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siege-engines-msg – 1/10/08


Catapults, trebuchets. Period and modern. Tabletop models.


NOTE: See also the files: crossbows-msg, p-archery-msg, archery-books-msg, c-archery-msg, crossbow-FAQ, arch-books-FAQ, pottery-wepns-msg, slings-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Military Engines


<Son> Inasmuch as you seem to think that you have described most of the

weapons which are convenient to have in naval warfare or in fighting on

horseback, I will now ask you to say something about those which you

think are most effective in besieging or defending castles.


<Father> All the weapons that we have just discussed as useful on ships

or on horseback can also be used in attacking and defending castles; but

there are many other kinds. If one is to attack a castle with the

weapons which I have enumerated, he will also have need of trebuckets: a

few powerful ones with which to throw large rocks against stone walls to

determine whether they are able to resist such violent blows, and weaker

trebuckets for throwing missiles over the walls to demolish the houses

within the castle. But if one is unable to break down or shatter a stone

wall with trebuckets, he will have to try another engine, namely the

iron-headed ram, for very few stone walls can withstand its attack. If

this engine fails to batter down or shake the wall, it may be advisable

to set the cat t to work. A tower raised on wheels ~ is useful in

besieging castles, if it is constructed so that it rises above the wall

which is to be stormed, even though the difference in height be only

seven ells; but the higher it is, the more effective it will be in

attacking another tower. Scaling ladders on wheels which may be moved

backward and forward are also useful for this purpose, if they are

boarded up underneath and have good ropes on both sides. And we may say

briefly about this craft, that in besieging castles use will be found

for all sorts of military engines. But Whoever wishes to join in this

must be sure that he knows precisely even to the very hour when he shall

have need for each device.


Speculum Regale


FROM: Simon the Strange

SUBJECT: War Engines


* Original: AREA.... MENSA

* Original: FROM.... Bruce Wilson

* Original: TO...... Dave Aronson


There was a front-page feature story in the July 30 Wall Street

Journal that might be of interest to you and other SCA types:

"A Scud It's Not, But the Trebuchet Hurls a Mean Piano"

"Giant Medieval War Machine Is Wowing British Farmers

And Scaring the Sheep"

It seems some guy in England's managed to build a full-size (some 4

stories tall) working trebuchet and uses it to hurl grand pianos,

small cars, and animal carcasses across the British countryside.

Some British parachutists want to try it, but the acceleration is 0

to 90 mph in 1.5 seconds and produces centrifugal force of 20 Gs,

which may be enough to burst human blood vessels.

One of his incentives to build the thing was a "nutter cousin" in

Northumberland who made a small trebuchet he used to hurl porcelain

toilets that'd been soaked in gasoline and set afire.  The article

said that a local paper had headlined the story "Those Magnificent

Men and Their Flaming Latrines."  :-)


* Origin: Aronson Consulting: TIDMADT 703-370-7054, voice x6508 (1:109/120)



From: JRECHTSCHAFF at hamp.hampshire.EDU

Date: 13 Nov 91 22:48:00 GMT

Organization: The Internet


Greetings unto the Rialto from Lyanna ferch Gwynhelek,


Concerning Siege Engines (also written by Pierre)


   The trebuchet is basically a counter-weighted lever. The potential

energy of a weight is released across a fulcrum (pivit point) to import

kinetic energy to a projectile lodged at the far end of the lever.

   It follows that the greater the weight the less the friction, the lower the

lever, the greater the mechanical advantage.  The lighter more streamlined

the projectile, the greater the thrown distance.

   The weight must fall through an arc to translate potential to kinetic

energy.  It's vertical acceleration (ignoring friction) wil be 9.8m/sec.

squared.  Now it will take a while for the weight to reach it's terminal

velocity.   Aha! You say blinded by a brilliant flash of the inuitively

obvious.  To get maximum acceleration my trebuchet counter-weight must

fall "x" feet which means that this sucker has got to be tall.  Tall

equals big.  How big? Try 120-150'.  (See The Wall St. Journal Tuesday

31, July for an excellent article on a piano throwing modern trebuchet.)

    Now the overall height can be reduced by digging a pit between the

uprights, but physics is still physics and you still need clearence for the

weight so about 120' is it.  Needless to say the greater the mass (the more

accelerated the counter-weight) the more convinient - try depleted urainium.

Seriously, the most readily available wieght is lead. Don't start messing

around with old batteries - nasty stuff can happen to you and mother earth.

A ton or two works well.

    The longer the lever arm the better. Now we're into materials.  I happen

to have an 80' ash pole but I like it in it's present form - as a tree.

Old growth spruce is hard to find.  You're best off laminating (laminating

is period) up a pole from close grain spruce.  Consult a wooden boat maker.

If you are building a machine you now have two uprights (telephone poles

are OK) about 6 to 8 feet apart, (obviously this isn't very portable),

a very long lever pivoting on trunions across the top of the uprights and

a counter weight fastened (hinged is best) to the short end of the lever.

You now put a cup on the throwing end of the lever sufficient to hold a

dead horse or a prisoner-of-war of choice.  (See projectile below)

You collect a bunch of serfs, haul the long end down with a rope, load,

and have everyone let go.  (In addition to a dozen rope burned palms, you

let the end of the rope loop around your ankle and neatly amputate it.

See trigger mechanisms)  Assuming you have a pivoted or off-center counter-

weight the lever rotates from about 180 degrees (pointed down) up through

0 degrees (pointed up) over to 270 degrees (where the projectile falls

onto the ground) on down to the ground where it shatters while pegging

the idiots standing there (remember the trigger crew?) or rebounds and

jumps on its trunions or if your lucky, pendulums for a while.

   Obviously you need to stop the arm at some point.  The theretical

ballistically optimum turning point is 45 degrees. In practice however,

this does not allow for sufficient fall of the counterweight, for friction

etc.  A practicle point is at about 30 degrees.  The stop must be strudy

well padded and well braced lest the lever frame shatter. This gives rise

to an old medieval saying, "It is easy to build something that fires once

building one that fires twice is something else."  If the frame is

built on skids the azimuth can be changed, if it is (was) more usual it is

anchored  to the ground, the azimuth is fixed.  Range can be altered by

changing the release (trigger) point or by building up the stop padding.

(Throw a few more sheep skins on the stop.)

   Range can be increased by a third by use of a sling. The sling is

one-half the length of the lever and rides with it's projectile, in a

trough under the machine.  There should be no slack. One end of the

sling is fastened to the lever, the other loops over a horn at the end of

the lever.  (opps that should be that the sling is fastened to one end of

the lever, the other loops over a horn at the end of the lever).  Note that

the release point is now changed by 1/2 the angle between the fastining point

and the horn.  The simplest trigger (and its shortcomings not to mention

its tendency to foul the frame and sling) has been mentioned. A second

form of trigger is a wedged in bar across the lever.  The wedge is knocked

out with a sledge hammer.  However, one can be seriously killed by flying

crossbars the size of railroad ties.

   Another trigger consists of a hook and eye released when a lanyard is

yanked by a whipped up group of draft animals (not squirrels.) Payne-Salwery

and others have illustrated some very nice trigger mechanisms that could be

made by any competent smith.

   As with most medieval siege engines, tecbuchets were transported, knocked

down and erected on site.  Philippe Contamine writes in Guerre dans le Moyens

Ages amusingly of an English king who spent months transporting and erecting

a monster trebuchet to besiege a castle in Scotland.  When the enemy saw that itwas ready they marched out and tried to surrender. The king, understandably

piqued, refused, sent them back in, fired demolished half the castle and its

garrison and then honor being served accepted their surrender. It is possible

to build a trebuchet but not really worth the bother when you can build a

ballista or catapult equally portable, wit hvastly better performance.  I

have a ballista with a 1000 # prod that I can carry by myself.  It will shoot

a 2' 3/8" rebar bolt through a car door.

  Reference projectiles.  I propose an SCA standard, the humble common brick.

it's cheap, readily available and regular in siza and shape.  It generally

conforms to the size of a medieval brick although it is significantly

heavier.  It is self-replenishing - as you shoot down the wall, you get

more ammo!


                               -Pierre D'Ussf, Artificer

                                aka Peter Maleady




From: ddfr at quads.uchicago.edu (david director friedman)

Date: 14 Nov 91 05:23:41 GMT

Organization: University of Chicago Computing Organizations


"It's vertical acceleration (ignoring friction) wil be 9.8m/sec.

squared.  Now it will take a while for the weight to reach it's

terminal velocity." (Lord Pierre D'Ussf, discussing the physics of a



The figure you give for acceleration would be appropriate for a mass

falling free by itself. The counterweight of the trebuchet, however,

is accelerating the throwing arm and the projectile as well--and

their weight is pushing in the other direction, since they are on the

other side of the pivot. Furthermore, the relation between vertical

acceleration of the weight and angular acceleration of the arm etc.

changes with the angle. When the arm reaches vertical, for example, a

small rotation produces no vertical displacement, since at that point

the velocity of the counterweight is horizontal.


Since this is a rotational problem, it is much easier to solve it in

terms of rotational dynamics. Angular acceleration is torque divided

by moment of inertia. The torque is ((mass of the counterweight times

its distance from the pivot) minus (mass of the rest of the system

(the stuff on the other side of the pivot) times the distance of its

center of mass from the pivot)) times sin of the angle of the arm

from vertical.


I do not see the relevance of terminal velocity. You reach terminal

velocity when air resistance exactly balances torque. I doubt that is

likely to happen at any plausible speed.


"Needless to say the greater the mass (the more accelerated the

counter-weight) the more convinient- try depleted urainium." (Lord



The acceleration of a falling body does not (air resistance aside)

depend on its mass, as Galileo pointed out some years back.

Increasing the ratio of the mass of the counterweight to the mass of

the rest of the system will increase acceleration (see my verbal

equation above)--but that would not be true if your original

statement (quoted before this one) were correct.


I think you may be confusing weight with density. You can get plenty

of weight with a box full of dirt and stones, which I think is what

they mostly used.


"The theretical ballistically optimum turning point is 45 degrees. In

practice however, this does not allow for sufficient fall of the

counterweight, for friction etc.  A practicle point is at about 30

degrees." (Lord Pierre)


Forty-five degrees is the optimum angle if velocity does not depend

on the angle. With a trebuchet velocity is increasing as the

counterweight falls. The effect can be exactly calculated--that part

is not a matter of "practical points." Patri, back when he was

teaching physics classes, used to give it as a problem to his

students. Friction is more complicated.


With a sling, the velocity of the projectile when it is released is

no longer at right angles to the arm, as it is with a rigid throwing

arm. That means that it should be possible to combine the optimal

angle for the projectile's velocity (45 degrees from vertical) with

maximum velocity (throwing arm upright, counterweight all the way

down), giving a longer range than would be possible for the same

trebuchet without a sling.


