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Rubber bands

Rubber bands

The rubber bands are a slingshot's soul. They store the energy, propel the projectile and
define much of the slingshot's characteristics. The frame doesn't do much more than
help you to hold the bands in place.

The most common types of bands

Flatbands

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Rubber bands

Switch to flatbands and you'll never look back. This sounds exaggerated, but is true with
so many shooters! Flatbands are cut from thin (about 0.25-1mm) latex sheeting, and
offer a number of unbeatable advantages: First, they have by far the highest
performance. Second, it is easy to cut them exactly to the desired shape. A roll cutter is
the best tool for this task. You can easily experiment with band length, width and
tapering ratio until you have the perfect bandset for you. You can easily attach two or
even three bands on each side of the slingshot - in fact, you often have to, as most types
of latex sheeting are rather thin. Flatbands correspond very well to the "Over the top"
attachmend method.

Disadvantage is the relatively low lifespan of flatbands. But you can easily exceed 2000
shots per set if you use thicker sheeting and keep the bands on the long side, with a
tapering ratio of 2:3 or less.

Suitable latex sheeting is sold on various locations, usually for medical purposes and as
exercise bands. The de-facto standard in the slingshot community is currently
"Theraband" exercise sheeting. The strongest qualities (black, silver, gold) are usually
regarded as the best choices for a good compromise between band life and
performance.

Gum rubber

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Rubber bands

"Gum rubber" is the name that is chosen by slingshooters to describe natural rubber
sheeting with a thickness of 1.5mm or more. It is used in the industry, to protect heavy
machinery against abrasion. Most slingshooters prefer a thickness of 1.5-3mm,
depending on the material and desired properties.
Gum rubber has a lower performance than flatbands. But "semi-flats", i.e. bands with
2mm or less, come quite close to them. And what's lost in performance is won in band
life. They are also valued by collectors, as many vintage slingshots use some type of
"gum rubber" bands, usually with approx. 2mm thickness. Gum rubber is perfect for a
wide variety of attachment methods such as "Spain style" or the "matchstick method".
This type of rubber is popular in many European slingshot associations.

However, be aware that Gum rubber has its drawbacks. It is very difficult to cut. You
need a guillotine-style paper cutter for this job, and I recommend you not to purchase
rubber with more than 2mm thickness. Talking about buying - this type of rubber is
mainly sold for industrial purposes. You usually have large minimum orders. And be sure
to pick the right material from the plethora of different rubbers! A well regarded type is
"Linatex", which is used in quarry machinery and on shooting lanes to protect from
ricochets.

Tubular bands

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Rubber bands

Most shooters get in contact with tubular bands first. The reason is that the lion's share
of commercially produced slingshots uses them. Not because the perform good - it's
simply because they can be attached to pouch and frame by methods that don't require
much human labor. Such tubes have high drawing weight and low power output! And the
bigger the tubes, the worse gets its performance. It is also impossible to make tapered
tubes at home. Very few shooters stay with large diameter tubular rubber when they
have other alternatives.
Trumark sells tapered bands that are, performance-wise, in the region of untapered gum
rubber. They are a viable alternative for those shooters who are not interested in crafting
bandsets at home. The main sources for raw tubular rubber are exercise tubes (such as
"Theratube", where the sizes "red" to "blue" are the most common choices) and surgical
tubing. Always buy dipped, not extruded, latex tubing. The lifespan of big tubes can be
high, but only if the attachment method doens't put much stress on them.

Small diameter tubing (called "China tube")

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Rubber bands

Tubular bands with small diameter are a different story than their big relatives. They
perform still a good deal worse than flatbands, but are definitely usable - their
performance is somewhere between tapered big-diameter tubes and tapered gum
rubber. A typical china tube has an outer diameter between 40 and 50mm, and an inner
diameter between 1 and 2mm. The Chinese shooter use these bands almost exclusively,
just like the Western shooters turn towards flatbands.There are two main sources for
china tubes: Theratube "amber" and chinese slingshot webshops and vendors.

China tubes have some intriquing advantages. First, they work very well with the
traditional chinese attachment that you can see in the picture above. This attachment
allows you to change the bands in seconds, and gives you a very clean sighting picture,
as you can peek through the middle of the dual bands. Making a bandset from China
tubes is also less cutting work. They generally have quite a long lifespan, and are the
second most popular choice after flatbands.

Ball Bladder

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Rubber bands

Did you ever wonder where the children in third world countries get their slingshot bands
from? They take a busted soccer ball and cut the bladder out of it. All leather balls
contain such a bladder, which is usually made of high quality dipped latex. Their
thickness is about 0.75-1mm. It is difficult to cut good bandsets out of the round shape,
but you will be rewarded with very well performing bands.

Other sources

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Rubber bands

There are a lot of other sources for slingshot bands. Household rubber rings can be
chained together to form a band. Make thise bands tapered by adding more rubber rings
on one side, and you will have an excellent slingshot band. Only drawback is the very
low lifespan of them, and the tedious work to replace broken rubber rings in such a
band.
Condoms are dipped latex of extremely high quality. You could make a top-performing
bandest out of them. But they are far too thin to have a usable lifespan. And it is not
good for your reputation to walk around with a slingshot made of condoms.
A better source are heavy-duty latex gloves, as the ones that are worn by high-voltage
electricians. You can cut flatbands out of them if you find a pair. Law dictates tat
electricians have to change their gloves on a regular basis, so it is no harm to ask for old
gloves if you see one in the streets.

