How To Make a Ballista

The ballista was a great weapon that the Greeks and the Romans used to throw huge stones as far as four hundred yards away. It is truly amazing, the engineering and thought that went into these early warfare armaments. By using these machines, people of these ancient cultures were able to throw stones that may have weighed as much as fifty pounds for great distances.  If you are fascinated by Roman and Greek life, then you may want to fashion your own ballista. Here are the things you will need (unless otherwise specified, all measurements are in inches).

  • 3 x 3 x 12 piece of wood
  • 12 x 12 x 24 piece of wood
  • 2 x 2 x 24 (you will need two pieces)
  • 3 x 3 x 12 piece of wood
  • 2" wooden cubes (two pieces)

Tools you will need:

  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • 2 x 2 diameter cylinders
  • 2" metal poles (you'll need poles)
  • Nails - medium-sized
  • Rope - you won't need anything too thick here, but it should be sturdy
  • Nylon string

You should begin by adhering the 3 x 3 x 12 piece of wood to the short end of the 12 x 24 base and nail them together. You want to upend the base and fix the 3"block underneath then turn it back over and nail the 2 x 24 to the center of the base.

You want to create a T shape by nailing the 2 x 12 to the 12 x 24 that is already in the center. Then you'll have to add the two, two-inch cubes to the top edge of each side of the T. Make sure that the nails don't go all the way through to the other side.

Place the two cylinders on each side of the T; place a washer on the base three inches from the ends. Then take a hoop hook and place it between the cube and the hooks.  After this, you should twist the rope halfway up. Take the pencil and stick it between the rope and secure it to the wood; then take the other end of the rope and put it through the washer.

Once you have completed the above steps, you want to take a metal pole and place it in the hole of the washer. Tie the ropes to the poles and get rid of any slack in the rope. After this, all you have to do is take the nylon string and tie two ends to the pencil.  This will complete your model ballista.

This is just a model, as the real ballista was huge.  However, these models are great examples.  They show how the real weapons were built and used, and you can experiment with different lengths of rope, sizes of wood, etc. to get the best results. These are not simple armaments but were highly engineered and widely used in the Greek and Roman cultures.  The accomplishment is even more amazing when you consider how basic their tools and understanding of engineering principles was compared to the resources and knowledge we have available to us today. 


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