September 26, 2006

Greetings, East Troy Times readers!

Since so many of you are coming here, hungry for fascinating news of the trebuchet, I have decided to provide you with just that. As most of you are by now aware, Ron, Dave and I were lucky enough to host Vanessa from the East Troy Times, who was doing some research for what must be the best article of all time, for a Freedom Launcher demonstration. As a result of that demonstration, we have some good news and some bad news.

The good news first: there are (I suspect) quite a few people who are first-time visitors, who I'm sure will be interested in following our project in the future. On behalf of the crew, I welcome you to the excitement that is the Freedom Launcher. Enjoy!

The bad news: the trebuchet is temporarily out of service. Read on . . .

After our demonstration, we decided to give a try at throwing something a little heavier -- a leftover cutoff end of a telephone pole. However, after the attempt, (the log just flew backwards when the rope broke), we noticed that the throwing arm was much less stable than before -- it was able to rock and twist sideways much more than it had previously. With safety being our first concern, of course, we decided to investigate further before making any further launches. We surmised that our axle may have broken (after all, due to every calculation we had tried, it was nowhere near strong enough for what we were doing), and we decided that, rather than allowing it to hang perilously in the air, we should take it down. So that's what we did. We rocked it sideways until the axle worked itself out of its holders and fell to the ground.

Upon inspection, we found that it was not the axle that had broken, but it was a weld that held the throwing arm to the axle. Unfortunately, in the process of taking down the throwing arm, our axle got rather bent, and is now unuseable.

At first, we were all a little upset that we had rather unneccessarily disabled the Freedom Launcher, but after some more reflection, I am thoroughly convinced that it's going to work out for the best. Now that we've been able to inspect the workings close-up, after they've gone through a fair number of throws, it looks like our bearing and axle assembly is working a bit differently than was planned. It looks like the axle is doing very little work in supporting the weight, but is acting more to secure the throwing arm from moving side to side, and the pipe that we were using as a bearing for the axle is actually contributing a rather large amount of support for the weight. This is very encouraging, as it should be easier to reinforce that pipe than it would be to change the design to accomodate for a larger axle. It also means that our design has been quite strong, and that we should be able to pile on a lot more weight . . .

So, if you happen to drive by and see the throwing arm and counterweight sitting in a heap on the ground at the base of the Freedom Launcher, don't worry -- it's all under control. And after another workday or two, it should be back up and stronger than ever.

If anybody has any steel rods -- 2" diameter and 8' long, let us know . . . otherwise, we'll be having another stop at PAL Steel's scrap yard.

September 7, 2006

So about that explanation . . .

A couple months ago, I was contacted by someone who was looking for a trebuchet to use in a commercial for Rainbow Casino. I, of course, was happy to oblige, and a few of the fine folks at ProVideo came out with a van full of produce to fling around the pasture. A great time was had by all, and what I posted in July was the final result of the taping. They were even nice enough to provide me with a DVD of all the raw footage that was filmed. As soon as I get the energy to make it web-friendly, it'll be up here for all to see. Until then, enjoy this recording from back when we first launched:

Other than that, not much is new with the trebuchet. We have a few plans to do some reinforcing so that we can add more weight and throw farther, so stay tuned to find out how well that works. Something about it will be spectacular, I'm sure.

July 11, 2006

I'll explain more later . . .

May 10, 2006

I know that some of you have been checking this website pretty regularly for the past six months, as we have made it known that we've been getting some work done on the Freedom Launcher. I also know that it gets pretty annoying when a website you're interested in keeps you in the dark over such important matters. Well, friends, it was worth the wait. Take a note of this date, as it was the day we successfully tested the Freedom Launcher.

Yes, you read that correctly. As of today, the trebuchet is functional. Allow me to catch you up on all the progress. At the last update, I explained how we had given up on our concrete counterweight. Shortly after that, we located two free freezers. One of them got put to use storing food, and the other got put out on the pile of trebuchet materials. After a while we made another trip over to PAL Steel in Palmyra. That place is really great. This time, we went out to the scrap yard, where they have a large enough variety of scrap structural steel to get any project done. We easily found some stuff we needed to convert our freezer into a counterweight, and $130 or so later, we were on our way.

