Many thanks to long time contributor to this blog, Mr. Charles Fink, for sending us some handsome billets of Bois d’arc timber from Texas.




The unique properties of this wood (also known as osage orange)  will make some exceptionally strong ballista limbs.  They have been cut recently and Charles waxed their ends to help prevent checking as they dry out.  I have stored them in a cool area of the shop so that they have every chance of seasoning properly over the next year or so.

The authenticity police will no doubt censor us for using a New World wood on one of our Old World mechanisms, but, given the relative difficulty of obtaining high end timber these days, I am not overly concerned with their typically manic ravings.   The Romans must have had an enormous selection of premium timber from the ancient forests of their far flung empire.  We moderns are at a natural disadvantage when it comes to being choosy about the wood we utilize in these reconstructions.  Allowances must be made.

That being said, Phoenix’s first set of limbs will be made from white ash, just like Firefly’s.  All very authentic and tickety-boo.

It is important to let the new billets from Texas dry out slowly and completely before fashioning them into limbs.  Thanks again Charles!  They are some truly beautiful pieces of wood.  Just the right size for Phoenix and unbelievably straight grained for this species.

Mr. John Payne is currently the tip of the spear with his wedge machine efforts on Vlad.  (That’s, Vlad the Impaler, of course.  Cool name for a remote skewering device, huh?)



Some serious iron frame wedgies going on here.  Make those strands work for a livin’.

This is capital work!  Nice and straight on the springs too.  Just like Mr. Philon ordered.

I am hoping John will be able to make a first thrust at this whole question of “balance of power transfer”.    Wedge balancing a ballista is the game.  Doing it in a way that generates lots of power to boot, is the trick we must master.

Meanwhile I am setting up to cut out Phoenix’s washers and vernier plates.  Chips can fly in earnest next week.

And a slight pause ensues as I grub around in trenches to help build a house for daughter dear.


Meanwhile: Rebecca writes a limerick about everyone’s favorite canine ……

“There once was a doggie named Oona, who wanted to go to the Moona, the rocket’s a dud, it fell over thud, and everything went Kablooma!”

I suspect my wife is a tad psychic;  foreshadowing our national election with dogly doom.

And that’s all the news fit to print up here in the Okiedokes.  Our benign little arms race should resume shortly.




As usual, Samuli gets the value of experimentation in trying to understand these machines.

User blog Samuli.seppanen_Were there wedges on top of washer bars – Greek and Roman Artillery Wiki – Wikia

I am very grateful to him for taking the time to write this and post it on his website.  It is invigorating to find another researcher who can play back your own intentions to you.  They sound less half-baked when someone else shows that they understand what you are trying to accomplish.

Samuli has a more comprehensive knowledge of the artifacts than I do.   The exceptions and alternate explanations he suggests are well founded.  It is good to cultivate these reasonable reservations.  They help to sharpen our focus and keep untoward claims in check.  This is just an experiment after all.  Like a signpost in the fog,  it’s usefulness must depend on knowing what it does not point to, as much as what it does.