snowball slingshot
Once the wind dies down, you'll want to work up an appetite for a classic mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Which means heading outside for a session of sledding, snowman-building, or—best of all—a snowball fight. This snowball slingshot will kick your battle up a notch, and it gives you something to do while you're stuck indoors during the worst of the weather. Ralph Smith
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You don’t need an army to wage an epic snow battle. With this sled-mounted slingshot, you can fire a fusillade of snowballs with an accuracy and speed that would impress a general—and completely intimidate lesser winter warriors.

Flexible rubber tubing acts as a powerful tension spring for flinging ammo, while a mid-weight sled forms a steady base to stabilize the contraption. Don’t want to turn a perfectly good sled into a weapon? You can easily construct your own base from standard dimensional lumber using simple hand tools.

Warning: Don’t overextend the tubing or fire a projectile at close range. It will hurt. Also, DIY projects can be dangerous, even for the most experienced makers. Before proceeding with this or any other project on our site, ensure you have all necessary safety gear and know how to use it properly. At minimum, that may include safety glasses, a face mask, and/or ear protection. If you’re using power tools, you must know how to use them safely and correctly. If you do not, or are otherwise uncomfortable with anything described here, don’t attempt this project.

Stats

  • Time: 4 hours
  • Material cost: $40
  • Difficulty: moderate

Tools

Materials

For the deck assembly
  • 4 (24-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine boards (for the deck)
  • 2 (24-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine boards (for cross supports)
  • 2 (15-inch-long) 2-by-2 pine boards (for deck-to-runner attachments)
  • (Alternative to all above) a wooden sled
For the runner/launchers
  • 2 (24-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine boards (for posts)
  • 2 (30-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine boards (for braces)
  • 2 (4-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine boards (for support pads)
  • 1 (24-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine board (for cross support)
  • (Optional) 2 (36-inch-long) 1-by-4 pine boards (for runners if you’re not using a sled)
For the sling
  • 1 (7-by-4-inch) piece of leather (or other sturdy fabric)
  • 10 feet of latex rubber surgical tubing (1/4-inch inner diameter (ID), 5/16-inch outer diameter (OD), 1/32-inch wall thickness)
  • 4 feet of rope
Fasteners
  • 1 1/4-inch nails
  • 2-inch nails or deck screws
  • 5 medium-size metal grommets
  • 4 large screw eyes

Instructions

There are two main parts to the project: the deck assembly and the runner/launcher assembly. It’s easiest to build the deck and the runner/launcher separately and connect the pieces together at the end. Or you can use a store-bought sled as the base. In that case, skip the first two steps and start with Step 3.

1. Build the deck assembly. Below, Drawing 1 shows how the pieces of the deck assembly should be arranged. Use 1 1/4-inch nails here and everywhere else, except where noted.

"A

Drawing 1

If you’re making your own deck for the snowball slingshot, use this image to construct it.

2. Build two runner/launchers. Put these together as shown in Drawing 2. Then, hold the runner/launchers in an upright position (getting a friend to help makes this easier) and nail them securely to the deck, following Drawing 3 to see how they fit together. Use 2-inch nails or deck screws to attach the runners to the deck-to-runner attachments and to the brace pads. Then skip to Step 5.

"A

Drawing 2

Reference this image when you’re building the runners and launchers.
A schematic showing how a DIY snowball slingshot fits together.
This image shows how the whole snowball slingshot fits together. Popular Science

3. Construct the slingshot’s base. If you’re attaching the launcher to a store-bought sled, you may be able to nail the posts and braces directly to its sides. If not, nail the pine runners to the sled’s deck, one on each side and about 22 inches apart, to create a stable base.

4. Nail the posts and pads in parallel on each side of the base. The posts should be near the front of the sled, with the pads 18 inches behind. Then nail the braces in place so they connect the tops of the posts to the pads.

5. Finish the frame. Hold the final cross support horizontally so it connects the two posts, about halfway up each one, and nail it in place. At the top of each post, twist two screw eyes into the outside edge in a vertical line, 2 inches apart.

6. Make a launch pouch. Use the grommet kit’s hole punch to puncture the four corners and center of your sturdy fabric. Insert the taller grommet half beneath each hole, facing up. Cover it with the other half, facing down. Position the kit’s mandrel above the grommet with the anvil below. Then strike sharply with a hammer.

7. Install the tubing. Insert the latex tube through one of the upper screw eyes, and thread it through the grommets on the pouch’s upper edge. On the opposite side, run the tube through the upper screw eye, then the lower screw eye. Next, thread the tube through the grommets on the pouch’s lower edge and the final screw eye. Adjust the tubing so the tension on both sides is about equal. Tie it securely and tape the ends so the knot doesn’t loosen.

8. Add a pulling handle. Insert about a foot of rope through the central grommet and secure it with a knot. Thread the rest of the rope through a screw eye at the front of the sled to form a towline. Now you’re ready to do winter battle!

If you’ve built your own deck, it will slide easily on icy ground, but less so on powder snow. You can wax the runners to make them slide easier. And we said it above, but we’ll say it again: Don’t overextend the tubing or open fire at close range. Snowball fights should be fun, not painful.

A schematic showing a finished DIY snowball slingshot.
When your project looks like this, you’re ready to wage winter warfare. Ralph Smith

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Popular Science.