Category Archives: Bushcraft

Catapults

Recently i’ve been busy making catapults. I now have 3 or 4 for sale for £15, contact me if you’re interested, on here or facebook.IMG_0256

They’re all natural forked branches with single, gold Theraband for the sling.

These are not toys, and are potentially deadly weapons in the wrong hands. I will not sell these to anyone under the age of 18, and please do not buy them for anyone under the age of 18. Having said that, in responsible hands they are a wonderful tool for building strength, for developing your hand-eye coordination and for having fun. If you have the permission of the land owner they are also a hunting tool.

So, what follows is a little piece about my experience getting into catapults, some videos I found useful, which you could use to help carve your own catapult and attach the rubber bands.
Equipment needed:
  • Saw to cut the branch.
  • Carving or bushcraft knife.
  • Self heal mat to slice the rubber. (Mine cost £6)
  • Rotary cutter to do the slicing. (Again £6)
  • Leather pouches to hold the ball bearing or stone. (10 for £5, could be better value to get leather and cut pouches yourself, depends how many you want to do)
  • Sandpaper/Wet n Dry/Emery paper – I use 240, 400, 800 and 1200 grit. (60p a sheet roughly I think)
  • Oil to protect the wood. (I used Ballistol http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistol)
It took some time to work out the best forked branch for the frame, and that’s something to experiment with. Sometimes I found they split, very frustrating after all the effort of carving and sanding by hand.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J6qHdhp-YI A video showing how to cut the Theraband and attach it to the pouch.
I found that it takes a bit more pressure than you might think to cut cleanly through the rubber, and that if you clink the metal ruler while you’re slicing you’ll leave a little cling-on. This could leave a weak area in the rubber when you come to fire it, shortening the life-span. So be firm, and keep straight. I bought a 1 metre x 12.5cm section and sliced it into the tapered form. I found here that marking the rubber was important. I used a black Sharpie pen which left quite a wide line and allowed some inaccuracy to creep in. Next time i’d be much more careful with drawing the lines. For now i’m using a 25mm down to 20mm taper.
After sanding I oiled the frame a few times, then left it to dry before attaching the band-set. I found that there is much more accuracy when the tops of the 2 forks are nice and parallel. Might be an obvious point but one I overlooked initially.
When firing it I’ve found that i’m most accurate when I hold the catapult in my left hand, sight down the bands ie, they should lie parallel to each other, give a slight twist, not too much and ping! Very satisfying, especially when you get your eye in and hit 4 or 5 in a row. You know you’re doing something right then.
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Hypothermia

Exposure hypothermia is an insidious process.  It creeps up on you.  If you are the victim you may well be the last to notice it.  Whatever the level of your experience, you should never underestimate the risk.”   Paul Kirtley, of Frontier Bushcraft.

Last weekend I had my first foray into the art of bushcraft, after being invited to join a group of more seasoned folk, up the woods in Silsden, North Yorkshire. We were lucky with the weather, incredibly so. I don’t think we had a drop of rain the whole weekend. We even had glimpses of spring-time promise, snatches of radiant sunshine…But gosh, did it get cold at night! I shivered through the first night, having made the basic error of not stripping off my dampish, sweaty clothes, giving them a chance to dry out from my radiant heat. I spent the next day learning about fire, how to make a pot hanger, and finding a nice branch with which to make a catapult. By nighttime, and a pleasant enough evening spent around the campfire, I was cold again. More to the point, I was still cold. With my cotton clothing I was not able to retain as much body heat as if I’d had a dry, woollen base layer. Besides which i’d been sat on the ground all evening, not finding the logs all that comfortable. I know now I could have grabbed my sleeping mat from under my shelter, lay upon it and insulated myself from the malevolent, icy tentacles. By the time my teeth were chattering and my body was gripped by uncontrollable shivers I realised the error of my ways. It all came in a flash, like a download that had finished..downloading. Your software is installed. My companions didn’t miss a beat, filling me with chocolate, stoking the fire for hot water and fetching the articles I had so sorely lacked, my sleeping mat and arctic sleeping bag (thanks Pip). I got in, stripped off and slowly warmed up. By the next morning I had begun my own personal debrief. My brain buzzed from the moment I woke, thinking of ways to ‘Dear Gods above and below never let me feel such cold again’. I’ve spent the week since sourcing the kit I will need to fulfil that wish. And nursing literally the worst cold i’ve had in years. It felt a humbling experience, to have so misjudged one’s basic needs.