After that, there was a work day or two where we took care of some small things, like getting the trigger mounted into the ground under the throwing arm, as well as adding some extra nuts and bolts and lag screws to keep things good and sturdy. However, Ron and I just finished school for the semester yesterday, and we decided to really put some time into finishing things up.

Last night we started by modifying the big chunks of steel that we were planning to use to hang our big concrete-filled grain hopper from the counterweight axle. Since the grain hopper was a bit wider than the freezer, we had bent the beams so that they could fit on the axle. However, they were too narrow if they were to be used with the freezer, so we cut off the reinforcements that were added last time and had a grand time jumping and hammering and pressing the things until they were right shape.

Kevin, Ron, and I (and of course Dan showed up later) then met this morning to begin our final push. We started the morning by assembling the support structure for the freezer, and by taking care of some small details. After lunch, we finished up the counterweight and put together a sling and a pully for pulling the throwing arm down to the trigger. We then drove the weight out to the site and hung it on the throwing arm.

We, of course, were far too excited to go that far and not fire it, so we quickly got things set up and before we knew it, we were ready to pull the trigger and send a bowling ball flying. Just using the empty freezer with no weight added, we were able to throw a lighter bowling ball about 75 yards with a pretty high trajectory. These events are far too important to limit to the gallery (where there are several more pictures from the day's activities), so here's a couple items:

Click here to see a video of the first firing

After that, we knew we had to play some more. So we fired the bowling ball again. This time, it went a bit farther and was very hard to find, but everything went very well. So, we decided to step up a notch. We had an old flywheel or something like that from some old machinery that we decided to throw. It weighs probably 40 pounds or so, and obviously didn't go nearly as far, but took a very high trajectory. Everything worked great again. So, we again decided to step it up a notch by filling the freezer full of the cutoff ends of telephone poles that were still around from the very beginning of the project. It probably doubled the weight, and it was a bit trickier to pull down. We got it, though, and the flywheel flew about as far as the first bowling ball. There was a slight problem, however. We designed the counterweight to have a safety mechanism built in that would keep it from bouncing off the axle, but we forgot to put it on. After it got bouncing around a lot, one side slipped off, which caused the weight to crash into a main support, which caused the other side to fall off, which caused the throwing arm to quickly accelerate around and smash into the ground. Luckily, nothing was broken and nobody was ever in danger, but it made us slap our foreheads for forgetting to prevent that.

By then, it had gotten pretty dark, so we decided to call it a night. It's probably the longest day we've spent working on the trebuchet, and it paid off big time. There are still a few kinks to work out, but so far, everything looks great. Very soon we're planning on trying to get those kinks worked out. Stay tuned for news.

We plan to have a public unveiling sometime later in the summer. Details will follow in July or August. But don't worry. There should be some more updates before then . . .

November 7, 2005

Here I am, back once again with news of progress on the Freedom Launcher

Unfortunately, the progress I speak of is more of an anti-progress. Allow me to explain.

A few months ago, we made our counterweight. A big old grain hopper from a combine filled with concrete. It really did work quite well - an extremely heavy block all fit into one small container. However, the day we made that weight, we made a crucial mistake. We just kept adding concrete. We got on a roll and just kept putting in more and more. Theoretically, the heavier the weight we have, the better. It would mean that we could throw some pretty hefty stuff. However, in the months that followed, we found that the equipment on the farm couldn't lift it. The tractor struggled, and the skidster just couldn't do it. Since the tractor is too big to fit between the trebuchet structure to lift the weight onto the throwing arm, we realized that even if we could get the tractor to transport the weight all the way out to the site, it was pretty much impossible for us to ever get the weight hung on our throwing arm. So, it was decided that we would lighten our weight.

