How to make a trebuchet from popsicle sticks

Written by samantha volz
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Any study of medieval weaponry will reveal one of the most deadly weapons created during that era: the trebuchet. The trebuchet was created in the mid- to late thirteenth century, and surpassed the catapult in a number of ways. The trebuchet could launch projectiles weighing up to 136kg. just as far as a catapult could launch projectiles weighing 27.2kg., making it a new and terrifying killing machine. You can make a replica of this weapon using Popsicle sticks to demonstrate how it worked and why it was so powerful.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • 20 Popsicle sticks
  • String (at least 20 inches)
  • Hot glue
  • Small drill
  • Metal paper clip
  • Plastic bag
  • 1½-inch finishing nail
  • Weights
  • Projectile

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut five of the Popsicle sticks in half, so that you have 15 whole sticks and 10 half-sticks.

  2. 2

    Use hot glue to stick six whole Popsicle sticks together to form the base of the trebuchet. The base is in the shape of square. Glue four sticks together to form the square, and then choose two opposing sides and glue a single stick on top of each side to reinforce it.

  3. 3

    Glue two whole Popsicle sticks together along their lengths to create a reinforced upright.

  4. 4

    Glue a half-stick to the top of the upright, along the skinny edge, so that it and the upright form a right angle. Allow about 1/16 of an inch of the half-stick to extend beyond the upright on the left side; the rest should stick out to the right. This half-stick will form a crossbeam for your trebuchet.

  5. 5

    Glue a half-stick between the end of the crossbeam and the upright, so that the three sticks form a triangle. This reinforces the upright and secures it more tightly to the crossbeam.

  6. 6

    Repeat steps four through six to form another reinforced upright with a crossbeam.

  7. 7

    Secure the two uprights to the base. Glue one upright to the middle of one of the reinforced sides of the base, with the crossbeam facing toward the centre of the square. Repeat with the other upright and reinforced side of the base, so that the crossbeams are facing each other from opposite sides of the square.

  8. 8

    Reinforce the connection between the uprights and the base with half-sticks. Glue two half-sticks to each upright, facing downward and secured on the other end to the base. The reinforcement sticks will form an upside-down V anchoring the uprights to the base.

  1. 1

    Glue one half-stick between two full sticks, so that one end of the sticks lines up perfectly. Now one end is completely secured, while the other end will have an opening between the two full sticks.

  2. 2

    Slide a full stick into the opening between the two full sticks; the end of this stick should go into the opening about an inch. Glue this stick to one of the full sticks; the side that you glue it to will be the top of your throwing arm for the trebuchet.

  3. 3

    Drill two small holes in the thicker end of the throwing arm, which will be the bottom when it is attached to the base. Drill one hole a quarter inch from the bottom, and another three quarters of an inch from the bottom. The holes need only be big enough to thread fine wire through.

  4. 4

    Bend the metal paper clip into a looped J shape. If you cannot do this with your hands, use small pliers to bend the metal.

  1. 1

    Cut the string into a 12-inch piece and a three-inch piece. Set these two pieces aside. On the end of the remaining string, tie a small loop: it should be only about a quarter inch in size. Measure three inches below the loop and cut it there, so that you have a three-inch piece of string with a loop at the end.

  2. 2

    Cut a piece three inches square out of the plastic bag. Cut two opposite sides into points. This will be the sling that will hold your projectiles.

  3. 3

    Glue the three-inch piece of string to one point of the sling. Glue the piece of string with the loop to the other point. Make sure you glue the end without the loop to the bag.

  4. 4

    Glue the J-shaped metal piece to the top of the arm (the thinner end). Allow an eighth of an inch of the top of the J to stick out above the top of the arm; the rest of the J should be secured to the arm directly.

  5. 5

    Immediately attach the straight string from the sling to the J-shaped metal while the glue is still hot. The rest of the sling, including the looped string, should hang free.

  1. 1

    Hold the arm upright so that the sling is hanging off the top and the two small holes are at the bottom. Insert your finishing nail through the upper hole (the one drilled three quarters of the way from the bottom of the arm). Center the nail in the hole as best you can, so that there is an equal amount of nail sticking out each end of the hole.

  2. 2

    Glue the two ends of the nail to the crossbeams with a lot of hot glue. If the trebuchet malfunctions, it will be because this nail is not secured tightly enough. With the nail secure, your arm will pivot on that point.

  3. 3

    Insert the 12-inch string through the bottom hole in the throwing arm. Use this string to tie on counterweights: these could be small fishing weights or other small objects. The counterweights will power your trebuchet.

  4. 4

    Place a projectile, such as a marble or small stone, into the sling and fold the plastic in half over the top of the projectile. Loop the small hole in the three-inch string over the 1/18-inch of metal sticking up from the arm. Hold the sling in place flat against the table, and remove quickly to release the projectile. The weights on the bottom of the throwing arm will propel the projectile out of the sling.

Tips and warnings

  • Allow the hot glue to dry before attaching heavy parts or attempting to launch the trebuchet.
  • Be careful when working with hot glue, as you can be burnt.

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