"It is possible to build a trebuchet but not really worth the bother

when you can build a ballista or catapult equally portable, wit

hvastly better performance." ((Lord Pierre)


To build a ballista or catapult you need big twisted skeins of very

strong cord--and there are, I believe, problems as you try to scale

the beast up. All a trebuchet needs is wood, a little metal for

release mechanism and such, and dirt (what they filled the

counterweight with).


David Friedman (Cariadoc has never heard of torque--he gets his

physics from Aristotle)


From: cctimar at athena.cas.vanderbilt.edu (Charles)

Date: 18 Nov 91 05:51:21 GMT

Organization: Vanderbilt University student of numerology


His Grace, the Duke Cariadoc of the Bow writeth:


> "The theretical ballistically optimum turning point is 45 degrees. In

> practice however, this does not allow for sufficient fall of the

> counterweight, for friction etc.  A practicle point is at about 30

> degrees." (Lord Pierre)


> Forty-five degrees is the optimum angle if velocity does not depend

> on the angle. With a trebuchet velocity is increasing as the

> counterweight falls. The effect can be exactly calculated--that part

> is not a matter of "practical points." Patri, back when he was

> teaching physics classes, used to give it as a problem to his

> students. Friction is more complicated.


Two points need to be considered, here.  The first is that the optimum

angle is the angle at which you are hitting your target, which is not

necessarily the angle that throws the projectile the farthest.  Of course,

if you are overshooting, you will probably correct by removing a stone

from the counterweight, rather than trying to adjust the stop.


The second is that, because of air resistance, the longest range for a

fixed firing velocity can usually be achieved by firing the projectile at

35-40 degrees above vertical.  The best way to compute the actual angle is

to do a computer simulation.  The second best is just trial and error - I

would start by subtracting 5 degrees from the angle that you compute the

way Cariadoc suggests.


Of course, there is also some friction involved in the arm spinning on its

axis.  I don't know how large an effect this will have.


    -- Charles, student, in Glaedenfeld, Meridies



From: PAMCCOY at GALLUA.BITNET ("Pat McCoy a.k.a. Bones")

Date: 26 Nov 91 22:49:00 GMT

Organization: The Internet


Greeting unto all on the Rialto from Padraigin nic'Aodha!


I am enclosing a message from the physics teacher to all

who responded to our inquiries concerning siege machines

that chunk punkins, pianos and cars.  :-)


"I am the physics teacher (and non-SCA member) who has been

asking questions (through a member on the Rialto) about

trebuchets.  I have taken great pleasure in the responses

Pat McCoy had forwarded me from the Rialto and appreciate

the resource you have been to me and my students.


In early October, I assigned my introductory Physics students

the following problem:  "Design a machine which can throw an

8-10 pound pumpkin as far as possible, using the limited materials

available."  The students took sevel different approaches to the

problem, from creating original designs to researching ancient

siege machines.


The trebuchet idea cropped up from a Wall Street Journal article

on an Englishman's current project, (cited here incidentally).

However, there was not enough information from that article to

build a machine.  The tips and suggestions (including excellent

references) provided from several members on the Rialto set us off

in a better direction.


One team of students, (an all-girls team, by the way), constructed

a small trebuchet, a simple counter lever device, (16-foot throwing

arm, 225 lb. counterweight) and proceeded to tromp the other high

school contenders.  Our best throw was only about 37 yard with a

6-pound pumpkin, but the sight of that machine working was beautiful.

The sling just sailed magnificently up and over, releasing the pumpkin

at least a yard above the throwing arm.  We adjusted parameters,

(counterweight mass, length of sling lines, sling attachment,

weight of the pumpkin, etc.) and collected data that is going to

provide us with problems for much of the rest of the year. We have

videos which will be analyzed in slow motion for other data.


The class's three machines (the trebuchet, a catapult style and a

centrifugal design) were carted to Delaware on November 2nd to

participate in an annual pumpkin throw with adult teams from the

local area.  We were the only high school group to throw. Best

throw of the day was 702.6 feet, somewhat short of the world record

set last year at 776 feet.  These throws were accomplished by an

adult team with a centrifugal machine consisting of a 30-foot arm

driven with a belt from the rear axle of a pick-up truck.


(I apologize for this non-period stuff if it is not of interest.

I didn't know how much to share about this rather extensive project,

after getting such kind responses from the many of you who shared

your knowledge.)


There seems to be a clamor from physics-student-wannabe's for a

repeat performance next year.  Now that we know a little more about

what we are doing and have some references in hand, I hope to throw

in the 'several hundred feet' range mentioned graciously in several

Rialto postings.


The class and I thank all of you who responded to our queries and

commended you on your preservation of the Middle Ages. May the Age

of Chivalry live on forever.


In debt to the Society,


Mary S. Ellsworth

Science Department

Model Secondary School for the Deaf

  at Gallaudet University,

Washington, DC"


Thus ends the letter from MSSD and I also thank you for your help

in this endeavor!


Padraigin nic'Aodha - Barony of Storvik - Kingdom of Atlantia

Pat McCoy - Washington, DC



Trebuchet blues

15 May 92

From: rday at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (Robert E Day)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Organization: The Ohio State University


In article <01GK17U2M8B48WW44W at LEO.BSUVC.BSU.EDU> 00MJSTUM at leo.bsuvc.bsu.EDU wr


>Greetings unto all gentles who may read this!


>I have nearly finished a "quickie" prototype of a trebuchet.  The arm

>is merely 4 ft. in length.  However, I have now come to that difficult

>position of attaching a sling.  My first attempts (with a hacked up

>badmitton net) were, um, less than successful.  I tied the ends of the

>"sling" in such a manner that it would have a cupping effect... however

>when the sling is released from its hook the projectile merely rolls

>up the length of the sling and gets caught in the end. I've tried

>remedying this in several ways with either no change or even worse side-



>Can anyone, who has made one, enlighten me with a description?  I would

>me _most_ grateful!


I have a friend who made one with an arm  about 8 feet long. He used a small

piece of leather(about 6" square) attached to  rope as the sling. One end of

the rope was attached to the arm only by a ring which hung on a hook and the

other was securely attached to the arm. He used it to throw 8" warrer ballons.


If the price that I must pay to obtain my *  Robert E. Day/Syr Otto von    *

freedom, is to acknowledge that the Gov-  *  Schwartzkatz, Shire Mugmort   *

ernmet was granted the power to infringe  *  Barony Middle Marches,        *

on them, then I am not free. Paul Anderson*  Middle Kingdom                *


15 May 92

From: amlsmith at morgan.ucs.mun.ca (Andrew Smith 8848111)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Organization: Memorial University of Newfoundland


Greetings unto the Rialto from Sebastien. Located in far off

Ar n-Eilean-ne, (Nfld., Canada).


I have reason to believe that I am the last siege engineer

before hitting Drachenwald. I too, am searching for information.


The choice of the Trebuchet is a good one, less stesses are involved

and therefore, safer.


As far as readings  go, DO start with Sir R.P. Galloway's book.

For those who are interested, I understand that copies are available

through :


            Albert Saifer Publisher

            BOX 7125

            Watchung, NJ



It can also be obtained (in Canada through U. of T. and Ottawa.


My good lord with the sling problem: Try a simple sling of canvas

or, failing that, burlap!  My Trebuchet worked OK. It measures

6' at the base and 8' (ish) on the arm with a ratio of 6:1. Try that.


To any and all mundane engineers and physics types... Can YOU work out

the mathematical / mechanical formulae?


For ballista type amusement, try to find _Harry and I Build a Catapult_

They used truck leaf springs and I beams.


My final word is this: Any information, no matter how trivial

about Seige weaponry would be greatly appreciated. This would

include the Car and Driver issue and page number with the Trebuchet info

, Please!


Maybe we'll just e-chat.


Sebastien Roland fils de MArek

"Never challenge a guy who owns a catapult to a snowball fight" - Hagar



      amlsmith at morgan.ucs.mun.ca



Trebuchet Blues (getting better)

18 May 92

From: 00MJSTUM at leo.bsuvc.bsu.EDU

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Organization: The Internet


Unto the good gentles of the Rialto I send Greetings!


I deeply thank each of you who responded so quickly to my request

for help with trebuchet sling construction.


As I posted previously, I attempted to use a "net" type sling as I had

seen in almost all sketches of trebuchets.  However, changing the sling

to a "hand-held" design which involved a mere "patch" of leather or

canvas attached with rope gave me the results I was looking for.


Now, given that my prototype construction was very hastily done and

a lot of power was lost due to movement, I was able to cast a tennis-

ball a mere 24 yds with a 4ft/1ft throwing arm with approx. 40 lbs.

of counterweight (the weight a _very_ loose guestimate... the structure

could have held much more but I had no way of attaching any more weight).


To those of you who have built or seen such engines, what are the vital

statistics of your machines?  (We can take this to E-mail and summarize



Missile Weight:


Arm Length/Counter-Length:



I'm curious if there's an optimum arm length/counter-length ratio as

well as a maximum counterweight for a given arm length (for some

reason I can envision _too_ fast of an arm movement).  My objective is

to construct an engine that will place a ~2lb object 100+ yds.  What

kind of scale are we talking about here?  My first thought is to build

an engine capable of holding ~6 cement blocks as counterweight with

a 6' to 8' arm.  However, my instinct tells me that this is still too



Gratefully yours,

Gwydion ap Myrddin






Trebuchet Blues (getting better)

18 May 92

From: tip at lead.aichem.arizona.edu (Tom Perigrin)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Organization: A.I. Chem Lab, University of Arizona


Unto Gwydion ap Myrddin, doth Thomas Ignatius Perigrinus send his greetings,


My Lord,


      My largest beast can send a grapefruit about 150 yards.  The arm is

a goodly 8' long, and is pivoted about 1 part towards the counterweight, and

6 parts towards the sling.   This distance was decided after 5 trials with

different arms.   An the arm be to much one way, then the cast is too slow,

an it be to much the other way, the weight be not ponderous enough to swing it



The weight doth seem to be critical, for that I find two hundredweight is

near unto being too little, whilst three hunderdredweight doth serve well.  

My counterweight is a mix of bronze and lead weights, suspended by chains

and ropes,



From julian at fgssu1.fgs.slb.com Fri May 29 00:52:28 1992

Date: Fri, 29 May 92 00:52:20 PDT

From: julian at fgssu1.fgs.slb.com (Julian Carlisle)

To: allaway, cat

Subject: Seige Engine


_A Scud It's Not, But the Trebuchet Hurls a Mean Piano_


Giant Medieval War Machine Is Wowing British Farmers And Scaring the Sheep


By Glynn Mapes, Staff Reporter of the Wall Street Journal (25 Sept 91)



ACTON ROUND, England--With surprising grace, the grand piano sails through

the sky a hundred feet above a pasture here, finally returning to earth in

a fortissimo explosion of wood chunks, ivory keys and piano wire.


