Roman Sling Ammunition provided for us by Jim Burdine.

Date: Thu, 5 Jun 97 12:48:10 CDT
From: Marty Jones (
Reply to:
Subject: Great Source for Lead Sling Ammunition!

To the Group:

You are painfully aware (as I've pestered the list for a couple months now, all to no avail), I've been searching high and low for a source of "good" sling ammo. Well, I've found it - and here it is.

I've located a source of molds for casting lead "cannon balls", in a variety of sizes from 1/2-ounce all the way up to sixteen ounces. They are available by mail order from a company called Barlow's. Barlow's caters to the do-it- yourself outdoorsman. They sell complete supplies for lead casting, fly tying, arrow-making, lure-making, blanks for making your own fishing rods, and even mold-making supplies for those who wish to design and produce their own rubber worms! Plus a bunch of other neat stuff.

Anyway, they have five different models of cannon-ball molds, listed below:

Model Cavities Cat. No.
CB-10-S2B 10: 2 x 0.5 oz, 2 x 0.75 oz 473184
CB-4-AB 4: 1 ea of 1, 2, 3, 4 oz 473185
CB-3-456B 3: 1 ea of 4, 5, 6 oz 473186
CB-2-810B 2: 1 ea of 8 and 10 oz 473187
CB-2-1216B 2: 1 ea of 12 and 16 oz 473188

By the way, Barlow's even sells a "blank" mold, complete with hinges and handles but no cavities, for $19.87. For the true do-it-yourselfer that insists on making his own mold! If I get really industrious, I might try to make a replica of the historically-correct "biconical" molds for sling ammo. At the moment, I'm too busy to mess with the research and machining. If someone else wants to take on such a project, the catalog number for the "blank" mold is 471155.

Phone number for Barlow's is 972-231-5982, 24-hour fax is 972-690-4044. They take Visa and MC, and also will ship COD.

All cannon-ball molds are $24.92, and they have all of them in stock.

Note: The molds are slightly (about a half-inch) too tall to fit under an "old-style" Lee "Production Pot" spigot. If you are using one of these (as I am), you will need the extension kit. The newer melters have more clearance.

BTW, if you have an ammo "size" in mind and wonder which mold you should get, a simple conversion from diameter in inches to lead weight in ounces for spherical volumes is:

ounces = 3.43 x (dia)^3

A one-inch lead sphere weighs about 3-1/2 ounces, and increases as the cube of diameter. If you cast with solder, linotype, or wheelweights, these are all less dense than pure lead and you might adjust the 3.43 factor down to 3.0 or so.

Hope this is useful,

Marty Jones

Mail to mjr, goto Sling, Survival, or back to Thrower

This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details