It didn't take long to figure out that a chunk of concrete three feet thick isn't very easy to break up. We tried a few things. Hammers and chisels were pretty much a waste of time. We drilled holes and tried to exploit the weaknesses around them, but it really didn't help much. Mostly, we tried smacking the weight with big, heavy, iron breaking bars. It was only slightly effective, and we could manage to break off chunks from the corners, but once it was slightly rounded, the bars didn't do much. And pounding into a flat surface just had them bounce off. So, in a stroke of pure brilliance, we decided to mount a particularly blunt object on the front of the skidster and get a running start and smash into the block. You may or may not be surprised to read that it really didn't do anything. The block just deflected the blow and the hitch-type dealy we were using as a smasher just kept falling off the skidster. Furthermore, after the blow was deflected, the smasher just ran into the edge of the old hopper and bent up the metal pretty bad. So, with bruised egos, we wandered around the farm for a while, looking for materials for a new counterweight.

And that's where we left off. The problem is that now we have our hanger almost all built for the old idea, so anything we change it to is going to have to be able to be hung by what we've already built. See the details below. We're really leaning toward building a sort of basket and filling it with scrap iron we can collect. However, brainstorming is still in session, and we're very open to new ideas. If you have any suggestions for what we should do, feel free to let us know.

New updates should come along a bit more frequently than they have been. It's trebuchet season again.

November 1, 2005

Ok, everybody. It's finally time. This weekend has been dedicated as a work weekend for the Freedom Launcher.

If you're interested in helping out on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon, let me know. I'll give you the details.

We've got a few things planned, including reducing the mass of our counterweight . . . yeah, it's just too big. Since the farm machinery couldn't really pick it up, it's just too big. I'll explain all about it after the work is done this weekend. Come one come all!

July 25, 2005

Alright, that settles it. Look at this. The last time this site was updated was February 18. Over five months ago. Wow. I thought one month was bad. Sorry about that. But anyway, you might have noticed some things. I was sitting here thinking about why the site never gets updated, and I realized that I originally just made the site too fancy. It was becoming a real pain in the butt to open up the site directory and figure out where all the files were and how all the formatting worked and whatnot. So, as you can see, I've decided that in the interest of updates, the site needs to be simplified. And so here it is - the new version. I guess it's not a huge change, but if you were to examine the html code before and after, you'd notice the difference. I hope you like it. I'm sorry I couldn't muster the time required to keep up the old design, but I really don't think you folks will mind too much. Most of the content is still here, except for the "History" section. I might bring that back when we're done building, but for now, it's being retired. As I'm working, some parts of the site might look the way they did with the old design, but that's just because I haven't re-uploaded that particular file. Be patient. It'll come.

What was that? " . . . when we're done building . . ." Yeah, that's right. It's not done yet. That's the second biggest reason that I haven't updated in a while. There hasn't been anything to say. The thing is, the semester got pretty busy there last spring, and before long, Ron left for Washington D.C. That's all well and good for Ron, of course, but without him around, working on the trebuchet is pretty much out of the question. But Ron will be back on August 4, and hopefully, we can get some work done in our final month of summer vacation. But let me clear something up to all the naysayers like Kevin out there. The Freedom Launcher has not been abandoned. It will be finished.

There is some good news to report, however. We got a $5 donation! Special thanks to Jon Preiser for his generous donation to buy us a six-pack of beer for the first launch day. I personally don't know Jon, but as I understand, he's friends with Ron. But anyway, thanks Jon, we'll be sure to drink up in your honor on that day we're all looking forward to so much.

Also, I'm planning to add Ron's brother Rick to the list of the crew. He's helped out plenty on the project, and definitely deserves a spot. As soon as I get a picture from him and whatever info he wants displayed, he'll be up. I've also changed Joe's status to "deadbeat," since he's supposed to be a financial contributor but hasn't contributed jack. Neither have a few other people . . . feel free to check the "expenses" link and e-mail the guys who haven't paid anything yet. Jerks! Also, I got sick of trying to keep track of everybody's age on the crew page, so that's gone. The invitation is still open to those who want to become full partners in our venture. If you'd like your face listed with the "financial contributors" list, shoot me an e-mail.

