The Grey Company Trebuchet Page

The Treb Files

Part 2:

Name: Quasimodo
Class: Traction Trebuchet
Size: 2.4m high at the axle with a 3.70m throwing arm and a 0.80m hauling arm.
Power Unit: Two to six humans hauling down on ropes like bell-ringers.
Projectiles: 1kg iron balls as standard, plus plastic water bottles, basket balls, 1-2kg rocks, flour bags, water balloons...
Range: 205m with 1kg iron balls, approx 100m with flour bags.
Based upon: Carcassonne cathedral carvings and Maciejowski Bible traction treb illustrations.
Status: retired, awaiting burning in photo-shoot
Quasimodo was our first trebuchet and a real leap into the unknown. It seems remarkable that after making a small model ("cheesechucker") and a doing bit of playing with poleslings we launched into a machine that ended up as powerful as this one..
Quasimodo was impressive - you stood under the moving parts and when a shot went well you were exactly in line with the direction of the shot .. a privileged position where you could watch the fast-moving projectile all the way to its destination.
A portrait of Quasimodo the Traction Trebuchet .... photo by Trish Lambert
Quasimodo sitting in a paddock sometime in 1995.
The substantial bracing timbers steadying the uprights can be seen here. Without them the wobbling frame made accuracy very difficult. Adding them was the second major modification made to the beast... the first modification being to install the thick wood-filled steel tube axle show here which replaced the first attempt which snapped twice in the first session in 1994.
Quasimodo in action.... photo by Trish Lambert
Quasimodo is shown here with its most commonly used crew size - four pullers and a loader for the sling. On occasions a fifth pulling crew member would be added, but generally people preferred to be on the sides with a clear escape route rather than in the front where everything appeared to want to go.
Even so crews of 2, 3 4, 5 and even 6 were all able to use the old traction trebuchet effectively.
Shortly after this photo was taken the beam was "beefed up" with an additional section a wood along its length to reduce the flexing seen in the picture. It seemed to work and heavier projectiles such as 2.25kg iron balls were added to the list of projectiles (they made a particularly satisfying thud on impact) but the standard 800 - 1000g metal balls remained the favourite.

Quasimodo's first test.... photo by Trish Lambert

Quasimodo's first day out, December 1994.
With no bracing timbers and an inclination to buck, the first incarnation of Quasimodo needed the guy ropes visible here. This session wasn't quite a disaster, we learnt a lot.
We broke an upright when the beam end struck it and we broke the thin tube axle from the stress of accelerating and decelerating the beam. To cap things off, the maximum distance thrown was a disappointing 30 metres.
Things would be different next time...



Quasimodo is readied for a shot.... photo by Trish  
Here the Quasimodo crew get ready for a shot using the technique of holding the sling at an angle other than vertically below the beam end. This can certainly steer the shot if the movement is to the sides, although we never noticed whether we could effect the range by moving the starting position in or outwards.
Quasimodo looses the shot.... photo by Trish  
The shot is made. The sling holder is in his original position, leaning out to the side of the sling's path, and the pullers have dropped into a squat to use their bodyweight in the pull. As the beam passes their ropes cease to be the power hauling it down and become the brakes to stop it.
A hurled soft drink can 'splashes down'.... photo by Russell  
Not all of Quasimodo's projectiles were "serious".
Here a soft drink can goes berserk after a tumbling 150 metre flight ending in an impact on the hard ground. The lid has popped and the can is thrashing about like a small rocket.

Quasimodo in action.... a frame from a video Quasimodo in action.... a frame from a video  
Fun with Flour... more frivolous projectiles.
A 1kg (2.2lb) bag of flour leaves a spiral trail as it tumbles and corkscrews down-range.
Cheap paper bags of flour make fun projectiles and explode beautifully when they hit the ground, but they're not very strong. We had to bind the bags with gaffer tape otherwise that explosion of dust happened right above our heads as the g forces of the trebuchet launch tore the bag apart. This particular bag had a couple of holes cut in it at one end to produce the amusing pattern of flour in the air.
Trebuchets do their best work with standardised uniform projectiles, but an awful lot of Quasimodo's output was so frivolous you'd have to call it "Comic Relief".
Basically, if it looked like you could hurl it, we hurled it. If it looked like you couldn't hurl it, we still tried.
The list of victims of the old machines's sling included such items as Teddy Bears, weighted Teddy Bears (this was a mistake.. some were torn apart during launch...), water balloons (doubled up one inside the other and tossed gently to handle the g's), soft drink cans (as seen above), apples, oranges, a pineapple, 1.25 litre plastic drink bottles (lots of easily visible tumbling before they splash down), basket balls and 500ml plastic drink bottles fitted with cardboard "bomb" fins (originally a joke, they were devastatingly effective. One hit a chain-link fence... and passed through!)


Photos by Trish Lambert and Russell.
Last Edited: November 2000
© Russell Miners 2000.
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