Nor is the piano the strangest thing to startle the grazing sheep this

Sunday morning.  A few minutes later, a car soars by - a 1975 blue

two-door Hillman, to be exact - following the same flight path and meeting

the same loud fate.  Pigs fly here, too.  In recent months, many dead

500-pound sows (two of them wearing parachutes) have passed overhead, as

has the occasional dead horse.


It's the work of Hew Kennedy's medieval siege engine, a four story tall,

30 ton behemoth that's the talk of bucolic Shropshire, 140 miles northwest

of London.  In ancient times, such war machines were dreaded instruments

of destruction, flinging huge missiles, including plague-ridden horses,

over the walls of besieged castles.  Only one full-sized one exists today,

designed and built by Mr. Kennedy, a wealthy landowner, inventor, military

historian and - need it be said?  - full-blown eccentric.


A Pagoda, Too


At Acton, Round Hall, Mr. Kennedy's handsome Georgian manor house here,

one enters the bizarre world of a P. G. Wodehouse novel. A stuffed baboon

hangs from the dining room chandelier (``Shot it in Africa.  Nowhere else

to put it,'' Mr. Kennedy explains).  Lining the walls are dozens of

halberds and suits of armor.  A full suit of Indian elephant armor,

rebuilt by Mr. Kennedy, shimmers resplendently on an elephant-sized frame.

In the garden outside stands a 50-foot-high Chinese pagoda.


Capping this scene, atop a hill on the other side of the 620-acre Kennedy

estate, is the siege engine, punctuating the skyline like an oil derrick.

Known by its 14th-century French name, trebuchet (pronounced

tray-boo-shay), it's not to be confused with a catapult, a much smaller

device that throws rocks with a spoon-like arm propelled by twisted ropes

or animal gut.


Mr. Kennedy, a burly, energetic 52-year-old, and Richard Barr, his

46-year-old neighbor and partner, have spent a year and #10,000 ($17,000)

assembling the trebuchet.  They have worked from ancient texts, some in

Latin, and crude wood-block engravings of siege weaponry.


The big question is why?


Mr. Kennedy looks puzzled, as if the thought hadn't occurred to him

before.  ``Well why not?  It's bloody good fun!'' he finally exclaims.

When pressed, he adds that for several hundred years, military technicians

have been trying fruitlessly to reconstruct a working trebuchet.  Cortez

built one for the siege of Mexico City.  On its first shot, it flung a

huge boulder straight up - and then straight down, demolishing the

machine.  In 1851, Napoleon III had a go at it, as an academic exercise.

His trebuchet was poorly balanced and barely managed to hurl the missiles

- backward.  ``Ours works a hell of a lot better than the Frogs', which is

a satisfaction,'' Mr. Kennedy says with relish.


How it works seems simple enough.  The heart of the siege engine is a

three-ton, 60-foot tapered beam made from laminated wood. It's pivoted

near the heavy end, to which is attached a weight box filled with 5= tons

of steel bar.  Two huge A-frames made from lashed-together tree trunks

support a steel axle, around which the beam pivots.  When the machine is

at rest, the beam is vertical, slender end at the top and weight box just

clearing the ground.


When launch time comes, a farm tractor cocks the trebuchet, slowly hauling

the slender end of the beam down and the weighted end up. Several dozen

nervous sheep, hearing the tractor and knowing what comes next, make a

break for the far side of the pasture.  A crowd of 60 friends and

neighbors buzzes with anticipation as a 30-foot, steel-cable sling is

attached - one end to the slender end of the beam and the other to the

projectile, in this case a grand piano (purchased by the truckload from a

junk dealer).


``If you see the missile coming toward you, simply step aside,'' Mr.

Kennedy shouts to the onlookers.


Then, with a great groaning, the beam is let go.  As the counterweight

plummets, the piano in its sling whips through an enormous arc, up and

over the top of the trebuchet and down the pasture, a flight of 125 yards.

The record for pianos is 151 yards (an upright model, with less wind

resistance).  A 112 pound iron weight made it 235 yards. Dead hogs go for

about 175 yards, and horses 100 yards; the field is cratered with the

graves of the beasts, buried by a backhoe where they landed.


Mr. Kennedy has been studying and writing about ancient engines of war

since his days at Sandhurst, Britain's military academy, some 30 years

ago.  But what spurred him to build one was, as he puts it, ``my nutter

cousin'' in Northumberland, who put together a pint-sized trebuchet for a

county fair.  The device hurled porcelain toilets soaked in gasoline and

set afire.  A local paper described the event under the headline ``Those

Magnificent Men and Their Flaming Latrines.''


Building a full-sized siege engine is a more daunting task.  Mr.  Kennedy

believes that dead horses are the key.  That's because engravings usually

depict the trebuchet hurling boulders, and there is no way to determine

what the rocks weigh, or the counterweight necessary to fling them.  But a

few drawings show dead horses being loaded onto trebuchets, putrid animals

being an early form of biological warfare.  Since horses weigh now what

they did in the 1300s, the engineering calculations followed easily.


One thing has frustrated Mr. Kennedy and his partner: They haven't found

any commercial value to the trebuchet.  Says a neighbor helping to carry

the piano to the trebuchet, ``Too bad Hew can't make the transition

between building this marvelous machine and making any money out of it.''


It's not for lack of trying.  Last year Mr. Kennedy walked onto the

English set of the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie, volunteering his

trebuchet for the scene where Robin and his sidekick are catapulted over a

wall.  ``The directors insisted on something made out of plastic and

cardboard,'' he recalls with distaste.  ``Nobody cares about correctness

these days.''


More recently, he has been approached by an entrepreneur who wants to bus

tourists up from London to see cars and pigs fly through the air.  So far,

that's come to naught.


Mr. Kennedy looks to the U.S. as his best chance of getting part of his

investment back: A theme park could commission him to build an even bigger

trebuchet that could throw U.S.-sized cars into the sky. ``Its an

amusement in America to smash up motor cars, isn't it?'' he inquires



Finally, there's the prospect of flinging a man into space - a living man,

that is.  This isn't a new idea, Mr. Kennedy points out: Trebuchets were

often used to fling ambassadors and prisoners of war back over castle

walls, a sure way to demoralize the opposition.


Some English sports parachutists think they can throw a man in the air

*and* bring him down alive.  In a series of experiments on Mr.  Kennedy's

machine, they've thrown several man-sized logs and two quarter-ton dead

pigs into the air; one of the pigs parachuted gently back to earth, the

other landed rather more forcefully.


Trouble is, an accelerometer carried inside the logs recorded a

centrifugal force during the launch of as much as 20 Gs (the actual

acceleration was zero to 90 miles per hour in 1.5 seconds). Scientists are

divided over whether a man can stand that many Gs for more that a second

or two before his blood vessels burst.


The parachutists are nonetheless enthusiastic.  But Mr. Kennedy thinks the

idea may only be pie in the sky.


``It would be splendid to throw a bloke, really splendid,'' he says

wistfully.  ``He'd float down fine.  But he'd float down dead.''



From: haslock at rust.zso.dec.com (Nigel Haslock)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: portable seige weapons:  rope

Date: 12 Mar 1993 19:14:11 GMT

Organization: Digital Equipment Corporation - DECwest Engineering


The twists in a rope can be measured in twists per inch. The twisting of a

torsion spring bundle might amount to one twist per foot. Yes, there will

be a slight difference in the energy stored on either side of the throwing

arm. The questions are 1) does it affect the accuracy of the engine 2) is it

a self correcting problem.


I would suggest that it is self correcting and so does not affect the engine.

It is self correcting because the throwing arm is free to center itself in

the bundle. As the bundle is would up to tension, the throwing arm will move

so as to equalize the tension on both sides. In an engine in which there are

independent winding mechanisms for each half of the bundle, it is easy to

create an unbalanced bundle. In such an engine, I would expect the shock or

releaseing the arm to cause the bundle to equalise. In such an engine, I

would expect uneven winding to far outweigh the effects of untwisting the

ropes in the bundle.



      Aquaterra, AnTir



From: jlagrave at zeno.ss.uci.edu (John Lagrave)

Subject: Our Seige Engine--A Trebuchet

Organization: University of California, Irvine

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1993 07:14:29 GMT


Greetings M'Lords and M'Ladies


My college, the College of Fenwood Knoll, has completed the construction

of a trebuchet.  I wrote to this rialto sometime last year and asked for

suggestions on where to go for sources and help.  Lords Aryk Nusbacher, Tibor,

Gille MacDomnuill, Jim Edwards-Hewitt, Hrothgar, Gwydion ap Myrddin

Tarver (W. Ted Szwejkowski), and Sir Michael of York all get a most heart-

felt thanks from myself.  (If I have neglected anyone my humblest apologies,

and of course my thanks).  What follows is the story of the contruction of a

working seige engine, from design to firing, with a couple of questions that

I hope will be answered.  I hope that you enjoy this story, and tolerate this

bit of self aggrandizement.  (Insert humble bow here.)


The best source for the construction of a trebuchet is from a journal called

the Viator, (VIATOR 4:99-114 (1973)) by Donald Hill title Trebuchets.  

The most entertaining source about trebuchet's is by Sir Paine-Gallwey titled

The crossbow, mediaeval and modern, military and sporting; its

construction, history & management. With a treatise on the balista and

catapult of the ancients, and an appendix on the catapult, balista & the

Turkish bow ( New York, Bramhall House [c1958]).  Many a story might be spun

by the clever bard upon reading this delightful, but innaccurate text.  


Without further ado, then, my story.


Three intrepid lads, myself include, thinking themselves capable of putting

saw to wood, discussed the possiblity of constructing a seige engine.  After

a bit of thought, no small feat for these lads, the possiblity of constructing

a trebuchet reached critical mass and the lads were quite taken by the idea.

