Frequently Asked Questions

Of course, not everybody is intimately familiar with the building and workings of a trebuchet, so there are some pretty common questions that come up when those unacquainted folks come upon this page. Here I'll do my best to answer those and to anticipate some others. If you have any questions that you think I should add to this FAQ, please send them to me at This page will always be a work in progress, so feel free to ask any questions you want.

Q: What the heck is a trebuchet?

A: According to, it is "A medieval catapult for hurling heavy stones." Don't let that description fool you, however. It's not a catapult. It's more of a sling. Imagine a big see-saw. On one end you have hanging a very heavy weight, and on the other, a rope attached to something you want to throw. The weight drops down and the rope whips around and launches your projectile. That's basically how it works. Since there are already so many other pages with information about trebuchets, I'm not going to write another one. I'll just link you to them. The Grey Company Trebuchet Page has a lot of really great info. If you want to learn more about trebuchets, that's where you should go. On their site, the Freedom Launcher would fall under the counter-weight trebuchets.

Q: Who are you?

A: Well, for starters, I'm Carl Markestad, the webmaster of this site. However, I am writing on behalf of the Freedom Launcher crew, who you can see under "The Crew" link. We're a group of folks who decided that we needed a trebuchet. And so here we are. We're all originally from East Troy, Wisconsin, and we're building the trebuchet out in a cow pasture at Ron's farm. We work on it on weekends where at least a couple of us can get together at home.

Q: Why are you building a trebuchet?

A: I think the question should be, "Why wouldn't we build a trebuchet?" Everybody knows that verile males such as ourselves really enjoy seeing big objects fly through the air. The bigger the object and the farther it flies, the better. We've upgraded from slingshots to potato cannons and other types of homemade artillery over the years, and we see building a giant trebuchet as a sort of pinnacle of backyard ballistics. However, being in our early twenties and having built such a big trebuchet, who knows what's to follow . . .

Q: Just how big is it?

A: The axle hangs 18 ft. above the ground.  The long end of the throwing arm is 22 ft and the short arm (from the axle to where the weight hangs) is 10 ft.  So, when fully extended, it's about 40 ft. tall. The weight consists of a large chest freezer that we'll fill with various goods to create various weights.

Q: What are you going to throw with it, and how far will it go?

A: We throw whatever we want, but we mostly stick to objects like bowling balls. We've tried flywheels from farm equipment, empty beer kegs, assorted produce, etc. According to calculations, bowling balls should fly a good 1500 feet, but realistically, we hope to achieve 600-1000 ft. Heavier objects won't go as far, but it's hard to say exactly what the range is until we're able to try it out with a lot of weight.

Q: Where did you get the telephone poles?

A: From Ron's neighbor. A while ago the electric company replaced a bunch of telephone poles on their road, and the guy asked if they would leave the poles in his yard so he could build a shed with them. The poles sat there for a while, never being turned into a shed, and he graciously allowed us to take the haywagon over there and haul all the good ones back to Ron's.

Q: Are you going to throw people? What about cows?

A: No and no. Safety and legal issues aside, we prefer to see things splatter when they hit the ground, and that's just not an option with people. Cows are too heavy. In fact, though it's a popular belief that cows were launched over castle walls to help spread disease and terror in the middle ages, it's much more likely that cow parts were thrown, as building a trebuchet large enough to hurl thousand-pound cows for hundreds of feet would have been somewhat unrealistic.