Buying rubber from the industry

Choosing good rubber material directly from the industry is a tedious thing. You have to
invest a lot of time and money until you find an adequate quality. Don't do it unless you
have no other source for rubber, or plan to buy large amounts for a club or the
manufacturing of slingshots.

To date, every slingshot I am aware of uses bands that are made of natural rubber. Its
source is the sap of the rubber tree, which is an emulsion called "latex". It can be
transformed to a solid, elastic material by vulcanization. The result is natural rubber.
Often, it is still called "latex", which can cause confusion among laymen.
I don't want to get into the details of the fascination manufacturing process of rubber. As
a chemist, I encourage you to seek information about it if you are interested. But at this
point, it suffices to know a few things about good slingshot bands:

 We are interested in pure natural rubber. The industry often adds various additives to
the pre-vulcanized formulation. Pure polyisoprene is relatively expensive and has bad
resistance against UV light, oils and various other chemicals. This is the reason why
most rubbers are polyisoprene blended with polystyrene, polybutadiene or silicone.
Those blended rubbers are no good for us! A pure natural rubber has a density of about
0.95 grams per cubic centimetre. Blended rubber has a higher density.
 So far, no synthetic rubber known to me has proven to be as good as natural rubber.
Don't spend your time and money searching among the legion of different rubber
qualities the industry sells, unless you really are an expert an know what you are
searching for.
 Many rubber manufacturers grind the vulcanized rubber in a powder and feed it
through an extruder. The resulting rubber is not good. Slingshot bands from extruded
rubber have a decreased performance and a much lower lifespan. We
need dipped rubber that is produced directly from the liqud latex. Flat sheeting can also
be made by an extruder or some other techniques. Don't buy extrided sheeting.

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Rubber bands

 You search for rubber with a hardness of shore A 30-55, and an elongation of 600%
to 800%.
 Natural rubber is also called Crepe, Gum rubber, Live rubber and Latex.
Attaching the pouch to the bands
There's four main things that define the performance of a slingshot: Bands, pouch,
attachment of the bands to the frame and to the pouch. The latter is described in this
section.
The attachment between pouch and bands is fully accelerated just like the projectile you
want to propel. So every bit of weight you save has a considerable effect on your
slngshot's performance. The attachment point is also an area where the bands
experience a high amount of stress during the shot (tapered bands break almost always
at this point), so you want to use a tying method that is easy on the bands.
Kink and tie

This is the easiest, yet very secure and lightweight method, perfect for square or flat
rubber. It works as well with tubular bands. Simply push about 1/2" through the hole of
the pouch, kink, pull it taut, and wind strong string around, then snip off the excess string
and rubber endpiece. The little flaps must face outside, otherwise they interact during the
shot and accuracy suffers. I recommend waxed string, soft cotton or thin latex bands for
best results. Please make sure that the knots are really tight! This method is used by
roughly 90% of all homemade slingshots, and is widely regarded as the best way to
connect the pouch to the rubber. Use this method, read on in the tying section and you
won't be disappointed. I recommend Geko's constrictor knot method for a convienient
and good-looking assembly.
Texas Charlie's method

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Rubber bands

Old Rabbit Hunter "Texas Charlie" made this method popular: First, knot a loop out of a
piece of string. Next, tie this loop with a cow hitch to the pouch. Form a second cow
hitch, slide it around the end of the band and pull taut. The knot will dig itself deep into
the rubber and won't come loose by itself. The cool thing about this method is the ability
to re-tie the pouch as soon as the bands start to break. Tapered bands tend to break just
before the pouch attachment, so you don't lose more than a few milimeters of rubber
when re-tying. Have a look at 9Gramm's instruction video if you have any questions.
Loop-in method

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Rubber bands

This is by far the most common method for commercial slingshots. If you have tubular
rubber, you can cut a clean round hole, about 1/4" from the end. Next, force the other
end of the tube through the hole, out of the other side. Depending on its inner / outer
diameter, this can require a lot of force. You must moisten the band with soapy water or
alcohol. Things become easier if you have the end of a big pen, put the end of the tube
inside, and push the pen through the hole. Or, you can use a needle to run a string
through the end, push string through first and pull out the end.
Knot in tube

Use a piece of string with a thick knot on it to attach the pouch: Force the knot into the
tube end, and knot a piece if string tightly around the end, just behind the place where
the knot is inside. The advantage is that the pouch can move free, but you lose some
pull length.
clip in tube

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Rubber bands

This method is used in the Trumark heavy pull bands, and, in a slightly modified way, in
the Saunders tubular bands. Take a piece of flat plastic-coated material (like flat electric
cable), or better, one of the plastic clips you robbed off an old Trumark powerband, and
force it inside the tubular band. Whatever you use, make sure it is strong and thick
enough. The advantage of this method is that the pouch stays nicely aligned, but if the
clip is too long and heavy, you will lose power. You can purchase a Trumark / Saunders
bandset and re-use the clips after the bands are worn out - otherwise, you'll be better off
using the "knot in tube" method mentioned above.
Hole in band

This method is easy, but your bands will not survive too many shots. It is sometimes
found on very cheap commercial slingshots - simply push a round hole into the end of
the band, and run the other end through. I cannot recommend this method.

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