Several obstacles lay in their path, however.  One being the problem of

transporting the bloody thing, for these lads planned to build something quite

large, larger than, say, the cows they hoped to lauch from the thing, and

not having large mechanisms with which to transport the device seemed a

problem.  Well they came upon the idea that no piece of wood would be larger

than five feet.  This, of course, led to a new problem, just how the hell were

they going to join the pieces?  None of their fathers having been carpenters,

and none of the lads having had a useful education, such as taking a wood shop

class, they created their own joint, which in hindsight could have been much



The specifations of the trebuchet were worked out and the design of the

machine was drawn oh so carefully.  It was to measure a full ten feet in

length, spanning some four feet in width, and projecting towards the heavens at

the impressive height of seven and one half feet.  This medium is hardly

proper to convey its dimensions, but allow me a simple drawing,


      Side View                 Bird's E View



             /o|                + +    +     +

            /  | 7 1/2'        4' +  +     +       +

           /   |                + +     +     +

          /   |                + +    +     +

         /     |                +--+-----+-------+

       +--+------+-------+             10'

back               front


where the + are cross members.  The throwing arm was to measure some twelve

feet in length, but be capable of being extended to fifteen feet by some

clever engineering.  The counterweight arm was fixed at two feet. The ratio of

throwing arm to counterweight arm was 6:1 (for those lacking the schooling in

mathematics), but be capable of being increased.  A sling was to fit onto this

arm to even further increase the ratio--those of you who are wise already

see the problem.  The weight for hurtling the objects (we had rejected the

notion of using a traction type trebuchet, do to the tremendous lack of

ability to organize our college for any endeavor) was to be made from

lead and steel encased in concrete.  


We proceeded to build our trebuchet, and in sporadic bursts the engine was

completed.  All uprights were split in two, along with the ten foot long base

beams.  All beams were four by four inches and all joints were joined by one

by four inch boards with one half inch by ten inch bolts running through them.

Corners of the base were joined together with metal braces after the original

lag bolts were determined to be to weak.  The pivot beam was joined to the

upright by lag bolts and metal braces bolted to the sides of the beams to

provided further support.  The pivoting beam was constructed of a metal pipe

and the throwing arm was made of some plumbing fittings. A four-way connector

had two inch pipes which pivoted about the metal pipe which was in turn

anchored to the uprights. (confused yet?)  The throwing arm and counterweight

arm were in turn connected to the four-way connector.  The weight was

connected to the counterweight arm by a t-type fitting with a rod placed

though it and a series of links.  When all this was finished a winch was fitted on

the side to allow us to pull down the throwing arm.  A sling trough consisting

of a flat piece of board was placed between the uprights. The throwing arm

consisted of a wooden dowel one and one half inches thick, twelve feet long.

It fit inside a metal pipe fitted to the four-way connector, and was secured

by bolts.  We surveyed our work and felt satisfied.  It seemed quite secure.

Only one thing left to do, see if it worked.


So on a fine day, the first of summer, the lads and I set out onto a field and

set up our machine.  The sun was hot and we worked up quite a sweat assembling

our engine.  We loaded a counterweight (some 150 pounds) thinking it best to try

our engine with one weight lest we break the bloody thing and fall about in

fits of crying.  We rigged out sling, and fired the engine.  WOOSH!  The

weight fell.  Up went the throwing arm.  Flop went the sling.  Our stones

(consisting of hard plastic balls covered with foam and then wrapped with duct

tape) fell about us.  DAMN! (Please excuse the language gentle folk but we were

sorely mad.)  Well we put our heads together and thought a good thought.  

Perhaps the sling was too long.  We shortened it and fired again  WOOSH! went

the weight.  CRACK! went the throwing arm.  Wood fell about us as the arm

broke into pieces.  DOUBLE DAMN! (Again apologies to all.) Time to buy a new

dowel, and, we reasoned, some reinforcement for said dowel.  Off we trekked to

the nearby supply store where we purchased some pvc pipe as a sleeve for the

throwing arm.  


With a new throwing arm mounted on the trebuchet, we again tried the

engine, but the sling did not open up completely.  The sling is made of canvas

and it is some two feet wide by three feet long.  The sling ropes were

shortened considerably and the sling began to extend more than before, until

finally the sling was being fully extended in flight.  But the bloody canvas

was staying closed.  We tried again and again to no avail, and we managed to

break another wooden dowel in the process.  We decide to go with a pvc pipe

throwing arm with an inner wooden rod for support, with a reinforcing outer

pvc sleeve.  Well it weighed a lot, but we were darn confident that it would

not break.


Well, we decided to go with an earlier period trebuchet design and we placed

a large basket at the end of our newly constructed arm. It worked splendidly.

The foam balls flew out of the basket, arcing ever so gracefully toward the

heavens, before being reminded that they were not birds. Ah, twas a glorious

sight for these eyes.  With one counterweight, the farthest a three-quarter

kilogram ball went was 31 paces before striking the earth, and it was moving

pretty fast went it hit the ground.  With four balls placed in the basket,

the range was about 22 paces with a grouping of four by four paces.  

We attempted to place a second counterweight on our engine, but the weight

was too much.  The release mechanism is also the mechanism we use to pull

down the throwing arm and it bent straight from the weight.  


So, you see our predicament.  We need to redesign our sling and our release

mechanism.  We already have an idea about separating the release mechanism

from the spanning rope, but we need help with the sling design.  Any

suggestions?  We suspect that the wind resistance of the sling is creating

problems, but how do we overcome them without sacrificing delivery load?  The

lack of a sufficient counterweight may also be part of the problem, but that

will (hopefully) be rectified by the modifications to the release mechanism,

which will allow the second counterweight.


I have taken enough, nay far too much of your time, but I thank you all for

your patience.  The seige engine will be on display and firing at the

Gyldenholt anniversary this weekend.  Those of you in Caid that can make it to

Mile Square Park in Gyldenholt are invited to gaze upon its beauty.  


Yours in service,



(gotta quit working on the seige engines and work on that persona thing...:)


jlagrave at aris.ss.uci.edu



From: kuijt at umiacs.umd.edu (David Kuijt)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Trebuchet/China

Date: 21 Jul 93 15:00:01 GMT

Organization: UMIACS, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742


Regarding Trebuchets, Tadhg writes:


>>[....] I know of no evidence that the

>>trebuchet was invented by the Chinese. The earliest citation in the OED is

>>from 1224 (in Latin), [....]


to which Thorvald/James responds:


>Perhaps the trebuchet was not invented by the Chinese, but they

>appear to have used it at least as early as 759. Joseph Needham

>in _Science and Civilisation in China_ quotes from a text of

>that date. [...]


>"Tower-ships; these ships have three decks equipped with bulwarks

>for the fighting-lines.... There are ports and openings for

>crossbows and lances...while (on the topmost deck) there are

>trebuchets for hurling stones...."


Siege engine nomenclature was never standardized, and therein

lies the problem.  The word Trebuchet is commonly used by modern

military historians to refer to the huge (HUGE) counterweighted

arm design of siege engine developed around the time of the

crusades, and used (for example) in the siege of Acre by Richard

the Lionhearted and his buddies.  This is likely the engine that

Tadhg is referring to.


This is also clearly NOT what Needham's quote refers to--the

counterweight-arm design weighed much more than many ships, and

could never have been placed, much less used, on the third deck

of any medieval ship.  It would have turned turtle immediately.

Needham is also choosing an english word to translate a Chinese

word.  The fact that Needham called it a "Trebuchet" should not

be used as evidence that this is the same engine as any other

device called by that name unless Needham can provide a basis

for his choice of that word over any of the other common words

used for stone-hurling siege engines, such as Catapult, Onager,

Scorpion, and even Ballista.  All of these names have been used

to denote a variety of dissimilar siege engines, and confused

with each other.  Some words (e.g. Arbalest) are used by one

author to refer to a hand-held device (a big crossbow), and

by another to refer to an immobile siege engine similar to a



As for Needham's device, it may well have been similar to the

Roman and Greek Ballista, or the Roman Onager.  The first is a

giant crossbow with twisted-skein arms, the second is a rigid

arm throwing engine also powered by twisted-skein methods.

Both the Romans and the Greeks used Ballistae on ships; there

is some question as to whether the Onager was used that way,

as the ships of the time were not heavily built, and the Onager

"kicks" when it fires, which could quickly damage the warships

of the time.  Both the Ballista and the Onager were used to

throw stones; the Ballista also shot large spears.


      Dafydd ap Gwystl                 David Kuijt

      Barony of Storvik                kuijt at umiacs.umd.edu

      Kingdom of Atlantia              (MD,DC,VA,NC,SC)



From: doconnor at sedona.intel.com (Dennis O'Connor)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Trebuchet/China

Date: 21 Jul 93 08:54:46

Organization: Intel i960(tm) Architecture


kuijt at umiacs.umd.edu (David Kuijt) writes:

] >>[....] I know of no evidence that the

] >>trebuchet was invented by the Chinese. The earliest citation in the OED is

] >>from 1224 (in Latin), [....]


] to which Thorvald/James responds:


] >Perhaps the trebuchet was not invented by the Chinese, but they

] >appear to have used it at least as early as 759. Joseph Needham

] >in _Science and Civilisation in China_ quotes from a text of

] >that date. [...]

] >

] >"Tower-ships; these ships have three decks equipped with bulwarks

] >for the fighting-lines.... There are ports and openings for

] >crossbows and lances...while (on the topmost deck) there are

] >trebuchets for hurling stones...."


] The word Trebuchet is commonly used by modern military historians

] to refer to the huge (HUGE) counterweighted arm design [...]


] This is also clearly NOT what Needham's quote refers to--the

] counterweight-arm design weighed much more than many ships, and

] could never have been placed, much less used, on the third deck

] of any medieval ship.   It would have turned turtle immediately.


Though you may "commonly" think of a trebuchet as having a "massive"

counter-weight (however much that weighs), this is not reason enough

to dismiss Needham. Obviously you can build different size trebuchets,

and if your intent is to smash wooden boats instead of fortifications,

you probably build a smaller one that throws smaller rocks.


Chinese trebuchets often used men as the counterweight (e.g. 20-30 guys

holding ropes who sit/fall down on command ). This is about 3-4 thousand

pounds of counterweight. Obviously you can put 20-30 men on the deck of

a ship. Also obviously if you can put 3000 pounds of men on the deck you

can put 3000 pounds of rock there instead. If you even need that much.


So unless you have better reasons to fault Needham, I don't think you

have presented enough evidence that he has made a mistake.


Of course, if you are arguing that the Chinese didn't have trebuchets at

all before 1200 ( I hope you are not ) then I definately don't accept it.

There's a lot of pictorial evidence that they did ( tho I have to admit

I'm unable to give exact references right now ).



Dennis O'Connor                          doconnor at sedona.intel.com

Intel i960(R) Microprocessor Division    Solely responsible for what I do.



From: Charly.The.Bastard at f1077.n147.z1.fidonet.org (Charly The Bastard)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Shield Walls

Date: Tue, 09 Nov 1993 18:29:12 -0500


WA>The question is how do you defeat a shield wall.


The answer is a word, and the word is Catapults.  Mobile siege engines that hurl

huge rocks great distances.  I designed one some time back that would throw a

bowling ball 100 yards.  It would fit in the back of a pickup, so it could be

considered, with wheels and a team, towed artillary.



