At this point in time (and on a Tuesday, no less) I’ve decided an assessment of our current lines of enquiry is in order.

(1)  Firefly is waiting for another set of matched bolts to be made and a definitive solution to all the bolt breakage that occurs when shooting at mid-range, that is 300-400 yards.  Our extreme range testing 0f 800-1000 yards did not have this problem because landing in a soft field is a viable option for bolts descending at a 55 degree angle.  Shallow angles that come from flat trajectory fire are more problematic.  At fifty yards it is easy enough to make a small rock free dirt backstop, and that works great.  However, at 300 and 400 yards the landing zone for my fragile beasties needs to be the size of a small bus.  And me, with my bad back and everything.  Boo-hoo!  Still looking for a rock free (or somewhat free) hillside.  The ground will no doubt freeze solid in the next couple of weeks.  More testing will probably have to wait till next season.

(2)  The Sinew Vs. Nylon question needs more work put into it.  ’nuff said.

(3)  Phoenix proceeds apace.  I work on her everyday. Soon, things will be seen to happen as several of her major components get hooked together with their permanent accoutrement.  All shivery with anticipation, I am.

I expect Phoenix to be able to delve into the following subject areas:

(a)  Is a flat-topped crossbar indicative of a wedge machine?  Is it’s flat-top a suitable foundation for a pair of counterpoised wedges to drive a spreader bar? (this latter, nicely radiused where it contacts the spring, of course) and by this method put our all-important linear pre-tension into the springs.  Because no crossbars were found for the Elenovo machine, I feel Phoenix is at liberty to explore the notion of a wedge machine based on the unique information concerning the crossbars obtained from the Lyon artifact.

(b)  The crank handle from the Elenovo horde will be duplicated and used in the winch design for Phoenix.

(c)  Similarly, ferrous tension rods for Phoenix’s limbs will be based on the artifact thought to be one, also from Elenovo horde.

(d)  Phoenix will make every attempt to balance herself using only a wedge based system, and then we can see if an equally imposed 180 degrees of washer rotation yields the high power we are looking for.  This would allow us to dispense with the vernier plates and make some sense of the coarse washer adjustments evident of the Lyon machine.  Power and simplicity is our signpost from the Romans.  Nothing else will do.

(4)  Although I haven’t mentioned it yet, plans are afoot to make a reconstruction of the Lyon machine.  To demonstrate the simple and forgiving nature of the iron frame design, this machine will be made with more rough and ready blacksmithing techniques.  An ugly machine, with much lower standards of fit and finish, yet undiminished in her power and accuracy.  At least, that would be the goal.  Deliberately making misshaped and unsymmetrical parts fit solidly together into something wierdly wholesome and impressive is a personal challenge I am looking forward to.  I believe that the basic Roman design was so good it could accommodate more ad-hoc forms of manufacture.  In other words,  iron frame ballistas were a reliable manufacturing concept that could be exported to all corners of the Empire and then made locally.  Crudity of manufacture does not necessarily belie reliable performance if the basic design is forgiving enough; witness the Kalashnikov.   The Ak-47 is rarely revered for the prettiness of it’s workmanship,  and yet as an effective and exportable concept it has become renown for it’s robust simplicity and ease of manufacture in third world conditions.  So, that will be our take on the Lyon machine.  An easily made inswinger, miles ahead of the competition when it came to long range precision work.

From this distant remove, 1700 years after their common usage, ancient ballistas are mechanisms that defy modern attempts to categorize them absolutely.  However, there are traces of the mechanically irrefutable about them, if we have the wit to know what to look for.



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