Other than that, I guess this page is officially updated. Thanks for hanging in there as long as you have, folks. It'll be worth the wait.

Oh yeah - we bought a couple bowling balls too. Good stuff.

Stay tuned.

February 18, 2005

Wow. The closing words of the last update: "I'll update sooner next time. I promise." Sorry about that. The thing is, we haven't really done anything else since the last update. See, January and February in Wisconsin are, weather-wise, about the two most lousy months for doing anything outside. When it's not incredibly cold out, it's incredibly muddy out in the pasture, and so we haven't been overly enthusiastic about working. However, Ron has recently accepted a position in Washington D.C. for the summer, so we really need to get this thing done so that we can enjoy it before he leaves. Congratulations Ron. We're all really looking forward to the return of decent weather. In other slightly unrelated news, Ron and I signed a lease and will be sharing an apartment starting in the fall, so we'll have all kinds of time together for talking about throwing things.

With that out of the way, I was thinking about how I haven't exactly been clear on how the counterweight is going to work. I know I've posted some pictures of the tank we're using, but I decided that the finished weight needs to be featured on the front page. So here's some pictures I took on 1/23:

As you might guess, it's incredibly heavy. You can see that it's tipped over . . . yeah . . . I was playing around with it, rocking it to see how heavy it felt, thinking, "boy, this doesn't seem like it weighs that much . . ." and bam, it fell over. So one time we had three guys trying to tilt it back up straight, and the most we could move it was a measly couple of degrees. I sure was seeing a lot of stars after that attempt. We have since decided that it's fine just how it is, and we'll take care of it when we move it out to the site of the Freedom Launcher.

So then how will we be hanging the weight? Well I mentioned the chunks of steel that we bought over winter break, but I didn't explain it very well. As I mentioned last month, we made these dealies out of them:


The two hooks that are on the ends of the two hangars will hook right over the bar on the end of the throwing arm. Then, there will be holes cut in the sides of the hangers that will slide over the angle iron sticking out of the sides of the counterweight. Understand? There will be pins and other various safety devices on there to keep things from flying around. We wouldn't want to compromise our safety, right?

Other than that, we have the trigger built. Here it is:

The long bar will be bolted to the bases of the telephone poles in a trench so that the pin is even with ground level. And of course, the middle chunk of metal there will be attached to the end of the throwing arm by a small cable. Done and done. The pulley that we'll use to haul down the throwing arm will somehow be attached to that same bar at a later date.

So what do we have left? To be able to actually fire it, we need to be able to pull down the throwing arm, of course. All that should require is attaching the aforementioned pulley to the aforementioned bar, and then attaching a big long rope or cable to the end of the throwing arm. Not too complicated. We plan on using a tractor to pull it down. We also need to build some sort of trough for the projectile to slide in while the trebuchet is first beginning to move and the projectile is sliding over the ground. Believe it or not, the angular brackets supporting the axle haven't been secured to the main uprights yet, mostly because we've decided they need more than just one bolt each to hold them on. So we need to build two little brackets to attach them to the poles. Other than that, we need to finish up the counter weight and get it hung, and that should be about it. I'm probably forgetting something, but if I am, I'm guessing that it's nothing too important.

Finally, I'll be adding a "Donate" button to the links above. Now, I don't want to sound like we're begging for money or anything, but if you're really interested in our project and you'd like to help out, we promise to use the money you send only for trebuchet-related expenses. Furthermore, if you do, in fact, donate, I'll publicly thank you on the front page here with a link to your web site or something like that. We're not doing too bad on our expenses right now, but if we had a budget other than $0, we could make some pretty neat upgrades. You can even specify what you want us to spend the money on -- buying missiles, materials, etc. Give it a thought.

So how's that for an update? I really would like to keep everybody updated more than once every month or so, but in months like the one past, when there's nothing going on with the project and lots going on at school and whatnot, I can't make any promises. When there's any new news, however, I'll be sure to update as soon as possible. Enjoy.