From: johnric at saturn.wwc.edu (RICHARD ALLAN JOHNSON)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Trebuchets again!

Date: Mon, 28 Mar 1994 17:06:27 GMT

Organization: Walla Walla College


In article <2n1uim$alb at portal.gmu.edu> tvalesky at mason1.gmu.edu (Tom Valesky) writes:

>From: tvalesky at mason1.gmu.edu (Tom Valesky)

>Subject: Trebuchets again!

>Date: 26 Mar 1994 18:23:18 GMT

>In this Sunday's column, Dave Berry describes a couple of guys who are

>attempting to build a trebuchet sufficient to launch a Buick for a

>distance of 200 yards. This made me curious as to what sort of

>dimensions such a trebuchet would require -- the counterweight would

>have to be enormous, and the strength of the arm prodigious to fling

>such a missile.


>So... I was wondering about the mathematics of trebuchet design. Are

>there any rules of thumb that are followed in building a trebuchet

>(ratio of counterweight to missile weight, length of throwing arm) or

>predicting the distance that the missile will be flung (a function, I

>suppose, of missile weight, counterweight weight, throwing arm length,

>and so forth)?


>Perhaps it would be fun to work up a computer simulation of a trebuchet

>according to these design parameters and see what the effect of

>modification of these parameters is.


>Tom Valesky


      Already been done.  Read a copy of Mechanical Engineer a couple of

months back and you will see a mechanics class at some military school

completely based around a trebuchet design.





From: Suze Hammond (6/28/94)

To: markh at sphinx

RE>BJECT:Re: Blackpowder, y


>I'd love to see more seige engines, but a full-scale trebuchet is just as

>likely to kill an inexperienced crew member as a target... Wonderful

>engines, but very very nasty... As one of our local experimenters recently

>said "Now we know why you never camp -behind- the trebuchet!"


Uu> Hmm. I can imagine what happened, but before you mentioned it, it

Uu> wouldn't have occured to me. So, what happened?? How big was the

Uu> trebuchet and the projectile?


Uu> Stefan li Rous

Uu> Barony of Bryn Gwlad

Uu> Ansteorra


Unfortunately I wasn't there at the time, and they took it down, rather

than leave it for the neighborhood kids to kill someone with. (Rural site.)


As I understand, they were only throwing "SCA-legal rocks", ie huge lumps

of closed-cell foam wrapped in duct tape. Quite a few it threw straight

up, some it threw to either side, some went up and then somewhat to the

rear, and some flew wonderfully, after they made adjustments to the sling



Evidently the design and release of the sling element is quite critical!


I understood that the fact they weren't using real rocks was something

they were often quite thankful for. (And there are lots of largish rocks

in easy "picking" range, which is why it had to be dismantled.)


The descriptions I got made it sound like about 6 feet tall, with a ten

foot arm (?) and I have no idea how heavy a duct-tape rock larger than

your head might be. (I do know other An Tirians have built small ones to

deliver water balloons in combat, but that was long ago... ):

... Moreach  | Suze.Hammond at f56.n105.z1.fidonet.org -IGNORE OTHER ADDRESS!



From: shininga at aol.com (ShiningA)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Cannon anyone?

Date: 8 Jul 1995 17:14:06 -0400

Organization: America Online, Inc. (1-800-827-6364)


If canon are not permissable in the SCA, consider the trebuchet, the

successor to the catapult and used throughout the SCA timeframe.  An

excellent article on these siege devices is in the July 1995 issue of

Scientific American.  These things were quite advanced for their day, in

terms of engineering, and could fling a load of rock or, occasionly,

Plague ridden bodies, quite a distance.  The reconstructed modern day

trebuchet detailed in the Sc. Amer. article is some 60 feet high and

tossed 1200 pound objects around the English countryside, including a

small car sans engine block.  Range for smaller recreated trebuchets is

reported at some 550 feet. Will this device be demonstrated at the next

Renaissance Festival?

                   Sir Luke de Seubert

                  Knight in Shining Armor



From: morganh at teleport.com (Morgan Hall)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Trebuchet Field Trials

Date: 3 Oct 1995 10:37:10 -0700

Organization: Teleport - Portland's Public Access (503) 220-1016


Unto the good gentles assembled, Morgan de Comyn sends greetings.


Upon the thirtyth day of September of this most memorable year we tested the

concept of a traction trebuchet upon the field of combat during Acorn War

here in sunny An Tir.  For the furtherance of those who practice or study

the arts of military engineering do I submit this report.




An evening discussion of the principles of the trebuchet, fueled by the

famous article about the gentleman in England who has thrown pianos, a video

clip of one in action in Texas, the infamous Northern Exposure sequence, the

July Scientific American article, and memory of wood cuts showing hand powered

(traction) trebuchets deployed upon towers, culminated in the decision to

build and test such an engine.  The two main participants in this

discussion, Edward of Left Field and myself, determined that such an engine

must be small and light enough to be transported, and capable of throwing

something usable in An Tir light combat.  As we required the ammunition to

be inexpensive, safe, and reliable we settled upon the ubiquitous tennis

ball.  Thus, with the basic parameters established, we began.




As we would be limited in size and weight, we constructed a traction

trebuchet, powered by the pull of two persons.  Edward had recently

constructed a forge that needed a test -- thus we combined the initial

firing of his forge to heat the metal that would become the metal portions

of our engine.  For the basic construction we cut a number of hazel poles

from the abundance that grow on my property.  Lashed together, they formed a

sort of truncated pyramid approximately 3 feet high as the base.  The

throwing arm was a (relatively) straight pole approximately 9 feet long,

about 4 inches thick at the base and 3 inches thick at the business end.

They were cut green and left to dry for about a week while other business

was conducted.  Motive power would be supplied by attaching two pulleys to

a plank below the powered end of the arm, the pivot point being set at

approximately 18 inches from the point where the ropes would attach.  The

traction crew would pull in opposite directions, equalizing side forces on

the engine while the pulleys would change the horizontal forces into

vertical forces pulling down on the short arm of the throwing beam.


We decided that the actual bearings of this arm should be constructed from

iron in order that we not break a wooden pivot by over-enthusiastic yanking

on the ropes.  Looking about my forge, we decided that 1/2 inch round mild

steel would be of sufficient strength for the axle and the 1 3/4 inch bar

would be excessive.  


Our first inclination was to mount a short axle to the working arm and let

it ride on bearings on the support structure.  A quick trial showed that our

bracing was insufficient to allow free motion of the axle, side forces would

distort the framework of light wood and cause the arm to bind.  We

re-thought the system and interchanged the pivot and bearing structures such

that the arm carried the bearing and the axle could be bent in a "wishbone"

shape to add rigidity to the frame while the bearing would travel with the

working arm.  We fabricated a bearing from a short length of flat iron

approximately 1 inch wide by 3/8 inch thick.  It was hot punched to allow

attachment to the arm by screws, flattened on one end and spread out to

nearly two inches, then formed over the 1/2 inch diameter axle rod.  Spacers

were then applied to keep the bearing centered on the axle portion of the

wishbone.  The whole assembly was screwed and lashed together, using screws

to locate the various portions and tight lashings of cord to provide

strength to the assembly.  


The release mechanism was provided by setting a short length of 3/8 inch

iron rod into the long end of the throwing arm (the arm was tightly bound

with cord to help prevent splitting).  This was bent cold to what we assumed

would be a useable angle.  A sling pouch was fabricated from scrap leather,

sling ropes from baler twine, pulleys and ropes attached, we worked it

through by hand, found a tennis ball and were ready for the first test.


Testing and Tuning the Trebuchet:


The first test of the trebuchet was to pull it through without ammunition.

The sling seemed to release properly so we inserted a tennis ball and pulled

through with a rather easy motion.  Our test site was in my back yard (rural

area with neighbors about 1/2 mile away) with a 4 foot board fence about 35

feet from the assembly area.  The tennis ball left the trebuchet with a

downward motion, striking the fence with a sharp "crack" similar to a mild

tennis serve.  We considered the first "live firing" a sucess.


Tuning was accomplished by altering the angle of the release pin.  One of

the old bearings (from the initial conception) was the right size and shape

to be pressed into service as our "trebuchet wrench."  We bent the release

pin back to allow for earlier release and tried a second shot.  The second

shot sailed up at about a 20 degree angle and landed in my back field.  A

bit more tuning and we found that our maximum distance seemed to be

approximately 200 feet at about 40 degrees.  Wind resistance seemed to be

the largest factor in the distance we could achieve -- a 45 degree angle

seemed to slow down so fast it fell shorter than a lower angle.


Fearing that continual cold bending of the release pin would eventually

weaken it to the point of failure, we then fabricated two auxillary release

pins and bent one to a low angle release and one to a very high angle

release.  Finally, to test the power of a heavier projectile, we placed a

windfall apple in the sling and let 'er fly.  The apple seemed to be still

rising as it left my property, crossed a road behind it, and disappeared

somewhere in my neighbor's alfafa field.  No range for this shot was



Field Trials:


Intellectually we knew that there was a real difference from experimenting

in the back yard and using an engine of this sort in armor.  Knowing this,

we began the great search for light armour to fabricate, borrow, or

improvise.  Our heartfelt thanks must go to all who helped in this

endeavour, as only this made the field trials possible. As the morning of

Acorn War dawned, we were making final adjustments, lashings, and fitting

the collection of armour pieces to make ourselves field legal with a strange

combination of light and heavy armor.  At armor inspection, we passed.


His excellency Baron Invari of Three Mountains asked us to support his

forces, with Sir Blackhand commanding the other side supported by his

infamous ballista mounted upon a machine gun tripod.  We were ready for



A few shots demonstrated -- we had the range on him!  At this point, we made

the error of moving the trebuchet back a bit.  This put it on rougher ground

which had the unfortunate effect of altering the sling travel and release

point.  We lost range.  We moved again, near our original setup point, with

shaken confidence.  Ed and I lasted through the first battle scenario and

halfway through the second when fatigue took its toll.  We were too tired to

continue after that point.




The engine performed quite well.  The effect of field conditions had

unanticipated effects when grass clumps affected the swing of the sling and

the release point and range of the engine.  In no way could we have

predicted the effects of adrenaline and fatigue upon our performance.  Our

judgement definitely was affected, and we didn't notice fatigue until it was

quite severe.  Mobility and dexterity became nearly non-existant.  Attempts

to power the trebuchet with untrained folks (building the thing seemed to

train Ed and myself to work together) were less than sucessful.  The triple

release mechanism was VERY valuable!


We have a number of changes to impliment on the next model.  The Mark 1

trebuchet was a qualified success, but the Mark 2 will have some

improvements.  Mark 1 will probably take the field agin with some minor

modifications, including a trained relief traction crew. I need to give

some serious thought to improving light armor.


