The last time we checked in with JT from the YouTube channel Built IRL they had successfully created a working version of Batman’s grappling gun. But the Dark Knight wasn’t the only superhero they wanted to emulate, and this time they’ve managed to recreate Spider-Man’s web slingers. They’re not quite a perfect copy — no radioactive spiders were involved — but the results are still the best we’ve seen to date.
As with most of the gadgetry our favourite superheroes rely on, Peter Parker’s web slingers (at least the mechanical kind, not the organic ones growing out of his wrists) simply can’t exist in real life exactly as they appear in comic books and movies. Special effects artists do most of the heavy lifting that makes Spider-Man appear to effortlessly swing from building to building on the big screen, but talented mechanical engineers like JT are inching us closer and closer to making that fantasy a reality.
JT has made previous attempts to create IRL web slingers, but the results were incredibly complex involving backpack air compressors, wrist-worn launchers, spools of high-strength cable, and complex touch-sensitive Spidey gloves allowing the mechanisms to be operated using finger and wrist taps. It was nowhere near as elegant as the hardware the ‘real’ Spider-Man uses, and nowhere near as safe, which was especially problematic for JT who lacks super strength and any superpowers.
Their latest attempt simplifies the hardware dramatically. Instead of launching a cable with a grappling hook on the end that can be mechanically wound back in to facilitate the subsequent swings, JT created a simple metal tube, powered by compressed propane and a custom-designed igniter, that would launch a long cable embedded with metal hooks that could secure itself when wrapped around a metal beam.
The use of mild explosives meant the web-shooters had to be refilled using a special machine between each use, which isn’t really an option mid-swing. So JT instead built seven of the launchers in total, allowing him to wear several of them on a belt and switch between them from swing to swing. That’s easier said than done, however, and after a week spent training at an indoor trampoline facility with lots of soft places to safely fall, JT managed to complete two-and-a-half swings from the building’s metal rafters before landing back on the ground on his feet.
It might not be as slick as what Tom Holland appears to do in the Marvel movies (most of the time it’s actually a CG stunt double doing the incredible aerial aerobatics) but watching JT do it, and knowing he’s a real human (plus that dramatic landing at the end) makes this creation all the more impressive.