January 11, 2005

Happy new year everybody. I know it's been a while since the last update, but the freedom launcher is still moving along as strong as ever. We're getting closer and closer to being finished, it almost hurts. I'll try to fill in all that happened since the last update. We've all been home for winter break, so we've had a bit more time to get some work in. A couple weeks ago, we took a trip to Pal Steel and bought ourselves some heavy-duty angle iron to be used for hanging the weight from the arm. We picked up two pieces of 4"x6"x3/8", both about 8' long. We got a pretty good deal on it - about $50, which included three more pieces of smaller angle iron too. We also picked up some cable clamps and stuff like that, bringing the total to just over $60. You'll see it on the expenses page. Also, check out the image gallery for pictures of the angle iron we bought. There aren't many pictures yet, since I keep showing up with bad batteries, but next time we work on it, I'll take quite a few more so you can see some more progress. Other than that, we've completed our trigger mechanism, which just needs to be mounted on our poles and it's done. We also added some metal braces at each junction of poles of the frame, so that we don't have to worry about the whole thing just coming apart. Yesterday we bent the big angle iron and cut out some hooks, so that we're almost ready to hang the counterweight. Very exciting. After that's done, we just have to make up a few cables to be our winch and sling, and after a few other minor details, this baby is complete. I don't know, but it might even be throwing by next weekend . . . But don't hold your breath. Soon. It will be done soon. I'll update sooner next time. I promise.

December 17, 2004

Ok, time for a shameless plug. Help support the Freedom Launcher: Buy a Metric Clock!

December 17, 2004

Alas, a long overdue update! Yes, we're still alive, and yes, we're still working on the trebuchet. The semester is winding down and we have a little less free time, of course, but winter break is coming, and we're hoping to finish up the trebuchet during our three-week break. So, what's happened since the last update? Last week nothing happened. Ron stayed in Madison and I went up north to see my mom's new house ( The weekend prior (12/4 - 12/5), however, we got a bit done on the trebuchet. Our progress was mostly concentrating on the trigger mechanism. We put two pole ends in the ground where we can mount a trigger, and we spent some time designing one. We've got the parts made, so all we have to do is assemble it, and our trigger is done. Unfortunately, I again forgot my camera, so I don't have any new pictures to show you (which is mostly the reason for not updating sooner), but you should see plenty coming during winter break here. Back at school here, in my free time, I've been doing a little bit of actual engineering. Imagine that. Using good old statics, I derived an equation for the amount of force required to move the throwing arm with the weight attached to it. Using that equation, and a little bit of calculus, you can find the maximum tension in the cable used to haul down the throwing arm. Also, you can find how much tension will be required to hold the throwing arm down in the cocked position. For the nerdy among us, here's the equation that will work for any trebuchet with a similar setup:

T: The tension in the cable
x: The angle between the throwing arm and an imaginary vertical line. For example, when the arm is at rest, the angle is 0. When it's cocked, it should be somewhere around 140 or so.
s: The length of the short end of the arm - from the axle to where the weight is attached
l: The length of the long end of the arm - from the axle to wherever the cable attaches to the arm
w: The weight of the counterweight
h: The difference in height between the axle and the pulley. For example, the Freedom Launcher's axle is 18 ft off the ground. The cable will be entering the pulley at about 1 foot off the ground. So this value for us is 17.
d: The distance from the pulley to the upright support. Easily computed using the Pythagorean Theorem: d = sqrt(l^2-h^2)

So there's the equation. You can read a short discussion of it here: The Hurl Forum.

And in case you're wondering, here's what a graph of the function looks like when I put in the numbers for the Freedom Launcher:

Other than that, I can't really think of any new news. If I do, I'll add it later. Enjoy!

