Monday, November 11, 2013

Pikaru Sling and the secret to the "Lujan Family Slinging Karate"

My two favorite slings are the Chamorro Sling ( Acho' Atupat ) and the Pikaru Sling which is an adaptation of the sling I have used for years, with a few changes. In the past, with few exceptions every sling I have made has been all or mostly leather, particularly the pouch. Now days I still favor a 6oz soft leather pouch with tapered woven fiber cords. 


What else has changed for me is that I had originally learned to sling using a finger loop for an anchor. Research has turned up that the ancient Chamorros used a wrist anchor so I have changed my technique to include a wrist anchor. What hasn't changed is my throwing technique. Most cultures and slingers use a 'helicopter' style where the stone in the sling's pouch is whirled over head at a horizontal or tilted plane of rotation before one cord is released to hurl the stone. I sling this way. As for styles, I think that for the most part you need to find a way of throwing that works for you and keep with it. Consistency, as with with any shooting is key to accuracy.

So, the secret. Maybe it's not a secret to pin-point accuracy in as much as it is another style of throwing. By changing the anchor point on your hand, you can change the angle, rather the trajectory of your stone. Where this style works is using the same throwing technique and adjusting your anchor point to compensate for distance; close in or far out.

When throwing for distance you usually need a high arc. For far targets 50+ yards) I run the anchor cord through my index and middle finger like so;

For a flatter trajectory and closer targets, (30-60 yards) I run the anchor cord between my middle finger and my ring finger like so;

And for close in ground targets I run the anchor cord between the ring finger and the pinky like so.
You can accomplish the same result if you're using a finger anchor by changing the finger you anchor to however this style does not seem to work well with a 'Figure Eight' or other overhand, like thowing a baseball style of slinging.

My dad at 78 is still an avid slinger and he's been using this style of slinging, changing the anchor finger for distance since ever since. It's really not a secret in as much as I wanted to share it with you and preserve something passed on to me.

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Chamorro Sling

I've made a few of these before. I guess I'm still trying to perfect the design.

Braided nylon (paracord) is strong and very flexible but right now it's very elastic. Feels like I'm losing energy in the throw.

Besides that it's a five to three cord braid for the cords and five thin braids of nylong utility cord to complete the pouch. Overall it throws very well.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chamorro Adze - DRAFT

New project. Chamorro Adze. I was fortunate enough to come across a piece of giant clam shell from which I have made the blade.

Next is the hardwood handle. Not much dark hardwood around this part of Colorado.

First a picture of what the finished product should look like.

Slings of the World - Atiu Island, Southern Cook Islands

I've been holding on to an illustration of a sling from the Cook Islands. The weave looked simple enough but it took the better part of the morning to figure it out. I used eleven cords for the pouch then five for the cords. The material is garden variety jute but I had to get the weave down first before attempting with palm.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Coral Slingstones

Last time I was home I picked up a handful of rocks at the beach. If you've never been to the beaches in Guam, most places don't really have rocks in as much as they have coral. Lots of coral. Slim pickings if you're looking for ready made slingstones. In contrast to several places in Colorado, I went out walking today and came back with about fifty good stones for slinging.

It has been a while since I have been able to do much crafting so today with some extra time on my hands over the Fourth of July weekend I decided to work with my beach stones. I grabbed a couple and set to shaping them to make slingstones.

I was surprised and pleased with the color in the first slingstone. The second stone wasn't as colorful but still turned out pretty good. I have a few more and hope the others turn out as well. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guam Chamorro Pottery - Latte Period Red Clay Plain Pottery

Reproductions of Latte Period Red Clay plain pottery from Guam.

On GUAM, an island so rich in culture and history I am ofttimes left wondering where are all of the Chamorro craftsmen/women. Don't get me wrong, there are many fine Chamorro artists creating beautiful work but to date I have not found anyone making historical reproductions of pottery, no intricate weaving and no slinging.

So, in the absence of anyone to work with or learn from I have been teaching myself. These are my two newest redclay pots. These pots are examples of Latte-period plain pottery. The oval pot was formed on a pandanus leaf mat that I wove and has left its impression on the bottom of the pot. From what I have read, this is a common feature of Marianas pottery. With no turn tables like modern potters have to form clay vessels, pots were crafted and formed by hand. I discovered that forming the pot on a small mat of pandanus leaf helped in my being able work and turn the clay to form the oval pot.

The acorn-shaped pot is primarily used for cooking. The mouth is turned slightly inward to help keep in the heat. This style of pot was placed into the coals of a fire where its cone shape allowed the heat from the fire to evenly cook the contents of the pot. The "combed" texture on this pot is a common functional decoration. It is theorized that the slightly grooved texture made a non-slip surface on the pot.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chamorro Pottery - Attempt 3

Anvil and paddle pottery making has proven a little more challenging than I had originally thought. In my third attempt I have sucessfully crafted two vessels.

