The game I’m playing may seem like a bit of a haphazard free-for-all, but there are rules you know. One of these has always been to respect the dimensionallity of the original artifacts, as expressed in the Baatz drawings. With today’s decision I am bound to break that smugness by venturing into the hypothetical, a bit.

By adding a spring steel plate to the straight stanchion, any worries about this sensitive area will be banished. (And good riddance, too.) The price for this happy confidence will be vowing to make a new set of field frames with stanchions made entirely from spring steel. That way we can easily stay true to the exact numbers in the Baatz.

The degree of confidence this upgrade will inspire when smacking at 5000 lbs again, is judged worthy of a minor dimensional transgression at this time. If the original machine had well forged components made from spring steel (I’m betting that steels with a max. tensile of over 100,000 psi would have been procureable by ancient artillery workshops), then the Battz dimensions suggest that this class of machine could easily have been capable of 5,000+ lb draw weights. The limits encountered by our current mild steel field frames (65,000 psi), shows that for sure.

While the Romans did not fully utilize the wootz method of steel production, its seems clear that the technique would likely have been available to them for the development of their super-weapons. For more on the underrated Roman steel industry, see the excellent paper by E.A. Ginzel, titled: Steel in Ancient Greece and Rome. (1995)

I quote him thus. (And thankyou, E.)

“Although the exact process was not understood, it was long known that juxtaposition of wrought iron to charcoal increased the hardness of the wrought iron. Two steel making processes were known and practiced in antiquity; the cementation process and the crucible process. The cementation process involved heating wrought iron in contact with a carbon source (usually charcoal) in such a way as to exclude exposure to air. In the crucible process wrought iron bars were melted in crucibles in which charcoal had been placed.

Steel tools made by the cementation process of Roman origin were found in Britain dating to the second century AD[17]. Carbon content varied irregularly throughout from 0% to 1.3%. It was this irregular distribution of carbon that made the cementation process, or “home-made” Roman steel less desirable.

It is suggested by Parr[18] that real production of steel began as early as 500 BC in India. This material was referred to as wootz. By Alexander’s time the production of wootz was a well established two step process using the crucible method. Two methods could be used, conversion from a cast iron form or conversion from a wrought iron form.

Although wootz steel and the Damascus steel manufacturing processes were probably introduced to the west around the time of Alexander, its significance was strangely under exploited, with one exception; the Damascus steel blade swords. To explain why Romans did not adopt or develop the wootz steel manufacturing process and Damascus forging methods must be speculative. Landels puts forward the suggestion that Roman furnace design made production of sufficient heat unattainable, yet he goes on to point out the 1150°C maximum could easily be extended to 1300°C using available technology[26]. Add to this the fact that the unreliable cementation process used by the Romans provided steels of medium carbon content and this alone could have reduced the temperature to melt the steel to a range reasonably achieved by existing Roman furnaces. The fact remains that opportunity to make improvements in the steel industry existed but was not used. Technical conditions existed during the Roman domination of Europe that have provided the Roman smiths the ability to produce the relatively high quality wootz type steel. The writer suggests two possibilities for the failure of good Roman smiths to make a wootz type steel. One possibility is that the serendipitous actions of forging a lump of the cast iron, that would have inevitably formed at some point during Roman smelting, did not occur. This was either because the Romans were always fastidious about keeping the unmalleable stuff out of their blooms, or they simply did not experiment with the dirty hard little buttons that would occasionally occur in the furnaces. A second possibility might be that the suppliers of the wootz steel kept the process a secret from their western customers.”

For our purposes, we need only remember that wootz steels would likely have been available to the Romans for high end purposes, even if this high grade material was not commonly manufactured by them and used in other industries. We might liken their use of wootz steels to the “strategic materials” so prized by modern states — valuable and rare, but certainly not unheard of. Their India trade was quite the thing, I hear.

For our doctrine of maximization in all things related to performance, that is enough of a track to follow to its endpoint.

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