The Ballistas

This project spawned after watching “Gladiator”.  I sat in the basement of my house fascinated at the opening scene.  At 14 years old I was blown away by the coordination of the Roman Legions and the complexity of the siege machines.  I do not know where my fascination came from but after that scene I was overwhelmed with a desire to recreate a siege weapon, in particular I wanted to rebuild the “Ballista”.

I explored and researched as much as I could about how Ballistas worked and their methods for construction.  I learned about rope engines and quickly set to work building my first full size siege engine.  I spent weeks working in my grandfather’s basement creating my masterpiece only to watch it self destruct under its own power during the first test shot.  I was devastated and spent a year on other projects before the idea of starting small and building a prototype came to me.

So during my junior year of college I started small with an engine that only measured 12 inches by 6 inches by 3 inches.  Mission Successful and capable of launching a pencil over 50 feet.

The next logical step was to scale up and modify my design from my lessons learned on the prototype.  I doubled the size of the engine to 24 in. by 12 in. by 6 in and was able to launch a full size arrow over 400 feet.

Not satisfied with my Balista’s and eager to yet some more modifications to the design.  I double the engine a second time to a overall size of 48 in by 24 in by 12 in.  I struggled with my woodworking capabilities.  I struggled with the mechanical properties of materials.  I struggled with design of the structure and various mechanical components like the trigger, sling, and winch.  I discovered Auto Cad and proceeded to model my idea to help calculate the angles and lengths of each board that made up the creation.  Finally after a few months of work I stepped back and took in the 12 foot tall 15 foot long behemoth.  I was afraid to wind this machine to anywhere close to full potential and couldn’t make my rope bundles as large as I wanted to because I ran out of money for rope but it was still able to throw an men’s shot put a distance of 70 feet.

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