Giant Trebuchet





Introduction: Giant Trebuchet

Make a giant trebuchet in less than a day with a couple of trees, some rope and a few other easily found parts.  

Best made in a paddock with plenty of room for hurling and a tractor with a loader will make it easy to get the throwing arm onto the support frame.

Step 1: Prepare Materials

Actions required for step 1 are:
  Select tree
  Detatch roots from trunk
  Remove branches

We used a couple of blue gums, a fast growing eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) approx 10 years old.

We cut the following:
Main arm 10.5m long
Legs 2 x 3m long
          2 x 3.5m long
cross arm (pivot) 2m long

For cross bracing we used 1 by 5m length and 2 x 2.5m lengths.

     (multiply by 3 for approx lengths in ft)

(note the chaps, face mask and safety helmet used when felling tree are omitted by model pretending to fell tree)

After cutting timber to length, find a good location for building the treb and set out timbers.  Starting with legs, lash the tops of each 3m leg to a 3.5m leg leaving enough overhang at the top for the cross arm (pivot) to sit in.   I had some help from my kids who had practised lashing at scouts with this step.

Step 2: Set Up Frame

Stand up the legs and hold in place with temporary bracing while you attach cross braces.   We originally put permanent cross braces between the legs as this was easy to do.  This was not a good move as you want the arm to swing freely without hitting the cross bracing.  Yes seems obvious in hind sight.  The mannequin in the second photo is demonstrating where not to stand when there is only temporary bracing in place.
Outrigger style cross bracing is a better solution.  Lay a long pole (approx 5m) on the ground in front of the legs  and fix to legs by lashing or heavy duty coach bolt.  Then lash or bolt cross braces between the pole and the legs.  

Step 3: Throwing Arm

Lash a cross brace about 2m from the large (butt) end of the large log chosen for the throwing arm.  Rope is fine, but rachet straps make it easy to get nice and tight.  There will be a lot of weight on this joint when the arm is vertical - the weight of the arm plus the counterweight, so this joint needs to be good.  A chain screwed to the end of the log (butt end) and then back to the cross arm can be used if there is any doubt about a lashed joint.

Lift the arm and set the cross arm in the v at the top of the legs.  We used a tractor so this was quick and easy.  If you don't have access  to a tractor, place the cross arm (which is light enogh to carry up a ladder) in position first and then use a cum along winch or block and tackle to lift the main arm and lash in place.  

Screw a coach screw into the end of the throwing arm (long end) at an angle that is slightly above horizontal when the arm is pulled down to the ground.  Leave the unthreaded portion of the bolt exposed.  Cut the hex end off the bolt, leaving a smooth pin.

At the short (butt) end, drill a hole right through the log, close to the end at right angles to the arm and parallel to the cross arm to suit a long bolt or rod, about 16mm.  Insert a rod through this hole to pivot a counterweight from.

Step 4: Counterweight

Attach a counterweight to the pin in the short end of the arm.   The weight needs to be in proportion to the weight of the throwing arm and the strength of the structure.  We have started with a 20 gallon steel drum, bolted chain to the sides of the drum and then used shackles to attach the chain to the pin.  The drum was attached while empty and was then filled with rocks and sand.  

Step 5: Throw Something

By now you will be wanting to test the treb, so you could go and make a sling, but that would take time.  A quicker and easier way to get this baby throwing up, is find something to throw, tie a rope to it (we used a rope that was about 5m long) and get some action happening.  There are however a few important things to do first......

1.  Every good treb needs a name.  This was a job for the kids, and they dubbed her "Pain Bringer"
2.  Tie a rope to the long end of the throwing arm that you can use to pull the arm back down for firing.
3.  Keep people, buildings, cars etc away from the treb, particularly in front and behind.  Yes it is possible to fire the projectile backwards
4.  Always assume that a rope or a joint will fail.  Place yourself and anyone you don't want to send to hospital in a place where they will not be hit if something fails.  

What to throw?  Plastic bottles filled with water are great, make a nice wet splat.  Strictly a single use item.  Small heavy thing go further, eg the hammer that we were using for the build.
Update - In the video we are throwing bottles of water 2 - 3 kg about 30m or 90ft.  In order to pull the arm back by one person pulling on a rope, we were restricted on the counterweight size we could use.  We recently increased the counterweight by only about 25% and saw the throwing distance increase fairly dramatically to 65m or 200ft.  Why  so much from a small(ish) increase in counterweight size?  I think this is because the weight of the arm is also quite heavy and this offsets the counterweight, so increasing the counterweight by a relatively small percentage increases the difference in weight between the throwing arm and the counterweight by a much greater amount.



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Please be positive and constructive.




The pouch is person size. *evil grin*

what was your maximum throw?

About 40 yards. It really needs a much heavier counterweight to get good distance, but at the moment one person can pull the throwing arm back down, if I increased it significantly it would need a different arrangement to pull the arm down.

Have you thought of using a boat winch (see )? It would give you a mechanical advantage in pulling the arm back into battery.

I think the counterweight made a big difference here because the blue gum log I was using for a throwing arm was quite heavy and had lots of inertia so just didn't pick up speed fast enough with the smaller counterweight. Probably could have got similar results with a light weight arm too. No problems with the arm breaking on this one. I've got some big bamboos growing so maybe theses would be good for next time.

I made one of these a while back. Smaller mind you, but just as fun. It flicked a soccer ball about 20 metres using about 25-30kg barbell weights. Regarding your comment with the 25% increase in counterweight weight leading to 100%+ increase in distance, I found that there is a critical ratio of sling length to counterweight weight. If the sling is too short for a given weight (i.e. the weight is too heavy for a given sling length), or vice versa it will release the :insert projectile type here: at the wrong time. Simply adding more weight will not necessarily lead to a further throw. I can't quite remember straight, as it's been a while since I tuned my treb, but I think the heavier the weight, the longer the sling needs to be to be "tuned". If the projectile is going high but not far, make the sling longer, or alternatively, remove some weight (having too much weight can result in snapped cross-members – I was using bamboo and snapped several). If it is hitting the ground early and at a shallow angle, shorten the sling, or add weight.

COOL! who doesn't love an admittedly lethal giant trebuchet?

Wow this looks amazing, does it is ilegal?

I can't see how a few sticks lashed together in the paddock would be illegal, but I would expect that there would be some laws that would bring you unstuck if pumpkins were in invading your neighbours airspace.

Then can you believe that a pair of sticks tied together by a rope/chain IS illegal? Also known as nunchucks. Taken from wikipedia:
Possession of nunchaku is illegal or nunchaku is defined as weapon in a number of countries including Norway, Canada,[21][22] Russia, Poland, Chile and Spain. In Germany, nunchaku have been illegal since April 2006, when they were declared a strangling weapon.[23][24]