Dead Eye Club is a side project optimized for fun. It’s the outcome of a sole searching road trip across Colorado I did with my best friend Thom. It makes top quality mischief –– things like slingshots, playing cards, dancing skeleton sticker packs, modified nerf guns, and whatever else sounds fun to design and make. It has morphed into a low stakes creative outlet.
The story of how it started is an interesting one. It involves a girl, a slingshot shaped like a bear, and an American Dream.
I can’t tell the story of Dead Eye Club without talking about Thom. Thom lives back in England, and has always been a bit of an inspiration. He’s crazy, but he’s crazy in the best way. In 2016, when Thom was visiting, we decided to go on a road trip across the United States. We met up with a girl that he originally met on DailyBooth, of all places! A project that I launched almost a decade before, and when we met up with her in person, she and Thom hit it off and had a whirlwind romance.
A few months later, after he’d gone back to the UK, he called me and told me some exciting news. They had completely fallen for each other and had decided to get married! I was ecstatic at this for several reasons: not only was one of my best friends getting married, but also this would likely mean that he’d eventually end up moving to the US. This was amazing!
Things started happening quickly. Thom sold all of his stuff, moved out of his apartment, and wrapped up his life in the UK. He flew back out to the US as soon as he could. He could only stay in the country temporarily, however, until they had actually gotten married and done all of the visa paperwork.
Things Fall Apart
A few days before the wedding, everything fell apart. Thom sent me a message from Arkansas saying the wedding was off. He was going to drive back and stay with me for his remaining time in the US. He was completely devastated, and so was I.
I admire Thom for having the balls to do what he did. He dropped everything, sold (nearly) all of his stuff, and risked it all for a dream of marrying an American girl and moving to the US. And now that wasn’t going to happen. Thom arrived, the next morning we jumped in a car, and took off on yet another road trip.
Road Trip Part 2
Our next road trip took us into the Colorado Mountains. The timing of everything was weirdly linked up with what was going on in my life. I had just left my last company, Peel & Need/Want, and I wasn’t sure where my life was going.
We both did a lot of soul searching on that road trip. We were both individually trying to figure out what was going to happen next in our lives.
Thom and I ended up stopping somewhere in a little shop on the side of the road. While looking around, I spotted a crappy little bear-themed slingshot. I bought it and we had a blast with it.
At some point after playing with it for hours Thom uttered the words “Have you ever thought about designing a slingshot or anything like that?”
“No,” I responded, “but now I really want to!”
And thus the germ of the idea for Dead Eye Club was spawned.
Start a side project brand that was:
- Extremely fun to run. The entire point of this project is to enjoy ourselves.
- Low pressure, low stakes.
- The tagline, and mantra would be “Top quality mischief”.
- The brand mascot was going to be a skeleton, which is Thom’s favorite animal (And yes, I do know a skeleton isn’t an animal).
- No batteries. Only good old fashioned fun.
- Make products that give you something to learn. To develop a new skill.
- Only sell things that we’d like to buy ourselves
Having a relatively low stakes side project like this has been insanely useful. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. It’s like a petri-dish environment to experiment and try new things without the pressure for anything to come from them.
Designing a deck of cards
Cards were the perfect product to start with. Manufacturing cards is relatively easy and cheap so once I found a good manufacturer it just came down to the design.
The first Dead Eye Club desk is optimized for throwing. They’re made of PVC plastic and they’re 0.32mm thick, which doesn’t really come across in the pictures, but they’re very thick!
They include lots of small hidden details. For example:
I have a pet mouse that lives in a skull. I couldn’t resist having him hiding in one of the eyes of the royal cards.
As a little nod to Thom, I included a small detail that was inspired by his first tattoo. His first tattoo was originally inspired by a playing card he found, so it was quite fitting. 🙂
After playing with that crappy bear-themed slingshot, I ended up falling down a deep slingshot hole on YouTube. Slingshots quickly became my favorite new hobby for several reasons:
- You can be extremely accurate with a slingshot. Almost unreasonably so.
- Slingshots are a very satisfying hobby to learn, improve, and get good at. Shooting is a great and useful skill to have.
- Shooting cans is one of the most satisfying things you can imagine. It’s even fun for city slickers like me!
The Dead Eye Club slingshot was slowly designed, refined, and tested over a 2 year period. We went through many different shapes, concepts and materials. I’m really happy with where it ended up.
The final slingshot will be “Made in the USA”. It’s stamped, CNC milled, and finished from high quality aluminum. There’s a unique fork design that securely holds bands in place, but are easy to switch out or adjust and it has a very low profile design, so it’s pocketable. Manufacturing is finally in progress and they will be available on the website soon.
Dead Eye Club Today
Dead Eye Club is currently being run by my brother (and legend), Kiall Wheatley!!!!! and a side project for all involved.
If any of this sounded interesting you can follow @deadeyeclub on instagram.