A ballista is an ancient weapon. It was originally used by the Greeks and the Romans for hurling stones and boulders. Most are capable of launching stones that weigh up to 50 pounds. Most ballistas are capable of launching the ammunition as far as 400 yards. It is possible to build your own ballista, even if you have never done so before. There are kits that make the building process a bit simpler, but you can also build one from scratch.
Building a ballista requires a number of different materials. Anytime you have a list of items this long it is a good idea to begin the project by gathering your materials in advance. You will need five different measurements of wood including 12 X 12 X 24 inches, 3 X 3 X 12 inches, 2 X 2 X 24 inches, two pieces of 2 X .25 X 12 inches, and two 2 inch wood cubes. You will also need 2 X 2 inch dowel rods. In addition to the wood you need two 2 inch metal poles, two hoop hooks, two washers, nylon string, nails, a thin piece of rope, a hammer, and a pencil.
Constructing the Ballista
Begin construction by nailing the 3 inch piece of wood to the short side of the 12 X 24 inch base together. Turn the base over so the block is beneath the base. This allows you to connect the 2 X 24 inch piece to the top of the base. Connect the pieces in the center of the base. Next, make the pieces into a T-shape by nailing one of the 2 X 12 inch pieces to the 24 inch piece. This can be secured to the 2 inch cube about three inches from each side of the T. The nails you use need to be the right length to create a secure connection.
Once this is complete, nail the other 2 X 12 inch piece of wood to the top of the cubes. You can do this with one nail into each cube. Then sit the cylinders on each of the T’s sides and nail one of the washers about 3 inches from the end of the cube. Once the wood parts are built, you can use the hoop hook between the two cube structures. Connect the cylinder to the inner part of the horizontal bar. The rope should be inserted through the hoop hooks and twisted about halfway up the length of the rope. Jiggle the pencil into the rope and create a secure connection to the wood. The other end of the rope should be threaded through the washer to create a connection on the other side.
Finishing the Ballista
Finally, place the metal pole into the washer holes across the horizontal bar. The ropes can then be tied to the poles. If there is extra rope, just cut it off. Once the rope is set, use the nylon to secure both ends to the pencil. This is just one way to create this particular size ballista. You can also use different items and weights to see what launches the best. Remember the item is a weapon, so only use it outdoors. A larger ballista is more powerful, so you do not want to launch it indoors.
Photo: Ron L. Toms