November 29, 2004

Well, Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, and we actually managed to get some work done. Before I elaborate, however, I must apologize to our dear readers for my lazy update last time. We had made some significant progress, and I didn't really go into too much detail. But if you think I'll clarify now, you are sorely mistaken. There are new, more important things to discuss! We now have a useable counter-weight. Unfortunately, there wasn't a digital camera available while we were working on it, but Ron had his camera out there, and eventually, when the pictures get developed, you'll see what the process looked like. We took this grain dealy that used to be on a combine and filled it with concrete:

Before we did that, however, we cut some holes and ran a couple pieces of angle-iron through the side so that we can easily hook on to it. We figured the volume of the thing to be pretty close to one cubic yard, and we filled it to be about six inches or so from the top. So, right now it should weigh about 3500 pounds. Good enough to get started.

So other than that, I think I'll do a little more work on the site this afternoon. I've got some free time, and I think I'll make an excel spreadsheet showing who has paid what and then who owes what. But obviously, I'm writing this before I've done it, so if you don't see it up on the top list of links, I'm being lazy. I think it's about time I updated the history page too... it's a couple months old now. I think I might add a question or two to the FAQ's too. Sounds good.

November 16, 2004

We actually got a fair amount of work done this weekend. Huzzah! The first weekend of its kind in a good five weeks or so. On Saturday, Ron and I went and cut a few telephone pole ends off those left in the pile to serve as stakes for the rest of our structure. Since people are always asking about where we got the poles, I took a picture of the pile as it looked before we took more from it on Saturday. It's in the gallery. Later that day, Dave came over and we just played around on the throwing arm, swinging to and fro. It's quite fun. We also fixed the "finger" on the end of the throwing arm. On Sunday we finally finished the main parts of the structure by adding the last two diagonal poles. We're getting pretty good at that. At one point we put one up, only to find that it didn't fit right. So we took it down, re-cut it, and put it back up - all in four minutes. The first time we did that, we only got two up in a whole day. We also discussed some other options for a counterweight. There's an old grain-hopper type of dealy on the farm that could hold almost exactly one cubic yard of concrete, which would weigh over 3,500 lbs, if I recall correctly. Additional weight could be added to that by hanging things on its sides. There's a picture of it, and the old tank, in the gallery. Finally, Ron and I will be stopping at the Pal Steel scrap yard on our way home for Thanksgiving. We plan to buy some steel to somehow be used on our counterweight - so our final plans will hinge on what we can find there. We probably won't be doing anything this coming weekend, however.

Also, I've added some things to other parts of the site. Try and find them!

November 12, 2004

Nothin' like a good, pre-weekend post. And a hearty one at that. I've got some big news for some of you out there -- only a couple of you know how the ideas have been leaning the past few days, but I'm officially announcing it now. As you have probably read, we've been planning on using that big old fuel tank as our counterweight, and we've been having some trouble figuring out the details of how exactly it could be hung safely. Well, it's looking like that whole idea will be given up in favor of something a little more simple. Here's why:

  1. Twisting. A big water tank suspended by steel cable is very difficult to secure from twisting as it falls. The tank method would require an extra fixture to be built along the side of it to keep it from smashing into the main poles of the trebuchet. The new method takes care of this problem.

  2. Free-Fall. After the trebuchet hurls its projectile, the weight has to settle back down. When the weight is suspended, again, by steel cable, there comes the problem of the tank literally bouncing around when it's settling down. A 5000 lb water tank bouncing around is not something we would like to deal with. The new method takes care of this problem.

  3. Water-sloshing. Unless the water tank is filled to the brim with water, the water inside is going to move around quite a bit - dare I say violently - when the trebuchet is in motion. This would add quite a bit more uncertainty that we really don't want to deal with. The new method takes care of this problem.

So what is this wonderful new idea, you ask? Some time last week or so I was talking to my ex-classmate Beau from MTU, and he brought up the idea of making a big concrete block as the weight. This way, you could easily embed some hooks or something into the block, making it easy to hang. Additionally, concrete is about twice as dense as water, so a 5000 lb block of concrete would take up about half the space of a 5000 lb container of water. However, the problem with this idea is that, unlike the water tank, we couldn't easily add or subtract weight. So we got to talking a little more, and decided that some big concrete weights could be suspended on a beam and easily hung beneath the throwing arm. Over the week I've done some calculations and some drawings, and the idea is very feasible. Ron agrees. Dan whined. What a surprise. It's going to require about 1.5 yards of concrete. Since there's a concrete mixer right on the farm, we'll be able to make a very low grade of concrete using lots of gravel, which would make it cheap and heavy. Other than that, we'll just need to pick up some I-beams, probably scrap from Pal Steel, and find some big brackets for putting them all together, and we'll have a counterweight. Here's some pictures to help you visualize. Click on them for the full-size image.

