The full scale replica trebuchet, built for the Netflix production ‘Outlaw King,’ was a first for our Scottish team and the Scottish film industry.
With a tight programme to meet filming dates in Autumn 2017, the war machine was built and delivered within 8 weeks from ordering 25 tonnes of Douglas fir.
The 2017 production drew Hollywood to Scotland for the duration of the shoot. With the trebuchet critical to the main battle scene in the film, a safe yet realistic replica was required – we were the go-to firm to deliver on this.
Given the scale of the trebuchet, individually tailored joints were required. Bespoke, hand forged metal work was produced in house, where strengthening was required on timber to timber joints.
To trial the jointing and build sequence of the trebuchet, our trainee carpenters made a 1:5 scale prototype of the trebuchet, complete with a finely tuned counterweight. This successfully (and safely) fired a projectile 45 metres.
With confidence in the design and mechanisms, we were able to build the full-scale replica at the speed required to meet programme, and in confidence the carpentry would work.
Warwick Castle Trebuchet
In June 2005, Warwick Castle became home to the world’s largest working siege engine, made by Carpenter Oak. The trebuchet is 18 metres tall, made from over 300 pieces of oak and weighs 22 tonnes. It sits on the riverbank below the castle.
The machine was built with drawings from the Danish living history museum Middelaldercentret, who, in 1989, were the first to recreate a fully functioning trebuchet. The Warwick Castle trebuchet was built at our Wiltshire yard with expertise from the Danish museum.
The trebuchet takes eight men half an hour to load and release. The process involves four men running in 4 metre tall treadwheels to lift the counterweight, weighing 6 tonnes, into the air. It is designed to be capable of hurling projectiles of up to 150 kilograms distances of up to 300 metres and as high as 25 metres.
On 21 August 2006, the trebuchet claimed the record as the most powerful siege engine of its type when it sent a projectile weighing 13 kilograms a distance of 249 metres at a speed of 121 mph, beating the previous record held by the trebuchet at Middelaldercentret in Denmark.
Built in 2002 for the BBC and Discovery Channel production ‘Building the Impossible,’ the full scale, working Roman ballista was the first to be built fo at least two thousand years. Our Scottish crew were enlisted and joined a research team to draw on historical evidence to recreate this epic war machine – ‘a stone-throwing catapult designed by Augustus’ artillery engineer Vitruvius.’
Standing at 7.5m tall and 8.5m long, this 12-tonne war machine was crafted over the course of ten days alongside other traditional craftsmen and craftswomen: stonemasons, blacksmiths, carpenters and riggers. Built of green oak with a laminated ash firing arm, it fired successfully 3 times, sending a 40lb stone ball an impressive 115 metres. The dis-assembled ballista is stored at our Scottish yard and catches the eye of any visitor to the yard. One day we hope to re-erect this one-off.
Leonardo Da Vinci crossbow
The crossbow is also referred to as his Ballista. The machine was coiled or cocked by means of a worm gear (which he also designed). This enabled a huge mechanical advantage and allowed two men to fully draw back the huge bows of the crossbow.
Once cocked the machine could be fired be either hitting a release catch with a hammer or pulling on the catch with a rope – both mechanisms were designed by Da Vinci for the firing of the crossbow.
The bow was to be made of several interlocking sheets of wood in a kind of forerunner of lamination, allowing for flexibility during the cocking of the bow and to increase the spring tension during its release.
Leonardo’s Crossbow was recreated based on his original drawings by our team. The only modification we had to make was to create a second bow as the first one snapped under the immense strain as the bow was ratcheted up to full tension.