I came across this old Anglo-Saxon riddle the other day.  It amuses me to think that this arcane subject has such a visceral root.


  •          ‘I am the defender of my people. 
  • Strengthened with wires and filled with gifts.
  • During the day I spit them forth.
  • The fuller I am the better I am.
  • I swallow dark weapons of war.
  • Bitter arrows and poisonious spears.
  • I have a good stomach.
  • Men seldom forget what passes through my mouth.’


Answer:  Ballista.


Meanwhile, back at the little catapult factory:

We have been struggling with the design for the new set of limbs.  The design shown in the last posting had the entire butt of the limb encased in steel tubing.  Perhaps a tad bit of the old overkill going on there.  It is a personal tendency I have.  Probably I would make the world’s worst airplane designer.  Nothing would ever get off the ground for all the armour plate.  And so,  after much contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that the plan laid out by Mr. Aitor Iriarte in his paper that appears in, The Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies 11, 2000, is the best approach for the new limbs on our reconstruction of the Orsova machine.  Not only does this design benefit from Mr. Iriarte’s detailed and thoughtful scholarship, but it seems to be a practical and workmanlike solution to a tricky problem.  The drawings Mr. Iriarte presented in that paper are seen below.


The thickest section from our hickory peavy handle, corresponds very closely to the proportions of the tapered cone seen in the woodwork here.  We will use 5/8″ T-1 steel, to form the full length brace and hook.  Our collar will be a bit bigger than the one shown here, and will be situated on the limb to protect it from the impact from the stanchion.  Probably we will also include another lighter collar in the middle of the limb for added strength. The cord whipping at the hook seems like a good idea.  Epoxy soaked, Dacron bowstring thread should do the job nicely.  With a bit of luck, we will be up and shooting again by mid-week. 


The snow has finally started to melt off.  If the mud out on the flats isn’t too bad, it might be time to take a field trip.  Shooting through chronographs and twiddling around with these design issues is all very well, but nothing can match the pure exhilaration of watching a heavy bolt streak out of sight at a high angle.  It is just about time to have some fun.


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