So let us know what you think about the new idea. Leave a note in the guest book or e-mail me or whatever. The great part about having this web page is that I can collect the ideas from people all over the country. Speak up!

Ron and I are going home this weekend, and hopefully I'll have some updates and pictures for you on Sunday night. Stay tuned!

November 5, 2004

Well it's been a few days since the last update, but there's not a whole lot of new information to give you. We've been doing plenty of thinking about how to solve this problem with the counterweight, and there's plenty of ideas floating around. However, Ron informed me the other day that we won't be able to weld on the tank. Because it was an old fuel tank, Ron's dad is concerned that welding would be dangerous. Since he has veto power over pretty much everything (it is in his field, after all), we won't be welding on the tank. Since we can't weld on the tank, we won't have a very good method of securing the cables to the tank itself, so we might very well be back at square one with the whole ordeal. We'll see.

Also, this will be another weekend where nothing gets done on the trebuchet physically. Ron is staying in Madison to see the last football game of the season. Dan and I will be going home, however, so we might meet up some time to do some designing. Assuming we can make it home again next weekend, it will be one month since the trebuchet was last touched. I hope you're not expecting us to finish it before the snow flies . . .

I couldn't very well make an update here without mentioning this past election. So there. I mentioned it.

In the web site department: I just installed Firefox on my computer here and noticed that the site looks pretty lousy in it. I obviously designed it for Internet Explorer. So, maybe sometime this next week I'll try to fix that. Don't count on it, however. This week should be busy. I was also working on that RSS feed, but it's a bit low on my priority list. I'll do it eventually.

Well, I think I've covered just about everything. Stay tuned for updates, and thanks for visiting.

October 29, 2004

As many discerning folks have observed, the design for suspending the tank still isn't acceptable. I've been thinking a lot about it, and I've discussed it with lots of people, and I have a general idea of what needs to be done. However, the details still haven't been worked out. Basically, a rack needs to be built around the tank to keep it from twisting. The cables will be the same way the current plan shows - supporting the weight of the tank, and around the tank, suspended from the counter-weight axle, will be a sort of cage made of wood or pipe or something that is much more rigid. Because it's not supporting any weight, it doesn't have to be too incredibly strong - just rigid. What's keeping this problem from being fully solved, however, is the orientation of the counter-weight axle. Because that axle is actually made of 3 rods welded together, it's not as simple as just drilling a hole in a piece of wood and slipping it on. Furthermore, the axle has three 90 degree turns on each side, making it nearly impossible to attach anything in that way. However this cage is made, it needs to be able to hook over the axle and then be secured. I have a general idea of how this can be done, but it ultimately depends on what kind of materials we have available to us. I'll be seeing Ron this weekend, so we'll have a talk about it.

Speaking of this weekend - no trebuchet work will be done. Ron and I can't be expected to just leave Madison on Halloween weekend, can we? No, we're staying here again. Hopefully we'll be home on the first weekend of November to get lots of work done. The weather is turning slowly but surely . . .

A guy on the guest book suggested that I put an RSS feed on here... as of right now, I have no idea how to do that. I think I'll look into it though. Sounds like it'd be a good idea for this site.

