How to Make an Easy Medieval Catapult

Written by andrea helaine
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How to Make an Easy Medieval Catapult
Trebuchet remained the siege weapon of choice for over 400 years. (Medieval Catapult image by Dario Corno from

Medieval catapults were used to destroy the protection walls surrounding cities. Over the Medieval Age (5th to 15th century Europe), several designs were tested: a crossbow design, one using a twisted rope and finally the counterweight design trebuchet. Despite being the latest and most efficient design, the trebuchet is also the easiest to build. A large weight is used to swing a long arm which catapults a stone in a sling. Trebuchets can be built to any size you desire.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Three 2-inch-by-4-inch boards, each 8 feet long
  • 20-inch-by-20-inch-by-1/2-inch plywood
  • One bucket with a detachable handle
  • One screw hook
  • Three screw eyes
  • 3/4-inch steel pipe double threaded, 16 inches long
  • Two 3/4-inch screw cap
  • Two 24-inch strings
  • 6-inch-by-4-inch piece of cloth
  • One foam softball
  • 30-inch butter
  • Two 3/4-inch pipe holders
  • 5-feet length of cord minimum
  • One 4-inch nail
  • Saw
  • Drill with 1-inch hole bit
  • 3-inch wood screws

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  1. 1

    Cut the 2-by-4 studs to the following length: Two 31-inches long, two 20-inches long, two 25-inches long, two 8-inches long, one 40-inches long.

  2. 2

    Dig a 1-inch hole in the centre 1.5-inches from the top of each of the 25-inch pieces. From the same end of the 40-inch piece, cut a 1-inch hole 8 inches from the end and a 1/2-inch hole, 1.5-inches from the end.

  3. 3

    Align the 30-inch pieces parallel to each other and resting on their small side. Put the 8-inch pieces on their small side between the two 30-inch pieces every 7.5 inches. Screw the pieces together, using two screws for each 8-inch pieces and for each sides. This is the base.

  4. 4

    Put the 25-inch piece straight up 12 inches from the edge of each sides of the base. The holes need to be on the upper part of the piece. Screw them to the base using three screws on each side.

  5. 5

    Screw the two 20-inch pieces to each of the long sides of the base of the trebuchet so the 25-inch and the 20-inch pieces form an L.

  6. 6

    Cut your ½-inch thick plywood in two from one corner to the opposite corner to have two triangles. Place the triangles on the outside of the L formed by the 20-inch and 25-inch pieces on each side of the trebuchet with the right angle where the two pieces meet. Screw the pieces in place using six screws, three screws on each side of the triangles.

  7. 7

    Put the 40-inch piece (the arm) between the two 25-inch posts, making sure the long part of the arm is on the same side as the long part of the base. Thread the 3/4-inch steel pipe through the 1-inch holes in the three pieces. Screw the end cap on both end of the pipe. Align the arm in the middle of the pipe and secure one pipe holder on each side of the arm to prevent it from moving.

  8. 8

    Put the long end of the arm down against the base. Screw the eyes in both the arm and the base so the two holes align.

  9. 9

    Remove the handle from your bucket and thread it through the ½-hole on the arm. Re-attach the bucket to the handle.

  10. 10

    Screw one eye and one hook to the end of the long part of the arm. Make sure the hook's opening points away from the base. Open the hook so it is almost flat.

  11. 11

    Screw your gutter in the middle of the base.

  12. 12

    Cut two holes in your fabric on each sides of the long end, thread and attach your 24-inch strings.

  13. 13

    Attach one string to the eye on the arm. Create a loop with the other string and thread the hook to it.

  14. 14

    Attach the long string to a 4-inch nail or bolt. Fill the bucket with five to seven pounds of rocks or sand. Get the arm down and thread the nail in the two eyes.

  15. 15

    Put the softball in the fabric and lay the fabric in the gutter as far back as possible.

  16. 16

    Go to a safe distance and pull on the cord to fire the trebuchet.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a long cord to trigger the trebuchet to avoid injuries.
  • Do not use hard projectiles, but always use soft projectiles to avoid damage or injuries to property or people.
  • Never stand in front or behind the trebuchet when loaded.

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