The first is an oval bowl-like vessel, plain without lime impressions.

The second vessel is a tear-dropped shaped cooking vessel with a typical grooved impression made from a comb of coconut fiber. From what I have read and understand, the shape of the vessel allowed the heat from a cooking fire to uniformally heat the contents and the textured exterior is theorized as non-slip.

An interesting side note is how this vessel is similar in construction to cooking vessels found in North America. There is no cultural connectivity in how these vessels have the same characteristics other than to say that people from different areas of the ancient world found similar ways to meet the same challenges found in every day tasks.

These pots have not been fired yet, but I was so excited about how they turned out that I had to post them now. Once they have fully cured I will fire them in the kiln then test the cooking pot, perhaps making a pot of rice to see how it works.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chamorro Pottery - Attempt Two - Lime Impressed Plate

It has been a while since I've experimented with Chamorro pottery and it was actually making slingstones that got me interested. Truth be told, it wasn't just making slingstones that got me interested in pottery, it was also the lack of Chamorro potters. I asked some months ago and continue to ask, where is the next generation of Chamorro craftsmen and women? I probably wouldn't attempt to make my own pottery if I knew where I could just buy it.

If you go back to my November 18, 2012 posting of my second attempt at pottery, here is where I have raised the bar so-to-speak by producing a lime-impressed pottery piece.

I'm sticking with making plates for now because they're not difficult to make and don't take up a lot of time. I haven't worked out all the bugs with the impressions yet but I am quite pleased with the results so far.

With the extra clay I made a few sling stones and a number of pendants whose images were borrowed from cave drawings on Guam and Rota. I will keep a few and send the rest to my Che'lu Jose down at the Chamorro Village (The Che'lu Store).

Side note: We tried to get to Gadao's Cave last time we were home but was told that access to the caves was closed off to the public. The caves as I understand it belong to the people of Guam, but the access to the caves was through private property. If this is so, I hope the situation can be worked out. I would like to see some of these drawings in person before they are lost to the decay of time.

Attempt 3

Friday, May 17, 2013

Slings from Around the World - Russian Sling

The sling I made today was copied from another museum piece. Museum curators are not experts in every kind of exhibit, how could you be so there are not any details on the region or area in Russia or what materials were used but from the looks of it the pouch and finger loop are made of leather. The strings look to be made of twisted plant fiber and is fairly thin. Another feature of the Russian sling, at least from the few that I've seen is the release tab. For those who may not be familiar with the relase tab, the release tab is held between the fingers then let go upon release.

My reproduction sling is made from eight strands of twisted cotton with a leather finger loop and a tear drop shaped release tab. I have modified the pouch a little by adding a bridge at the center of the split pouch design to keep the stone from accidentally releasing out of the bottom of the pouch during the wind up.
I drew the design out on heavy paper and have included it so that it can be copied. The release tab was made from a piece of material cut out from the center of the pouch.
EDIT: With a little feedback and research this style of sling is from the Tunguska / Siberian region of Russia. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sling Reporduction - Carolinas Islands - South Pacific Sling

In searching through museum photo archives available online I sometimes come across some unique slings and then try to reproduce them.


These slings are from the Carolinas Island region. The description of these slings were not very informative and only stated that the slings were made of 'vegetable' or 'palm' fiber.

I have woven this reproduction sling using Pandanus. My repoduction takes a lttle from each artifact.

EDIT: I wanted to give a better view of the construction on the pouch. there are six five-strand braids that make up the pouch.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Sling - A Tutorial

Growing up the only material I thought slings were made of was leather. In a pinch I would use my boot laces and cut out the tongue of my boot for a pouch but by and large, they were all leather or mostly leather.

Skipping ahead well now I know slings are made from many different kinds of material, wool, plant fiber, animal hair, leather, etc. In my search for the perfect combination or type of sling, besides the Chamorro sling my personal everyday favorite sling is a combination of leather and jute.

But it's not just the material used, it is also the way the cords are attached to the pouch to provide a clean release when any stone is thrown. Here's my everyday sling on the left. I made this sling using a 4 ounce soft elk hide for the pouch with braided jute cord tapered on the release cord, again to provide a clean release. I have found that this design is the best of both worlds using strong braided cords with a soft leather pouch that holds the ammo very well.

This is how it's done. My work and cutting pad has a one inch by one inch grid to show the size of materials and components.

