We are pleased to publish the first ever gift guide for the trebuchet and catapult maker! MAKE columnist William Gurstelle put together everything you need to get started making your own giant-flinger, or as they’re properly called… trebuchets and catapults! You might ask why we’re putting a guide like this on MAKE, catapult kits sums it up pretty well… “Because the world needs good engineers and scientists, and because the kids who will grow up to become engineers and scientists need a way to get hands-on experience with physics, math and engineering”.
The Art of the Catapult
The best book on trebuchets and other catapults? The Art of the Catapult, by William Gurstelle and published by Chicago Review Press. It’s full of great stories about catapults, science and lots of plans for models.
There’s catapult plans and a whole lot of other interesting ideas in Backyard Ballistics, also by William Gurstelle and published by the Chicago Review Press.
Trebuchet connoisseurs and history buffs will find much to like in Sir Ralph Payne-Gallweys 1907 classic work, The Book of the Crossbow. Despite the name, there’s a ton of information devoted specifically to trebuchets. Reprinted in 1995 by Dover Press, it appears out of print, although used copies are findable on used book websites.
The Floating Arm Trebuchet model 300
The Floating Arm Trebuchet model 300 at catapultkits.com is twice as big as the TK3 model above. The FAT uses modern physics to turn up the volume on an ancient classic. This machine can handle a 15 pound counterweight.
Metal, lots of it…
If models aren’t big enough, then it’s time to build the real McCoy. But, novice catapult builders often find that full size machines made from dimensional lumber like 2 x 4’s quickly crack and break. So instead, consider using steel. And, nothing says merry Christmas like 16 linear feet of 1/8-inch A36 hot rolled steel angle iron lying under the Christmas tree.
Remember John Cleese portrayal of a sneering French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? What his catapult shoot at Arthur? Cows. And the biggest cow of all is the Charolais. Fetchez la Vaca!
Building a treb from scratch? The best way to trigger your trebuchet when under load is with a pelican hook. It normally used by sailors for untying their boats in a heavy wind, but great for precise trebuchet launching control as well.
The counterweight on a big trebuchet could weigh tons. You’ll may need help to pull the weight down. One possibility is to use
a cable puller, a ratcheting lever that can move most anything. They run from $50 on up depending on the maximum load rating.
Japanese pull stroke saw
Catapult makers need the right tools for working with wood. A Japanese pull stroke saw is mighty handy for making those strong but intricate joints that keeps the big catapults from falling apart during a tough siege.
Elmer’s ProBond Interior/Exterior
After you’ve cut your trebuchet’s joints with the saw, you need to fasten them together. And they need to be strong and
often, rainproof. That means glue is involved. One of the best wood glues is Elmer’s ProBond Interior/Exterior. It’s not expensive and widely available.
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