Set the Way-Back, Sherman. About ten years ago, I was flipping the channels and came across a guy in England who had built an enormous trebuchet: a counterweight-driven catapult that uses a sling to further extend its throwing arm. He was throwing small automobiles and upright pianos, among other things. He like to see things "blow up" and dynamite is not legal for recreational use in England, so he had built this alternative. I was captivated, and soon built a small working model.
Without doing much research, I decided I could just extrapolate the dimensions of my model and build a larger scale device. Sixteen inches in the model became eight feet in the construction, and so forth. The catch was that I wanted it to be easily transported in "knocked-down" form. Why? So I could take it to watermelon fields at the end of the season. They just plow under hundreds of watermelons that are past their "sell-by" date. You could haul your siege engine out to the field and throw watermelons until you got tired of seeing them explode.
Charlie’s Welding did some metal fabrication for me. I used steel pipe for the cross members and wood for the uprights and runners. Charlie Jackson made pipe collars to hold things together and I spent a lot of time drilling holes and bolting things together. I was too ambitious, though. Eight feet tall, eight feet wide, eight feet long, and a sixteen-foot throwing arm. I only got it put together one time, and the enormous weight needed to move the throwing arm caused the axle to bend. Plus, it was just too big to handle, even with a crew of four men (myself and three high-school kids).
I disassembled it and did a lot more research. Then I re-engineered: six feet tall at the four-foot, double-thick axle, with outriggers still keeping the base eight by eight. I never got it assembled again. It never threw a missile, much less a watermelon. My poor baby languished in a pile for the last eight years, four of them outside at my brother’s house, where I was going to work on it someday. It was just too big for one guy to handle by himself. I needed a crew. I also needed some fresh enthusiasm, as I was fresh out.
I tried to interest the Venture Crew in taking it on as a project, but the former leader wasn’t interested. Ah, but now there’s a new event at the Fall Fun Rally at Beaumont: Pumpkin Launching. The new leadership and crew ARE interested in a working trebuchet. They’ve spent several days re-assembling and modifying the beast, and today that rascal is throwing like a champ. There’s still some tuning to do — maybe even some fine-tuning. It was sure great to see it throwing. I hope to get some video up on You-tube. They’ve done a great job making my vision finally come to life.