Next weekend is the Florida Poly Retreat. I am signed up to do two workshops: one on jealousy management, and one on the design and construction of a trebuchet, a type of Medieval seige engine capable of throwing 300-pound boulders through a castle wall.
Trebuchets are cool.
This weekend, I'll be designing and constructing hte trebuchet that'll be used in the workshop. Originally, I had planned to build a six-foot trebuchet with an eight-foot throwing arm, capable of hurling a projectile the size and weight of a bowling ball about fifty yards or so. Shelly and serolynne both, sadly, nixed that idea--Shelly because she was horrified at the safety implications of such a device, and serolynne because the facility evidently doesn't have enough space to be chucking bowling balls around.
So, alas, I've had to scale back a bit. I'm designing a trebuchet about three feet high, designed to toss golf balls or tennis balls around. Which is very sad, because tossing a golf ball is so much less fun than tossing a bowling ball. I think it would be fun to use an old-fashioned steel lawn dart as the projectile, but I don't think you can buy those any more. (I certainly haven't seen them in years...which, now that I think about it, is probably a good idea. Who the hell thought that throwing five-pound, sharp steel darts high in the air was a fun family game? No way THAT could go wrong...bit I digress.)
There's actually a bit of accidental history behind this particular workshop. During the first Florida Poly Retreat in 2003, Shelly and I and some various other people found a pile of scrap wood at the facility, and I decided to use that and duct tape to make a quick, improvised trebuchet.
Well, actually, that's not quite true. The device we ended up making was technically a mangonel--it was powered by a combination of a small counterweight and human muscle, a design first pioneered by the Mongols, who used caputured enemies as slaves to operate their mangonels, and built versions that could be disassembled quickly and carried on horseback which they used as antipersonnel devices rather than as seige engines...but again, I digress.
Anyway, the FPR in 2003 was arguably the first nationwide polyamory meeting to arm itself. We test-fired the mangonel by using it to fire the flashlights that were giveaways at the retreat, that projectile being necessitated because (a) it had a lanyard designed to be worn around the neck, removing the need for a firing sling on the weapon, and (b) it was dark by the time we were finished, so we needed a projectile that could be seen at night.
The finished engine worked far better than I had anticipated; by the time we got the firing mechanism worked out, it was hurling the flashlights about three times farther than I'd estimated. Which was great fun, as you can probably imagine.
Anyway, it's been something of a standing joke since then--Florida Poly Retreat, the only polyamorous gathering to have seige equipment! So when serolynne approached me with the idea of doing a formal workshop this time around, hey, who was I to say no?
The trebuchet workshop is being billed as a workshop on communication. Legendary cynic Ambrose Bierce described war as "untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue," after all.
I plan to do a packet for the workshop that contains the plans, plus a writeup on the physics, theory of operation, and history of the trebuchet. For anyone who cares, this will be a HCW (hinged counterweight) design with a fixed throwing arm, and I'll probably put it on wheels. If there is enough interest, I'll probably make the packet available as a PDF from my Web site.
And now, off to Home Depot, the "Toys R Us" of the mad scientist and pervert communities.