Cut out your pouch. The size is part personal preference but a five inch long, two inch wide pouch, give or take is what is shown here. The overall length of pouch that you will need for this sling is eight inches. Your pouch should form narrow tabs as shown here. These tabs along with the holes punched into the pouch are how you will attach your anchor and release cords. As show, you will also need to make two small tear drop shapped pieces that will act as reinforcement where the slings cords attach.

For a five strand braid begin by cutting six strands about eight feet long. You will use three eight foot strands per side. Put three of the six strands together to form a bundle. Fold your three strand bundle in half to form six strands from where you will braid your anchor and release cords. Where the six strands are folded and form three loops in the middle of the bundle; push these looped cords through the holes made in your pouch and reinforcement tabs as shown.

Next fold the ends of your leather pouch and reinforcement tab through the cord loop and pull the strands tight. Now you have six strands securely attached to each side your pouch. From here it's just a simple matter of braiding and blending your cords to form your relase and anchor cords.
Here is the finished sling made with three ounce buckskin and jute fiber. The release cord begins with a five strand braid, tapering slowly then finishing off with a thin four strand round braid. The anchor loop has a soft leather padding added for comfort. The way the cords are attached hold the stone in the pouch and keeps the cords separated at their anchor point to the sling's pouch. So far I've never had any tangles of cords or hang up with the release no matter what style I am using to throw or what kind of ammo being thrown. Tomorrow may show me something different but for today, this is the best design I've used. The only addition besides the padded finger loop has been the over-braid reinforcement of the release cord where it attaches to the pouch. I have found that this is an area that shows some minor wear on my current sling, probably because of the day I spent at the railroad tracks throwing sharp angular stones.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chicken Kelaguen Refresher

Chicken Keleguen is easy to make.

Roasted chicken, chopped. Chopped onion, grated coconut, roasted peppers, lemon and salt.

Mix all ingredients, except for the coconut, save that for last. Squeeze in the lemon a little at a time while mixing and tasting. Dish should be tangy without being sour. Add a little salt to taste then add in the coconut. For more information please see my previous post with the detailed recipe.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Recipe - Chicken Estufau

Chicken Estufau is one of several favorite Chamorro foods of mine. This dish is simple, easy to make and doesn't take a lot of time or ingredients.

  • Chicken - Any amount will do. I prefer drumsticks and thighs. If you have whole chicken, cut it into medium-sized pieces.
  • Onion - About half an onion
  • Soy Sauce - About 1/2 to 3/4 cup
  • White Vinegar - About 1/2 to 3/4 cup
  • Black Pepper
  • Sugar - 1 Table Spoon
  • Olive Oil (Cooking Oil)
  • Garlic - Fresh or Powdered
  • Bay Leaf - By adding bay leaf you turn your dish into Chicken Adobo. I like my dish with or without bay leaf.
First chop your onion, set aside a few table spoons aside and place the remainder into a bowl. Next drop in your garlic and black pepper. Each of these should be according to your own taste. I don't think I've ever put too much of either.
Using a potato masher or your hand if you prefer, crush up and mix the onion, garlic and black pepper mix in the bowl. Next pour in about a half cup or more of vinegar. Next, pour in about an equal amount of soy sauce. You must stir, taste and adjust as necessary. Your marinade will need to be both tangy and salty.

Next, place your chicken pieces into your marinade and let set while you move onto the next step. Take your tablespoon of sugar and place it into an ungreased/oiled pan on medium heat and melt the sugar. If you prefer, you can place the sugar into the dish later but I prefer melted and carmalized surgar. Pour in a small amount of oil, chopped onions and garlic and saute until the onions are tender. If you're using a bay leaf, drop it in with your chopped onions.

Now that your oil is seasoned with the onions, garlic and sugar, take your chicken pieces out of the marinade and drop them into the seasoned oil. Put the marinade to the side.
Stir and stir your chicken pieces. You're essentially frying the chicken at this point. Keep frying the chicken until cooked.
The liquid in your pan should not be allowed to evaporate all the way out. You want to keep a little liquid in the pan as you fry your chicken.

Once the juice from the chicken runs clear letting you know that the chicken is cooked thoroughly, drop in the remainder of your marinade, bring the liquid up to a boil, cover the pot then take the heat down just enough to allow the pot to simmer.

Allow the pot to simmer for about 15 minutes then taste. Adjust the flavor as necessary. If you need more moisture you can add chicken broth or a little water.

When your dish is thoroughly cooked serve it with rice, pouring the broth over the rice. Add a glass of your favorite wine and if you have it, a little pickled mango. Gof Mange! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fishing - Chamorro Fish Hook ( Haguet )

The ancient people of the Marianas used a number of methods for taking fish and were skilled at fishing in both shallow and deep water. Fish could be caught in the shallows as found in Apra Harbor using weirs (Gigao), channels that would guide fish into fish traps or channel the fish into areas where they could be gathered by net, spear or by hand. Chamorros also used several types of nets as well as fish hooks, hand lines and lures.   