Finally, if you're interested in the discussion on the tank, go here:
It's a forum for trebuchet-builders. That link specifically takes you to the thread that I started about the Freedom Launcher. The guys there have been extremely helpful, and have given me some great ideas. Check it out

October 24, 2004

A new issue has come up -- the twisting of the tank while it falls. It was a worry before, but we figured that it would be ok the way we had designed it. It's not ok that way. Obviously, it would be very bad if the tank were to collide with a support while it was falling. It would probably topple the whole thing. So we need to minimize the twisting as much as possible. I've come up with a new way of suspending the tank from the arm that, hopefully, will keep it from twisting too much. If we properly space these cables, it should be fine. Click on the thumbnail below to get the full size image of the new design. I'll update all the old pictures of it while I'm at it, so the pictures shown down in the earlier post will change according to this new design. Let me know if you think it could be improved.

October 23, 2004

Wow. Today I had absolutely nothing to do, so I did quite a bit of work on the site. I added the FAQ section there and a guest book. Additionally, Joe W. has agreed to take on a financial share of the trebuchet, earning himself a spot on "The Crew" page. Finally, I also spent the entirety of the first game of the World Series (and then some) creating an Autocad drawing of the trebuchet. I didn't go too much into detail, but much more detail than I had done previously. You can download the Autocad .dwg file here, but I also made two wallpapers out of the drawing. Click on the thumbnails below to get the full-size images.

October 22, 2004

No work will be done on the trebuchet this weekend -- Ron and I are both staying in Madison. However, I got some math done as to where to put the brackets on our tank so that we can properly suspend it from the bottom of the throwing arm. I spent a couple hours in the computer lab at school today, and, using Autocad 2004, figured out how long our cables need to be and exactly where to attach them to the tank. Here's what I drew. The smaller sphere there is the size of a bowling ball, so that should give you a good idea as to the scale of the tank. Also, it's a good way of comparing the counter-weight to the missile.

I did a lot of behind-the-scenes type work on the site today. I figured that the pictures were far too big, and I was worried that the place at which I had them hosted was going to charge me for bandwidth. So, I made the pictures smaller and moved them to the web space I get from UW-Madison. Earlier, the images folder was about 80 MB. Now it's about 50 MB. A good reduction. It's uploading to the new space as I type this.

Since I'll be staying here this weekend, I hope to be able to add quite a bit to the site. We'll see how that turns out.

If for some reason there's something on the site that isn't working right, it might be because I'm uploading or something of the sort. My UW web space is pretty slow uploading, so it might create some problems

October 18, 2004

Well, another weekend spent at home has come and gone. We didn't spend a real huge amount of time on the trebuchet though. Saturday was nasty weather, and on Sunday we just weren't feeling very motivated. But we did take a mini road trip to go get our counter-weight tank, so that's a big plus. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera, so I can't show you what it looks like. However, I can describe it. It's an old 500 gallon fuel tank that has been modified to be used as a water tank. There's a small square hole cut in the side of it that we'll need to patch, but other than that, it's in great shape. If we were to fill the tank to the very top with water, it would hold about 538 gallons of water (not figuring in the dents in the tank), and the water alone would weigh about 4500 lbs. Since the tank itself weighs a few hundred pounds, we should be able to break 5000 lbs easily. That's a lot.

Now, I think I'll update the history page and take away some of those links that aren't in use yet. I feel constrained by them . . .

October 13, 2004

We took a big step toward success this weekend: the throwing arm is in place.  It works absolutely wonderfully.  I don’t have a lot of time to go on about it, however.  I’ve got a lot of work to do school-wise.  However, I will take some time to add a new gallery from Saturday, along with the movies we captured.  Things are going great.

October 8, 2004

I just made up some image galleries.  Thank goodness for free software that does all the hard work for me.  Otherwise I'd be far too lazy to make it look so nice.  Thumbnails and everything.  Huzzah!

October 5, 2004 is officially up and running now.  Now, if only I didn't have all this schoolwork to do I could actually add some content... oh well.  You'll just have to wait a little while longer.  Sucker!

I spent a little time making the history page.  It's pretty much up to date now.  I hope to add another entry for this weekend.

October 4, 2004 is born!  Today the domain name was registered and work on the web page began.  Check back often for updates.  Soon all the links above will be working, and you can follow them to find the information you're interested in.  Thanks for visiting.