In service, I remain


Morgan de Comyn

(Morgan Hall)

Blacksmith and Piper to Clan Hubert, siege engineer in training


morganh at teleport.COM  



From: david.razler at compudata.com (DAVID RAZLER)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Suburban Trebuchets?

Date: Mon, 18 Mar 96 21:41:00 -0400

Organization: Compu-Data BBS -=- Turnersville, NJ -=- 609-232-1245


J>Might anyone out there know the title or author of a book that was

J>published a year or two ago about a man and neighbour who built a

J>trebuchet in suburban Anytown, USA? Thanks!


They did NOT build a trebuchet, it was a leaf-spring siege engine:


The book, short on plans is Catapult - Harry and I build a Siege Weapon,

(c) 1981 by Jim Paul, no ISBN, Lib of Congress 623.4'41'097946-dc20

90-50664 Scientific American published a letter about and a picture of

a backyard trebuchet earlier this year.

                        Aleksandr the Traveller



From: pat at lalaw.lib.CA.US (Pat Lammerts)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: siege weapons

Date: 7 Aug 1996 21:27:47 -0400


I don't know of any comprehensive book on siege weapons, but

I think you will find these two books very interesting.


1) Marsden, Eric William.

     Greek and Roman artillery; historical development [by] E. W.

   Marsden. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969.

     ix, 218 p. illus. (part col.) plates. 24 cm.


2) Marsden, Eric William.

     Greek and Roman artillery; technical treatises [by] E. W.

   Marsden. Oxford, Clarendon P., 1971.

     xviii, 278 p. 19 plates, illus. (some col.) 24 cm.


   ISBN 0198142692


#2 is the best, in that it gives the original text on one page

and the English translation on the opposite page.  It also

gives very detailed plans that show how to make every ballista

and catapault shown.


For a light-hearted view of arms and armaments that touches

on siege weapons, you should read:


Halbritter, Kurt.

  Halbritter's Arms through the ages : an introduction to the secret

weapons of history.  New York : Viking Press, 1979, c1978.

  158 p. : chiefly ill. ; 22 cm.


  ISBN 0670359084


It is a real hoot.



(pat at lalaw.lib.ca.us)



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: Mark Schneider <mschneider at ctlnet.com>

Subject: Re: Advice needed- Building a period catapult

Organization: CTLnet - Compu Tech Labs, Inc.

Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 16:07:27 GMT


Lord Whoever wrote:

> mrlne95 at aol.com (MRLNE95) wrote:

> >I am building a catapult for recreational use, and possibly for use in

> >upcoming wars.  Any advice would be welcomed. I am wondering if any

> >Marshalls out there would be able to tell me how, if at all, it could be

> >employed in a war.  I am also interested in tension, torsion, and

> >counterweight systems...how to make them, advantages, and disadvantages.


> If you are going to use a counterweight system I recommend using water

> for the weight so you can drain it for transportation, adjust the

> power easily, etc. A trebuchet would probably be the most spectacular

> siege weapon due to the large motion of the arm. Just my opinion

> anyway...


There is a Catapult Message Board, at


There are a number of people who have built all scale of Trebuchet.  I

imagine someone might be able to help with plans etc.





From: "William Herrera" <ThRev at elink.net>

Subject: Re: Advice needed- Building a period catapult

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Date: 29 Jan 97 05:20:11 GMT


Robert Lightfoot <celtcat at gnatnet.net> wrote in article

<5cmgq0$7t at bill.gnatnet.net>...

> Barnes and Noble has reprinted THE CROSSBOW by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey

> which conatins dimensions, materials, and working drawings for trebuchet,


> ballista, catapult, etc.  _The_ book on the subject for the home

> handyman.


> Ld. Ernst von Nurenberg


While The Payne-Gallwey Book does have excellent material on CrossBows, and

way cool illustrations there are some caveats. More recent study seems to

point toward a great many innaccurcies and assumptions concerning Siege

Equipment on his part. It seems that he,(Like many of us may have done),

relied on secondary sources mostly Rennaisance interpretations of Medieval

texts, as opposed to the medieval Text itself. Many of his devices require

full machine shop to produce the complex gears, rachets and Pawls, in order

to work. Whilst medieval, and rennaisance craftsmen did produce beautiful,

intricate machinery, It is hard to assume such facilities would be easy to

accquire during Every Siege. Ditto With Viollet-le-Duc (a Renaissance

Scholar). For Further Info on this see- The Traction Trebuchet: A

Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Siege Engine by W.T.S. Tarver

Journal of the Society for the History of Technology.

Other Sources:

Bellifortis -Konrad Kyser ca-1405 Gottingen, Universitas-bibliothek,

Cod.phil.63, Edited by G. Quarg, (Dusseldorf 1967) Possibly available in

paperback at Chivalry sports(?)

Di Rei Militaria-Flavius Vegtius pre-1300- Edited Charles R Shrader (New

York 1976) I've seen in reprint but I can't remember Where.

Medieval Military Technology -Kelly DeVries(Peterborough, Ont, 1992)

But Wait There's more:

Check Out: The Grey Company Trebuchet

Page-http://www.iinet.net.au/~rmine/gctrebs.html For Some Great Practicle

how to stuff!!! Highly recommended .

Also Email me if you'd like to see photos of our Shire's full scale

traction Trebuchet.

An Lastly, Gulf Wars 6 this March in Meridies, will most likely have a wide

variety of practical and not so practical SCAdian Siege Equipment, as we

use a Stockade style wooden Fortress w/ Archer Towers and Platforms. Much

Medieval Mayhem.


Yours in Service,

Ld William De Cordoba




From: "William Herrera" <ThRev at elink.net>

Subject: Re: Advice needed- Building a period catapult

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Date: 30 Jan 97 06:38:37 GMT


Christa Fulton <crealtor at ix.netcom.com> wrote in article

> We have a period (scaled down) catapult.  If one assume wood working was

> on site.  It would not be to hard to carry the few metal peaces only.


This is very true. However when I wrote: (partial >intricate machinery, It

is hard to assume such facilities would be easy to accquire during Every



I was speaking more from a logistical POV. For Example: (Bear in mind there

are MAJOR differences in the way we fight vs the "Actual" Medievals but

there are some premises which seem to make sense no matter which century.)

When we use seige equipment in a conflict the first thing the enemy

commanders usually try to do is neutralize, eliminate, insert euphemism of

choice, those pieces. Usually by using Archers to take out the crew, or

counter battery fire from a ballista or nag. Back-in-the-day they would

have undoubtably used incendiaries of some sort or smashed them to pieces.

This makes for alot of EXPENSIVE machine work to be salvaged if possible.

We are not talking about one or two but 20 or 30 of the smaller

torsion-Type catapult and in some sieges up 6 or 8 large Trebuchets

operating day and night, with some sieges lasting over year. My main

objection w/ P-G is that they are overengineered for what they are. Simpler

mechanisms would suffice just as well as the "MouseTrap!" maze of gears and

pulley's he depicts in his Torsion-Skein catapult. The medievals needed

sturdy, simple, devastating and cheap  weapons of Mass Destruction.


Which leads me to your next statement:

> How ever if you want power do not build a catapult, a Trabushet has more

> power and is not as hard on its own structure.

> there are now sudden Stops.


Absolutely!!!! And it illustrates my point exactly. A Trebuchet is a

basically simple device with few moving parts. Its powered by gravity and

rocks (plenty-o-that and free too), relatively quiet, got great range, and

can be built with basic hand tools, logs and a bunch a peasants you've got

under your boot.

And They 're great fun too, once you get the sling length and pin angle

figured out that is...





From: dietmarrvs at aol.com (DietmarRvS)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Advice needed- Building a period catapult

Date: 31 Jan 1997 04:02:12 GMT


Greetings Siege Engineers,


mrlne95 at aol.com wrote:


>I am building a catapult for recreational use, and possibly for use in

>upcoming wars.  Any advice would be welcomed.


There are two excellent articles of note in past issues of Scientific



1)   Soedel, Werner and Foley, Vernard  "Ancient Catapults", (Scientific

American Mar. 79), pp. 150-60.


2)   Chevedden, Paul E. et al., "The Trebuchet", (Scientific American Jul.

95), pp. 66-71.


The first article deals with all manner of siege engines in Ancient Greece

and Rome.  It includes both tension and piston driven ballista, and

detailed info on torsion bundle driven catapults.


Interestingly enough, the authors of the first article are co-authors of

the second.    The second article only talks about trebuchets.  There are

some mind-numbing photos of a 60 ft. tall trebuchet in England launching

pianos.  (I have a video of this monster in action that I taped off of "A

Current Affair", of all places!)


Both articles contain the usual excellent technical drawings.  After

reading the two, I would recommend the trebuchet.  The recoil on a

catapult tends to make the entire engine buck violently...or tear it apart

trying, effecting its accuracy.  I also think that building the torsion

bundles would be more trouble than it's worth.  The best method would seem

to be the hinged and propped counterweight.


I tried to search the message boards mentioned in a previous post, but I

could not get them to come up.  I have found a great source for you

though.  There is a website for The Grey Company at:


This is a group of guys whose main emphasis is building and testing siege

engines.  They also have links to other catapult websites (which I haven't

tried yet).


I haven't built a siege engine yet, but I am an engineering major, and

intend to put all this knowledge to good use when I get out of school.  I

do have some questions of my own for those of you who might be able to

help.  What are you using as bearings at the pivot point? I'm picturing

some form of ball bearing and axle design.


I hope this is of some help to you all, and would appreciate any

information that you could pass back in my direction.  At your service,


Dietmar Reinhart von Straubing

(DietmarRvS at aol.com)



From: jjmacc at aol.com (JJMacC)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Advice needed- Building a period catapult

Date: 16 Feb 1997 22:16:30 GMT


There is an easier way folks to build an effective, period styled

catapult.  While living in the (ever) Incipient Shire of (insert name

here, currently) Northmarch, in the MidRealm, a friend of mine (yes I do

have friends), built a working 1/12th scale model catapult.  It was based

on an Ottoman siege catapult from around the 1200's.  


The "cat" used rope as the tension device. Simple, all-purpose, heavy

fiber rope.  The weapon was about 2' long, with a 30" (approximate) long

throwing arm secured to round, rotating tension bar.  It had a range of

about 70 yards with a tennis ball, and slightly less with a 1 lb ball



John James MacCrimmon



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: "Eddy Hamacek" <hamacee at dpi.qld.gov.au>

Subject: Re: Seige Engines

Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 00:29:47 GMT


Nothmund <nothmund at aol.com> wrote

>   I'm looking for plans or places to research Ballista, Cataplut, and

> Stingers, for an upcomming project. I am looking at building a

> period-looking, yet SCA combat safe machine.  Any direction toward

> research matter, or period examples will be greatly aprieciated.