From artifacts found we know that fish hooks (Haguet) could come in a “J”, “L” or “V” shape and could be made from sea shell, turtle shell, and bone. Some hooks consisted of two separate parts, the shaft and the tip. I made this 1.5 inch hook from mahogany wood, deer bone and pago bark fiber.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Coconut - Cracking and Grating

Growing up in the Rocky Mountains, we really didn't know much about coconuts. Occasionally mom would bring one home from the grocery store and it always generated a certain amount of excitement in our home. It was exotic and even a little mysterious. Opening the coconut was as much fun as munching on the juicy white meat. At this time we didn't have YouTube or Google and frankly had no idea how to open a coconut.

First, Dad would bring out the electrical extension cord and the drill to make holes in the top of the coconut and pour out the water. Next it was time to open the nut. We tried using a hammer but usually picked up a saw to very laboriously cut the coconut open. I can tell you now that is not the easiest way to open a coconut.

As I mentioned before, buying coconuts can sometimes be hit or miss. In choosing a coconut, it is important to shake it and listen for liquid sloshing around inside. No liquid, no good. If there is no coconut water you'll know that the coconut is probably old and could be rancid.

You'll know if a coconut is older if the three 'eyes' of the coconut are not dark brown. The coconut water inside is not coconut milk. Getting milk from the coconut is a totally different process that I will talk about in another posting. Here we're just going to talk about grating a coconut.

Now in choosing a coconut from the grocery store, once you've looked at the eyes, shaken it to feel and hear the water inside, well from there it's somewhat open to chance. Coconuts are typically not expensive and since there's no set season in which coconuts are considered ripe or fresh, they are usually available year round.

Growing up we never used coconut in cooking nor did we make coconut milk or coconut oil, we just ate the meat. Now I use coconut for cooking and if you've read the Chicken Keleguen Recipe posting, you know that fresh grated coconut gives Keleguen that special flavor.

When buying a coconut from the grocery store you must first remove the loose fiber. This will reduce the amount of crumbs and loose fibers that fall into the bowl when you grate the coconut.

OPENING A COCONUT: Once you've cleaned the outside of the coconut, removing loose fibers, take the coconut in one hand and using a large kitchen knife, strike the coconut at the center, rotating it frequently in your hand and continuing to strike it around its middle.


Your coconut should split evenly in the middle. With practice you can split the coconut without loosing the juice from the inside. It is important to taste this juice. The coconut water should be slightly sweet and savory. The meat should be thick and white. Eat a small piece. You know it's good if it's not rancid or oily. This coconut was a miss.

When picking this coconut off the shelf it had plenty of liquid inside but it was so old the flesh had separated from the shell and grew mold. Good thing I had picked up more than one.
Now for grating the coconut we use a Kumyu (pronounced: come-zoo). A kumyu is simply nothing more than a serrated scraper typically mounted to a small stool.
I have mine mounted to a board that I sit on to hold it secure while I grate my coconut.
Here are three types of kumyu. I picked up the one on the left from the local Asian store but not every neighborhood has an Asian store and not all Asian stores have kumyu. The middle one is a hand made kumyu, probably from one of the pre-WWII blacksmiths on Guam and the one on the right is a modern tool.
So, what do you do if you don't have one of these tools. Well as you know, my being a "make do with what you have" kind of person I have a solution. Now a kumyu is a simple yet effective tool for grating coconut and can be made using simple tools and what you probably have around the house. I took an old bamboo (hardwood will work too) cooking spoon and using my pocket knife and a file, made an effective kumyu.

I trimmed the wooden spoon and as you can see, because the material was a little thick, beveled the edge. Next, using a file/rasp cut serrations long the edge of the spoon.

Finally, I mounted the wooden kumyu onto a small board, as I mentioned to sit on as a means to secure the tool I was able to make a workable kumyu in about thirty minutes.

Now, when you grate your coconut, place a large bowl underneath the kumyu to catch the grated meat and beginning along the edge of the coconut, begin scraping the inside of the coconut against the kumyu. It takes practice but it is one of the best ways to grate coconut. Work the coconut over the kumyu evenly until you've taken all the meat out careful not to scrape too deep.


Now you're grating coconut like a real Chamorro and have what you need for a variety of Chamorro dishes including coconut candy. Yum! I think I know what I can do for my next posting.
I took some of this coconut and added it to Chicken Keleguen but the rest will be used for coconut candy, another Chamorro delicacy.