The Sling and Stone, Acho’ Atupat, was important to the ancient Chamorro people. Slings and stones were carefully crafted and sometimes passed from father to son or from mother to son through a brother or close relative.We evolve through learning. Every time I make a new sling, something new is learned and now in the giving spirit of Guahan, I wish to pass some of that knowledge on.
Sling weapons from Guam are made from pandanus or coconut fiber. Being so far from home it’s nearly impossible to find pandanus or coconut fiber to make slings so I use jute or sisal. Out of these two plant fibers, jute is the easiest to work with and this tutorial will show you how to make a good Chamorro sling using jute available at many craft or hardware stores.
This is a simple pattern for a Chamorro sling and uses a six (6) ply, multi strand cord. This means there are six individual strands that are twisted together to make a single cord. In order to make this sling, it is best if you have five, six strand cords. Six strands that make up a single cord.
By using a thick strand cord like this you can cut down on the amount of time it takes to make a beautiful reproduction Chamorro sling. This tutorial is intended for a person who has basic braiding and crafting skills and depending on how fast you can braid, this sling can be made in about two hours from start to finish. Don’t lose heart if it takes longer. It took me more than a few hours to come up with this pattern. Additionally, if you don’t have the exact materials used in this tutorial, you can still make this sling work with any number of cords and strands available to you. You don't have to use jute. You can use cotton, poly and even craft yarn.
It’s called Acho’ Atupat (Sling and Stone). Sling stones were made from rock found on the island, mostly limestone, basalt and some marble. There is also evidence that sun or fire hardened clay was used for sling stones. I will add a tutorial on how to make clay slingstones later on. The sling and stone are a matched set but even if you do not have an authentic Chamorro sling stone, having ideal ammo is important to have on hand. In a pinch a small ball can work.
From the left, a Chamorro sling stone artifact, a coral then clay reproduction stone; rocks from the landscaping found around town and even some cat toys (golf ball sized). These are all about the size of ammunition you will need to form your sling’s pouch as I will shown later on in this tutorial.
SET UP: After cutting your cords to size, find the center of your 120 inch cords and clamp the cords together using the chop sticks and rubber bands as shown. You do not have to have to cut down the chopstick for your clamps like those pictured here. I do because they're easier to work with.
The strands should be laid side-by-side. The center area between the clamps will become the pouch of your completed sling. The sling’s pouch will be four inches long to begin with but the final size and shape of the sling’s pouch will be adjusted later on.
With your project secure, begin braiding five cords together for one side of your sling. If you are using six cords for a three cord braid, pair your cords together which will make three paired cords that will be braided together to complete your sling. The braid must be tight.
From the clamped cords, continue to make a tight braid about two inches long then clamp your cords using the clothes pins. Clamping the strands will help you keep your braid organized.
THINING THE CORDS: Now we will begin thinning out the individual cords in your braid to give your sling’s finger and release string a nice even taper. Cutting out strands from each of the cords, one at a time as you braid will give your sling’s cords a gradual taper essential for a sling with a clean release.
BLENDING STRANDS: After you have cut out a strand from each cord, you must twist the cord back together tightly. Once this step is completed for the first cord, move to the next cord in the braid, untwist the cord, separate out one strand, feather the separated strand with your knife’s edge then twist the feathered strand back into the cord and twist it tightly, then repeat for each of the remaining cords. Once one strand has been cut out of each cord, resume the braid for two to three inches then clamp the cords with the clothes pins and repeat the whole process again of cutting one strand out of each cord then continue to braid.
If you’re using the six strand cord in the materials list of this tutorial, each cord has six individual strands. Continue to cut out single strands as you braid until only two strands remain for each cord. You should now have five, two strand cords that you will continue to braid together until you have completed the braid for one side of your sling.
The bottom cord has six strands while the upper cord shows how a properly tapered and twisted cord will look after four of the six strands have been removed and the cord has been twisted back together.
Begin by folding the cords that form the pouch over your sling stone. Pull the cords that are clamped together and adjust the cords to evenly conform to the shape of the stone. The outer cords, those on the edge of the pouch will be shorter than those in the middle when the pouch is properly adjusted.
The photo below shows a side view of a properly adjusted pouch.
Before you begin braiding the second side of the sling it is important that you make sure that the pouch stays permanently set. I usually add a second clamp to make sure I don’t lose my adjustment when I begin braiding the second sling string.
Sling length is a subject of much debate in the slinging world. If you do not have a preference, it’s better to go long then shorten it up. From the center of the completed pouch, measure 30 inches along one cord and fold the sling string. If your completed sling strings do not measure more than 30 inches, adjust as necessary to accommodate whatever finished length you have to work with.
After forming a loop, use one of the chop sticks to separate the cords in the braid. Pull the end of the braid through this hole to form your finger loop. Your finger loop should be large enough to fit over two fingers. This will assure that your finger loop is not too tight.
Your completed Acho’ Atupat should look something like this. The pouch should cup the stone and the strings should have gradual even taper.
If you are on Guam, stop by the Che’lu Shop in the Chamorro Village. There you will find a variety of slings, stones and many other beautiful hand crafted products.
Si Yu’us Ma’ase!
Si Yu’us Ma’ase!