How to make a model trebuchet

Written by brian adler
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How to make a model trebuchet
Your model trebuchet might not be as massive as this replica. (Getty Creative)

A trebuchet was a military device that was commonly used in medieval times. A siege engine, it was used to hurl large stones or boulders at castle and city walls. Similar to a catapult, it operated slightly differently, as it used a counterweight rather than a springlike mechanism to throw the projectile at its target. Medieval and military enthusiasts may enjoy studying the trebuchet and other old-time weapons. You can even build your own model trebuchet.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Thin wooden sticks
  • Long dowel
  • Very short dowel
  • String
  • 2 small pieces of cloth, leather or plastic
  • Glue
  • Small pebbles or similar small weights

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  1. 1

    Decide on the size of your model. You will probably not want to build anything to large, though any size will do. Gather together a number of thin wooden slats. For the sake of this article, we will build a simple model--without wheels and a fairly simple mechanism.

  2. 2

    Make a platform for your trebuchet. You need to make something that looks like a rectangular grid. Take three long thin pieces of wood and lay them side by side, with an even amount of space in between each one. Then, join them together at the ends by laying additional shorter pieces of wood on top. These short pieces should be evenly spaced. You will need to glue each one down.

  3. 3

    Take your long dowel and stand it up on the middle of your platform. As for size, the long dowel should be roughly in between the length of the short and long pieces of wood that make up the platform of your trebuchet. Once in place, it should stick up kind of like a flag pole. If it looks right, glue it to the platform.

  4. 4

    Get the small dowel. This should be a little thicker than the long dowel, but very short. In fact, it should be just big enough that when you place it on top of the long dowel, it overhangs it a little bit on each side. You will need to attack some kind of clip to each end of the top of the long dowel. You could actually use large staples. Just staple one in to each end of the top of the long dowel. The space under your staples or clips needs to be big enough to fit the small dowel. The openings of your clips should face the short ends of the trebuchet platform. Put the short dowel in the clips.

  5. 5

    To make the actual throwing arm of your trebuchet you will need to attach a stick to either side of the small dowel. These sticks will have to open out in a "v" shape. At one end they will be glued or tied together, while the other end will remain open. The open end should not be too wide. The wide end is the place from which you will suspend your projectile.

  6. 6

    Grab your tiny square of cloth, leather, or flexible plastic. You'll will need to tie short strings to each corner of this piece of material. The other ends of these strings will be tied to the open end of the throwing arm of your trebuchet. The idea is to make sort of a pouch or basket. Don't let the puch hang too far below the end of the throwing arm. This where you will be putting your counterweight.

  7. 7

    Cut a long piece of string and tie one end to the throwing arm of your trebuchet just in front of the closed end. The string should be long enough so that you can pull it under the base of the trebuchet and all the way back to the front opposite the open end of the throwing arm-- the place where the counterweight goes. You will use this string to pull down the arm of the trebuchet to ready it for launching.

  8. 8

    Prepare a tiny strip of cloth, leather or flexible plastic. This should be thinner and smaller than the square you used for the ocutnerwight. Tie the ends of it with string and suspend it from the closed end of the trebuchet's throwing arm. This pouch should resemble a sling. You will be putting your projectile directly into this pouch.

Tips and warnings

  • To launch your trebuchet, put a bunch of small pebbles or other weights in the big pouch at the open end of your throwing arm. Take hold of the long string and pull it under the base of the trebuchet until the short end of the throwing arm almost touches the trebuchet platform. Next, and while stilling holding the string, take small pebble or other weight and put it into the sling at the closed end of the throwing arm. This is your projectile. Rememeber, your projectile must be lighter than your counterweight. Let go of the string. The counterweight should come crashing down, hurling your projectile into the air.

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