>                                              Nothmund Houndswain



A good place to start would be the Grey Company page at



They are a metal weapons group in Western Australia that have been there

done that.


Rashid al Faqih



From: Dave Earl <daveearl at altus.speednet.com.au>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Graphic of Trebuchet

Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997 06:01:09 +1000


If you want pictures and information about Trebechets, then you shoul

ddefinately look at the Grey Companies tebuchet page at:




Dave Earl



Date: Thu, 06 Nov 1997 20:23:02 -0500

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

Organization: Windmaster's Hill, Atlantia, and the GDH

To: windmasters at trinet.com, atlantia at atlantia.sca.org


For those rabid deconstructionists:


The December 1997 issue of American Woodworker (#63) 1-800-666-3111

contains an article called Trebuchet! by Russell Miners, a member of

the Grey Company, an Australian Reenactor Group very much interested

in such things ( http://www.iinet.net.au/~rmine/gctrebs.html ).

The plans look good and it is attractively finished.

This is about table sized, but the designer claims it will throw a

stone about 70 feet. Perfect for those back of the feast hall

targets (or those front of the feast hall ones). Can you say kumquat?


A bonus here is that there are also plans for a bow saw in the same

issue. Just the thing to build all that medieval furniture you've

been meaning to build.


M. Magnus Malleus, Windmasters' Hill, Atlantia and the GDHorde

(permission to repost anywhere in the SCA OFF the Rialto granted)



From: dsmith03 at blaze.apsc.com (Dan Smith)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ballista designs

Date: 31 Mar 1998 15:33:47 GMT

Organization: Arizona Public Service


On Thu, 26 Mar 1998 00:47:42 -0500, Lloyd Sowards  wasted bandwidth by:

>I am looking for designs for  a ballista for use in SCA combat.   Can anyone

>help a guy out?


You're in luck.  An execellet set of plans is at



Dan Smith

Arizona Public Service

Z07833 at apsc.com



Date: Sat, 09 May 1998 17:10:50

From: Ted Hewitt <brogoose at pe.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu



I thought y'all might find this interesting:


The Trebuchet used in Northern Exposure has been sold.

The city of Corvallis Or. and sponsors of the "da Vinci Days"

5th annual celebration have purchased this trebuchet to be

re-erected and made operational. The Flinger Thinger shall

Fling again. This year the fair will be held 18 July thru

20 July, 1997.  The Northern Exposure Trebuchet web page is at:




Corvallis  da Vinci Days:




Subject: ANST - Ballista designs

Date: Sat, 01 Aug 98 13:56:27 MST

From: "Keith Hood" <keith_dell at hotmail.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG


Those who are looking for a relatively cheap and easy way to upgrade

your unit's firepower for the next war, here's a possible way.  Those of

you who have built the real thing, please don't laugh:


I just got done posting an article to the web, about some ideas I used

in building a "ballista" that uses surgical tubing.  Of course it's not

a real ballista since it doesn't use torsion, but it will throw a GT

bolt far enough to be useful and it sort of looks like a ballista from

20 yards.  Most of the parts can be found at any lumber store and it's

relatively cheap.


Anyone interested can find the article at this URL:



I would welcome any useful ideas on how to improve the design.  I am

slowly working on a ballista using genuine torsion, but in the meantime

I'm trying to knock out a number of these things.





Subject: RE: ANST - Bungee Ballista?

Date: Thu, 14 Jan 99 16:21:29 MST

From: "Keith Hood" <keith_dell at hotmail.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG


For some ideas on building a bungee-powered 'ballista'--



On this web site there are also some pointers on making ammunition and

other considerations in fielding artillery.


Please note that actual bungee cords like you'd use to tie luggage to

the top of your car are NOT good for artillery.  Their internal

structures are not uniform, so they don't flex reliably. If you're

going to do flexible-band type of artillery, latex surgical tubing is

far superior.


Also, the mount design shown on the web page above has been superceded.

Carlyle showed me a much better mount design that I will have up on the

web in a couple of days.  Check the above URL around the end of this

week for a new, easier way to make a mount.


Make projectiles.  Clobber Trimarans.





Subject: ANST - Fletching - speeding up

Date: Fri, 12 Feb 99 12:20:04 MST

From: "Keith Hood" <keith_dell at hotmail.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG, bryn-gwlad at Ansteorra.ORG


One of the guys on the Ansteorra mailing list said something a while

back that shames me to admit I didn't think of it first. I think it was

Ozy - whoever it was, I owe him a bottle of wine or something.


A jig to speed up fletching GT ballista bolts.  There's a way to make

such a jig real simple.  See crude drawing below.



|                                                    |

|    (Wood)           |--------|                     |

|                     |        |                     |

|-------------|-------|        |-------|-------------|

|  (Spacer)   |         (Hole)         |  (Spacer)   |

|-------------|-------|        |-------|-------------|

|                     |        |                     |

|   (Wood)            |--------|                     |

|                                                    |



Take two pieces of 2x4, each about 4 or 5 inches long, and tape them

together.  Drill a 1" hole in the center of the crack between the

boards.  Separate the wood blocks and stick on one of them a piece of

cardboard or leather or something, the same thickness as the material

for the fletches, as a spacer.  To use the jig, put the fletches on the

bottom piece of wood next to the spacers, lay the golf tube in the hole,

and tape the 2x4's together.  You can use this to hold the fletches on

if you glue them.  If you only use tape, you can put the fletches in so

their upper ends stick out of the jig.  That will hold them still

against the tube while you apply tape between them and the tube.  For

using with glue, it would be a real good idea to round off the edges of

the hole for clearance, or coat them with plastic or wax, so the glue

doesn't stick the jig to everything else.


For doing 3 fletches, glue another thin block of wood to the top of this

rig.  Then saw a vertical slot in the upper 2x4, coming up from the

cener hole, to admit the 3rd fletch.


It occured to me while doing the figure above that this same type of jig

could be used to ease fletching crossbow quarrels - if straight fletches

are OK.  You'd just have to make it smaller and make sure the size of

the hole and the spacers are the right size for the materials used.

With a little scrap lumber people could make a whole bunch of these

things so they can fletch things dozens at a time.





Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 22:11:32 -0500

From: Carol Thomas <scbooks at neca.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: trebuchets


There is an excellent articles on trebuchets in the new Smithsonian.  Two

were made in Scotland for NOVA, which will air on Feb. 1st.


They made two different designs, both authentic, using hand tools,

including a lathe that runs off a 5 ft. wooden wheel.



Small Churl Books catalog: http://www.neca.com/~scbooks/

Last updated: Nov. 21st



Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 22:08:06 -0800

From: Tim Bray <tbray at mcn.org>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: trebuchets


>There is an excellent articles on trebuchets in the new Smithsonian.  Two

>were made in Scotland for NOVA, which will air on Feb. 1st.


>They made two different designs, both authentic, using hand tools,

>including a lathe that runs off a 5 ft. wooden wheel.


The Timber Framer's Guild of North America, together with some of the

British timber framers, built these monsters.  They have published a couple

of interesting accounts of their construction and performance.  If anyone

is interested, I can see if they are available at the TFGNA Web site.


I hope I catch the NOVA airing - after reading the diary accounts of some

of the participants, I am curious to see how the TV people portray it!

Apparently, they had the bright idea of setting up two teams of builders,

each with their own design, and having them compete to see who could build

better/faster.  This strategy backfired because timber framers tend to work

together toward common goals, and the only way anything got built at all

was by the communal efforts of the whole group. Conditions were not

improved by the weather - it rained nearly every day - but the spectacular

location helped (Urquhart Castle above Loch Ness).





Date: Wed, 29 Dec 1999 11:20:58 -0800

From: Leonard & Patty Baldt <baldt at televar.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: trebuchets


Tim Bray wrote:

> The Timber Framer's Guild of North America, together with some of the

> British timber framers, built these monsters.  They have published a couple

> of interesting accounts of their construction and performance.  If anyone

> is interested, I can see if they are available at the TFGNA Web site.


> Colin


For those interested, check these sites:

http://www.tfguild.org/treb.html       Under Siege:  The Trebuchet Workshop

http://www.tfguild.org/                Timber Framers Guild of North America


Patty Baldt



Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 10:27:47 MST

From: Keith Hood <hoodkl at netscape.net>

Subject: Re: [RE: BG - Plans for a trebuchet]

To: bryn-gwlad at ansteorra.org


> > I'm from The Shire of L'Ile du Dragon Dormant (montreal

> > canada) and I'm looking for resonnably accurate plans in order to

> > build a  genuine looking (but scaled down) "trebuchet".


No disturbance.  You might try one of these links:

http://www.iinet.net.au/~rmine/seemore.html  (place called the 'Knight's Armoury'.  This is for

SERIOUS artillery plans.)





From: "Esther Heller" <munged at kodak.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: PBS Nova Program on Trebuchet

Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 09:37:46 -0500

Organization: Eastman Kodak Company


Steven Currie wrote in message <3897b948.87221136 at news-server>...

>PBS Nova had a program on how modern engineers think they built period

>trebuchets.  Excellent program.  They have a web site with some info

>and a trebuchet game on it.




>Lord Etienne of Burgundy

>Minister of Arts and Sciences

>Barony of Calafia

>Kingdom of Caid


The US builders also have a website with _lots_ of pictures of the process:



Otelia d'Alsace  MOAS Barony of Thescorre, AEthelmearc



From: me at mydesk.com (Sotired O'Spam)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Looking for documentation on stone throwing Ballista's

Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2000 23:22:48 GMT


wbfountain at aol.comnospam (Wm. Bryan Fountain) wrote:

>At present I am attempting to gather information  on stone throwing ballista's

>during our time period.  If anyone could possibly send me any source

>information that they have - or even links - on this type of seige weapon I

>would appreciate it very much.  - Reason for the request - Am in the process of

>building a tennis ball throwing ballista for SCA combat.


>Ld Brun Canutteson current resident of the Midlands - (Midrealm)


>MKA - Wm. Bryan Fountain

>Asst. Professor of Industrial Technology

>Sauk Valley Community College

>Dixon, IL


Probably the best treaties on ballitas is E.W. Marsden's two volume

set, "Greek and Roman Artillery" originally published by Oxford Univ

Press.  Reprints again available through the Oxford Hardback reprint

programme from Sandpiper Books.  


ISBN 0-19-814269-2 (vol 2)  and 0-19-814268-4 (vol 1)


Includes theory, technical papers, plans and diagrams taken from

*primary* source material, primary sources (with translations on

facing pages) photos.  


These are MUST HAVE books.


