Final Project: Counter Weight Trebuchet


For my final project I decided that I wanted to build a trebuchet because when I originally took this course that was the sort of thing that I thought we were going to talk about. The trebuchet can be traced as far back as 300 B.C in Ancient China (Tarver 130). This form of trebuchet was what is known today as a traction trebuchet.

The traction trebuchet was similar to the more traditional counter weight trebuchet that most people think of but with the major difference being the method of swinging the arm. The traction trebuchet was typically consisted of a off set arm on an axel. The long end of the arm would have a sling that could hold the projectile to be thrown, with a large number of ropes tied to the other end. These ropes would be grabbed by the team of men once the siege engine had been aimed at its target. The men would then jump up, and pull the ropes down all at once, swinging the arm upwards and launching the payload towards the target. This would be the only version of the catapult to exist into 500 AD when the French would adopt it in large numbers (Traver 152). This trebuchet would continue to be used until 1216 during the Siege of Dover where the counter weight trebuchet was introduced to Europe.


A model of a Traction Trebuchet (Todd)

The counter weight trebuchet is the trebuchet most commonly thought of, depicted, and well known trebuchet. It’s construction was very similar to that of the counter weight trebuchet in terms of how the arm, payload, and method of propulsion were set up with the main difference being the mechanism to swing the arm. Where the traction trebuchet used ropes and a team of men to pull the weight down, the counter weight trebuchet simply had a large weight instead. The weight would constantly be on the ground unlike the traction trebuchet who had the ropes constantly on the raised side of the arm. The arm would then be lowered down using a system of pulleys to load the payload and prepare for firing. Upon pulling a levear the arm would swing and the payload would fire. The pulley system was based upon the trebuchet size with smaller ones using a hand crank while larger ones would require what was essentially a human sized hamster wheel. The counter weight trebuchet would generally replace the traction trebuchet until the popularization of the cannon and gunpowder which would be used to replace it.


A Model of a Counter Weight Trebuchet ( Akinom)

I decided to make my trebuchet using some methods that could have been used back in the day. Instead of building my trebuchet using nails, improved geometry, and today’s architecture tools to build it I decided to build one using woodworking techniques and to make it look similar to how they would have back in the day. I decided to use wooden dowels instead of nails by drilling holes into the wood and pushing wooden dowels through the holes too small for the dowels and cutting the dowels to size by hand after. The other method that I used was a woodworking technique called a rabbet join where you cut the wood to half length and stack them on top of one another before pinning them together.  Below are my pictures of in progress and some pictures that I made of the wood working techniques I used.



Alchin, Linda. “Trebuchet.” Life in the Middle Ages, 2017,

Chevedden, Paul E., et al. “The Trebuchet.” Scientific American, vol. 273, no. 1, 1995, pp. 66–71. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Tarver, W. T. S. “The Traction Trebuchet: A Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Siege Engine.” Technology and Culture, vol. 36, no. 1, 1995, pp. 136–167. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Chevedden, Paul E. “The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 54, 2000, pp. 71–116. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Todd, Gary Lee “Military Museum: Ancient Weapons.” Wikimedia Commons, September 30, 2008

Akinom, “Trebuchet at Caerlaverock Castle.” Wikimedia Commons, August 2007

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s