by Ciera Shaver, age 15
"Bad Neighbor", cocked and ready to fire.
The trebuchet was invented in China in the 5th century BC. It was a more modern version of a siege weapon that was an improvement of a previous one, called the “ancient sling.” It was a significant siege weapon of the Medieval Ages for many reasons. It had many uses, it was used both defensively and offensively, and fought in several battles. Although it is was very simple in principle, it was very technologically advanced for its time.
"Bad Neighbor", in released position.
The trebuchet was a very versatile siege weapon. It was a weapon of choice for many armies for numerous accounts. It was capable of launching stones Weighing more than 300 pounds, and made them travel more than 300 yards. It was used both for defense and attack, and was the most powerful medieval battlefield weapon, and was usually very successful, as it was both accurate, and powerful. The trebuchet not only threw stones. It was also threw many other kinds of objects, including horses, men, bombs, animals, and corpses of infected horses and men. Some of these objects were thrown with the object of infecting city defenders with diseases, or to contaminate drinking water, and thus was an early form of biological warfare.
"Bad Neighbor", detail of trigger.
Not only was the trebuchet used in battle, but it was also used to toss rose petals at ladies during tournaments. The trebuchet was used in many influential battles in the Middle Ages. In 1191, at the Siege of Acre, Richard Lionheart constructed two trebuchets called, “God’s own catapult,” and “Bad Neighbour.” At the siege of Sterling Castle in 1304, Edward Longshanks made a giant trebuchet for his English army called "Warwolf" At the siege of Lisbon in 1147, two trebuchets launched stones every 15 seconds, which was a huge advancement for that time period. In 1422, Prince Coribut was the first to shoot manure out of his trebuchet at the siege of Carolstein.
The length of the arm on a Trebuchet determined how much power would be exerted from it. The longer the arm, the more force it gave. The longest arm in the Middle Ages was Edward Longshank's that measured 50 feet long, and threw 300 pounds. The sling of the trebuchet doubled the power of a trebuchet by both distance and force. Although both large and small trebuchets were incredibly effective, they both had advantages and disadvantages. A larger trebuchet was able to cast objects much farther, but was difficult to move around, required many people to operate (20-100 men), and it had a slower rate of fire. A smaller trebuchet didn't have as much range as a large trebuchet, but it was much easier to move from place to place, and it only took one person to set up for fire.
The trebuchet played a huge role in siege weapon technology in the middle ages. It started out as simply a new version of a simple weapon, and developed over the years into a very useful and versatile weapon. It was the most different, yet powerful, weapon of its time, and it sparked the idea of new, and improved trebuchets to still be used in the future.
My Method of Construction
This trebuchet was constructed with plans found on the internet, at Andy's Home Page, which is a site that gives directions on how to make many different kinds of trebuchets. However, these directions made a trebuchet that was about 3 times the size of mine, so the very first part of my project was to convert all 35 pieces of wood, seven of which had angles, into a smaller scale, so it wouldn't be so large. My next step was to measure and ut each piece of wood needed for the construction. The directions from the ebsite were not very clear (most of the steps were only described in pictures) so for some steps I had to improvise.
Many of the pieces that have angles at the ends I had to cut to fit because the angles in the directions did not fit my model. After I had built the base and frame, the next step was to build the arm, which is the main source of power for trebuchets. The counterweight box was filled with approximately 6-8 ounces of BB's, and the BBs were sealed with wood glue and sawdust. I used a segment of a bicycle spoke as the axle of the arm, with bicycle cable ends serving as bearings for the axle to rest on. The instructions from the site for the trigger made absolutely no sense, so I once again, had to improvise. With help from my father, we used a cut down black paper clamp to hold one rope from the sling. We found that we couldn’t screw an eyehole screw into the thin beam, because it would split, so the clamp was used instead. We then used brass picture frame hangers as the release pin for the free end of the pouch line. The release handle was made from a sturdy paperclip, and was bent to form. By placing the release pin under the paperclip handle, and then releasing, the pouch will sling into the air, and release the object in the pouch.
What I have learned as a result of my project:
The trebuchet was a very versatile weapon during the Middle Ages. I had no idea how much it was used, and how differently it was used! My immediate assumption was that it would only be used to launch stones, but I soon found that it launched much, much more than just stones! I also did not know how powerful it was! It was amazing to me that such a simple mechanism could throw such a huge and heavy object, so far! It seemed nearly impossible when I first read that it would cast stones that weighed 300 pounds, 300 yards in front of them! I did not know how much it had impacted some of the wars that it was used in. If the trebuchet weren't to be invented, I’m sure that some newer inventions inspired by the trebuchet would have never come to be.