Warning . . . these books are tought to find . . . use book collecting




Subject: ANST - Siege Weapons plans online

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 09:48:33 MST

From: "Lawrence D. Ruiz" <lruiz at interconnect.net>

To: <ansteorra at ansteorra.org>


Greetings fellow Ansteorrans;

When you go to design your ballista, I encourage you to stop by



The web page has links to several designs on the web.  One just added today

includes a modified bungee-lista that costs less than $100.  The author

claims one weekend construction time as well with minimal woodworking



It trebuchets are your toy-of-choice, I have a HUGE list of various designs

for this.


I encourage all to enter their weapons of mass destruction in A&S (it is an

art and science in one!)


I remain in your service,

Ld. Lawrence the Rampant of Ram's Isle

DEM Siege Weapons



Subject: ANST - Quick and dirty Ballista

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 09:57:39 MST

From: "adams, ozy" <ozy at door.net>

To: <ansteorra at ansteorra.org>


Here is a link to a simple, relatively inexpensive, probably legal, ballista


If anyone is interested in constructing one of these and has any questions,

please feel free to contact me. This is not my design, but I have costructed two very similar weapons.



-Herr Erasmus

Disgruntled Sixteenth Century Laborers Union, Local 153



From: "Alexander Aaron" <alex at checkmaster.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: designs for trebuchet

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 20:54:04 GMT


"mark lyons" <Mark at boddam.demon.co.uk> wrote

> Does anyone have plans for the construction of Trebuchet's?


> mark lyons


Here are some places to start:

SCA Siege Engineers Handbook







Hope this helps,

Alex Aaron



Subject: ANST-Announce - Mini Siege Engines at Spring Faire

Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 20:37:34

From: "neil starkey" <raimonddemora at hotmail.com>

To: ansteorra-announce at ansteorra.org


Greetings Ansteorra,


I have had several ask me for the rules to the Mini-Siege Engine Competition

at Elfsea Spring Faire.  For some reason I have been having problems with

messages getting out of my computer.  To save time and frustrations, I will

now post the rules for this Competition.


The Engine should fit into an 18" cube (18" tall X 18" wide X 18" long).

These are mostly guidelines.  If the Engine is a little bit larger, it will

probably be accept.

The arm, if building a trebuchet or catapult may extend beyond the 18" but

must still be porportionate to the rest of the Engine.

The projectile for trebuchet or catapults will be a golf ball.

The projectile for ballistas must be provided and porportionate to the


The Engine will be judged on distance and accuracy.

Please use period designs, as this is a Middle Ages Reenactment



If you have further questions, please feel free to respond and your

questions will be answered in the order they were recieved.


Thank You for all who have expressed interest.




From: "ruadh" <ruadh at home.com>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Sparkler inferno (OT, obviously).

Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2001 15:22:57 -0400



and do the office sized Trebs in period style ......


Food Content ?

  the Cheese Chucker in the above link...

grapes work

*Please* no hard candies. Ouch




From: Marlin Stout [ldcharles at ev1.net]

Sent: Monday, July 22, 2002 12:59 PM

To: bg-war; bryn-gwlad

Subject: [Bryn-gwlad] Re: [Seige-Commanders] An alternate way of doing



Check out this website for a few chuckles.




> http://members.iinet.net.au/~rmine/toons.html



Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 19:39:16 -0500

From: Bill Fisher <liamfisher at gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Onagers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-ooks at ansteorra.org>


On Fri, 17 Dec 2004 18:54:00 -0500, Phlip <phlip at 99main.com> wrote:

>> Oh! Interesting. I believe here is a siege engine called an "onager".

>> I wonder if part of the reason might be that is a particularly onerous

>> machine to work with.


>> Stefan


> Actually, I suspect that it was called an onager because it kicks like a

> jackass ;-) Onage-the-seige weapon is, I believe, a variation of what we

> call catapults, powered by a spring make of wound and tensioned rope.


> http://www.m-w.com/mw/art/onager.htm


> Saint Phlip,

> CoD


Yeah, they achieve the release point on an onager with a crossbar that the catapult arm impacts, which transfers the release of torque the rope gives to

the arm to the frame.


I get jumpy when my frame has tension and takes impacts too.  I believe the

greek word for donkey is onus and it mutated into onager for the  






Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 19:37:51 -0500

From: "Phlip" <phlip at 99main.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Onagers

To "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Maybe I'd better add the rest of the citation:


Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

One entry found for onager.

Main Entry: onŠaŠger

Pronunciation: 'ä-ni-j&r

Function: nounEtymology: Middle English, wild ass, from Latin, from Greek onagros, from onos ass + agros field -- more at ACRE

1 : an Asian wild ass (Equus hemionus onager syn. E. onager) that usually

has a broad dorsal stripe and is related to the kiang

2 [Late Lain, from Latin] : a heavy catapult used in ancient and medieval




Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 15:33:44 -0800 (PST)

From: Huette von Ahrens <ahrenshav at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Onagers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Here is something you will find more fun:






From: Nancy Shapiro <tiggyn at alum.wellesley.edu>

Date: February 7, 2006 8:37:43 PM CST

To: Sca-librarians at lists.gallowglass.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-librarians] Trebuchet help


Gurstelle also wrote _Backyard Ballistics.  _Backyard Catapult: How to Build Your Own_ by Bill Wilson.  My local library has _Catapult: Harry and I Build A Siege Weapon_ by Jim Paul, which was pretty entertaining.


Surprisingly enough, there doesn't seem to be a Compleat Anachronist pamphlet on it.



The Grey Company Trebuchet Page - http://members.iinet.net.au/~rmine/gctrebs.html

Buy a Build-It-Yourself kit: http://www.builditplayit.com/html/pathfinders.html


Maybe one of these will help.  Have fun!




> Hello All,


>  I have a patron who is looking for books and information on building

> trebuchets. Most of the books I found on OCLC are in French and he

> does not speak French. Can anyone recommend a good source?


>  Maura MacLeod



From: mhermance4 <mhermance4 at myway.com>

Date: February 7, 2006 6:47:47 PM CST

To: mauramc4880 at aol.com, sca-librarians at lists.gallowglass.org

Subject: RE: [Sca-librarians] Trebuchet help


I did a FastAndSneaky and went to Books in Print online here at work. I got nothing by putting "trebuchet" in as either a title or subject keyword, but when I put in "catapult" as a subject, I got this: Art of the Catapult: how to buile Greek ballistae, oman onagers, English trebuchets and more ancient artillery by William Gurstelle   Chicago Review Press, July 2004. $16.95 trade paperback ISBN 1-55652-526-5 (in case he needs it for interlibrary loan, or he decides to buy it). There were a couple of other titles on the list that didn't mention trebuchets, but were about seige engines of one variety or another.


I'd guess that there must be an SCA publication or website that would be interesting as well. Is his heart set on a trebuchet? Those Roman onagers are kinda neat. *g*





From: Stefan li Rous <StefanliRous at austin.rr.com>

Date: February 8, 2006 12:13:14 AM CST

To: Sca-librarians at lists.gallowglass.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-librarians] Trebuchet help


On Feb 7, 2006, at 8:37 PM, Nancy Shapiro wrote:

> Gurstelle also wrote _Backyard Ballistics.  _Backyard Catapult: How  

> to Build Your Own_ by Bill Wilson.  My local library has _Catapult:  

> Harry and I Build A Siege Weapon_ by Jim Paul, which was pretty  

> entertaining.


I bought this last one, and I was rather less than impressed. If you  

are wanting to simply build something which will hurl something using  

modern tools and stuff you could get from a junk yard, then this  

might be okay. Even then, most of it was story with little in the way  

of real details. It is certainly not something I would use to build a  

medieval style treb or catapult.


Your best historic source is going to be Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey's  

"The Crossbow, Mediaeval and Modern Military and Sporting. Its  

Construction, History & Management with a Treatise on The Ballista  

and Catapult of the Ancients and an Appendix on the Catapult, Balista  

& the Turkish Bow" The Holland Press, London ISBN: 0-946323-14-3."


First published in 1903. My copy says "Tenth Impression 1995


Don't you just love those long, Victorian book titles... I think I  

got all that right, but don't count on the capitalization. It is in  

several fonts, some is in all capital letters, some not. I have no  

idea how it would get entered into various book search engines.


Also, there was an edition published by Dover more recently. However  

it is my understanding that the appendix on siege engines was not  

printed in that edition. The Dover edition is much cheaper and is in  



Payne-Gallwey did get some of the inside mechanisms of the crossbows  

wrong since he didn't have access to x-rays of the crossbows. You can  

find corrected drawings in later books, but Payne-Gallwey's volume is  

still considered the best.


I did buy multiple copies of the book when I found this edition as a  

remainder. Even so, it was still in the $60 range if I remember  

rightly. I didn't know the Dover edition was coming. But if someone  

wants to buy one of my extras, contact me...


I'm not sure if these will help, but there are also these files in  

the COMBAT section of the Florilegium:

siege-engines-msg (93K)  6/16/05    Catapults, trebuchets. Period and  


trebuchet-art     (18K)  4/25/95    Wall Street article on a modern  





THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra

    Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas          



From: Carowyn Silveroak <silveroak at juno.com>

Date: February 7, 2006 11:31:18 PM CST

To: Sca-librarians at lists.gallowglass.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-librarians] Trebuchet help

I emailed the East Kingdom Siege Guild, and this was the reply:

Search  trebuchet on ebay tho books will come up.

Item Number 8761717635 – 6035164206 - 5663721545


Also check out site http://museums.ncl.ac.uk/archive/arma/






From: Lynne Puckett <lpuckett at billings.lib.mt.us>

Date: February 8, 2006 11:31:07 AM CST

To: mhermance4 at myway.com

Cc: sca-librarians at lists.gallowglass.org, mauramc4880 at aol.com

Subject: Re: [Sca-librarians] Trebuchet help



the Grey Company Trebuchet Page - most of what anybody would want to  

know about building one, from an SCA-associated re-enactment group.


Aletheia Tarimaat


L. E. Puckett

Reference & Electronic Systems Librarian

Parmly Billings Library

510 North Broadway, Billings, MT 59101


Ph: 406-657-8258



From: Derryk Carr <derrykcarr at hotmail.com>

Date: October 25, 2006 4:06:01 PM CDT

To: ansteorra at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Ansteorra] request for siege weapon assistance


I do not live in Texas, but there is a website (at that has many blue prints for

siege engines. Most of them are of Roman design but they might help.  I hope

this aides your daughter's pursuits. Remember, if you build it to SCA rules,

you could get authorized and fire it (using tennis balls) at people in many

of our wars. More information regarding SCA siege can be found here:



HL Aldric de Kerr

Previous DEM Kingdom Siege Marshal


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org