Who wouldn’t want to hurl 16 pound bowling balls 700 feet away? Frank McCormack, an EPIC engineer, has a unique hobby. In his spare time he constructs trebuchets.
With the help of Frank, we bring you The Top 10 Reasons to Build a Trebuchet.
1. You’re Bringing History To Life
This historical stone hurler harkens from medieval times. Richard the Lionheart used a trebuchet to lay siege during the Crusades. As more modern weaponry was invented the trebuchet lost its usefulness, but not its draw. It remains a sought-after machine for replication even today.
2. Who Wouldn’t Want a 30 Foot Tall Trebuchet?
After collecting a bunch of bowling balls Frank and his fellow engineers wanted to see what they should build. They thought about a canon but quickly came up with the trebuchet option. The thought? “How far can we throw them,” says Frank. It became a challenge.
3. Build Lasting Relationships While Building Trebuchets
McCormack began constructing trebuchets with about twenty engineer friends. They constructed the first trebuchet over the course of a weekend trip dubbed “The Men Behaving Badly Weekend (MBB).”
4. Use Your Engineering Skills
They took their constructed trebuchet to a nearby field, eager to test their constructed machine. The base was made from oak trees and the weight box from plywood. The sling holding the bowling ball was made out of two basketball nets. The box was made without any screws, but was notched together. The release mechanism that held the whole thing down worked exactly as planned. When the lever arm dropped, a simple pinch release allowed for the sling of a bowling ball.
5. It’s Really Cool And A Little Dangerous
What’s not safe about throwing a bowling ball nearly two football fields in an open space? The engineers took into account most safety factors, but could not completely eliminate the excitement of the launch process. The first design relied on the use of plywood, which unexpectedly broke after a short throw.
6. Be Unique In Your Choice of Hobby
A hobby is a way to spend your leisure time. It could be photography, auto-repairs or hiking. All of these are fine, but if you want to be truly unique, trebuchet-building could be the hobby for you. Not too many people are creating trebuchets in their garage on the weekend.
7. Prove Your Engineering Prowess
Keep your skills up-to-date by taking on a new challenge from time-to-time. “We didn’t have blueprints, we just figured it out as we went along,” said McCormack. “It’s just physics.” McCormack was the designer of the release mechanism, the original weight box, and the throwing arm. The angle of release was variable by five degree increments out in the field so we could fine tune it and that worked pretty good,” said McCormack. “The panels of the box were tabbed through to hold it together and the weight box held about 1800 pounds of dirt.”
8. Be A Modern Day Enthusiast
“We attempted construction in a fairly pure form, aside from modern axle grease, of course,” said McCormack. “We took some liberties though, like the steel piping for the axle and I engineered lumber and screws for the throwing arm.” Ranken Technical College assembled the throwing saddle that held the oak base together.
9. Have Something Unique To Show Your Friends On Google Maps
If you know where to look, you can see the first trebuchet on Google Maps. The distinctive shadow gives away the throwing machine.
10. Have a Great Conversation Starter At Parties
If you are dreading attending another party with nothing to discuss, then trebuchet construction should be your hobby of choice. This fascinating modern take on medieval weaponry is sure to spark engaging conversations.
What’s next for the group?
In the quest for the perfect design the team will be completing and testing a modified trebuchet in the coming weeks. “We built a new arm last Christmas and plasma torched and welded it together 24 foot long all steel arm,” said McCormack. “So we reused a lot of the parts from the original. We plan on putting it into motion in a few weeks.” Their goal for the next launch is throwing a bowling ball approximately 1,300 feet.