What they did have was rope and rope works well in a catapult. The principle of using rope is that when you twist up rope real tight it causes a lot of tension or (torsion) that when quickly released will give off a lot of energy in a quick burst and this quick burst can be used to hurl a projectile. This type of catapult is officially called a "Mangonel".
"A Torsion Catapult (or Mangonel) is more Medieval and More accurate to the Middle Ages.
It uses materials that were readily available in the Middle Ages".
The picture shown here on the left is of our completed Mangonel Catapult. The base is twelve inches in length. This catapult is loaded and read to fire. Just need to put something like a marshmallow in the cup.
This tutorial takes you through all the steps necessary to make a nice Torsion powered catapult. I give you a complete parts list and complete assembly instructions. There is also a set of plans that you can print out. It is actually quite an easy project to complete and once you have all the parts it should only take you a couple of hours. The hardest part is taking your time to wind all the string into it.
(Note: I do have a video about ten minutes long that shows you the complete assembly process as I make this mangonel. Video: How to make a torsion powered catapult or Mangonel )
How this Catapult works - The picture at left shows the twisted strings. By spinning the wooden peg you twist the string tighter and tighter. This causes a lot of tension which can be used to fire off the catapult. It is a pretty effective thing and if you wind it up tight it can really fire off!
Let's Begin Making this Mangonel
The picture below shows all the parts and tools I used to make this catapult. You can vary some of this according to what you have and how you want your project to come out. Below the picture is the parts list.
- The structural pieces of wood are 5//8 square in the following lengths from left to right:
- 2 pieces twelve inches long
- 1 piece ten inches long
- 5 pieces that are five inches long
- the flat board that is square but cut diagonally across was a square four inches by five and three quarters inches. Use some thin wood like paneling. Cut out the square then cut it diagonally so it is in two parts as shown.
- 2 thin dowels, directly underneath the 5 five inch pieces you can see two thin dowels. I used 3/8 inch round but you can use two nails or two pencils for this. These are what you twist the rope on.
- 1 piece of wire coat hanger, this acts as a release mechanism.
- A variety of screws or nails - long enough to secure two pieces of wood together but not so long that they go all the way through.
- Three small eye hooks, or heavy duty staples, large enough for the coat hanger to pass through. You will see how these are used.
- String or twine, use the kind that is made up of multiple strands. Depending on the thickness of it you will need as much as twenty feet!
- Marshmallows - Used as projectiles!
- Toy wheels and axle pegs - strictly optional, you can see them in the upper right of the picture
- Power drill - You can get by without a drill but it makes it a lot easier
- Drill Bits: 1/8, 15/64, 9/32 - These are the three bits I used but there is a lot of wiggle room in this and you don't have to have these exact bits.
- Saw - to cut your wood, almost any kind of saw will be fine
- Hammer - if you are using nails or small tacks
- Screwdriver - if you use screws
- Glue - optional but recommended for strength
- Safety Glasses - always wear them when working with tools or when firing the mangonel
- Paints - or anything else you want to decorate your mangonel with
Okay! Lets start building this Mangonel Catapult
Want to build a bigger, better, more powerful or fancier siege engine? There are some great books available to you. These books, available at Amazon.com, will help take your trebuchet or catapult building to new heights! Pun intended!
Whoosh Boom Splat: The Garage Warrior's Guide to Building Projectile Shooters
These are the homemade machines that you've dreamed of building, from the high-voltage Night Lighter 36 spud gun to the Jam Jar Jet, the Marshmallow Shooter, and the Yagua Blowgun. Including detailed diagrams and supply lists, Gurstelle's simple, step-by-step instructions help workshop warriors at any skill level achieve impressively powerful results.
The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery
Working Wood Catapult DIY Kit, 6" X 5" X 10"
A fun, wooden catapult DIY kit for all ages to enjoy. Every piece is already pre-cut for you as you will not need to make other hard drilling work. All you need to do is assemble following the instruction and you will have a working catapult in no time. You may enjoy it with another friend or family to see this medieval wonder comes to life.
What good is a catapult if you don't have a castle to attack!
I have another project you might like. It is the Paper Castle and it has everything you could want in a castle making project including all the art work you can download. You just follow the instructions and make it yourself with some glue and cereal boxes. Build a Paper and Cardboard Castle It also has a learning sheet that helps to learn about castles when you are building it.