Build Yourself A Little Mangonel, You Deserve One

If you’re of a certain age, you almost certainly learned about mangonels by playing Age of Empires II. Any intermediate player will tell you they are a powerful siege weapon that nevertheless cannot destroy trees (in game). However, why limit yourself to experiencing this capable siege engine in digital form? With the help of [Arry Koster’s] design, you can build a little mangonel of your very own!

A good-looking siege engine is, more often than not, a well-performing one.

The build is intended for a student or hobbyist audience, and is for a mangonel roughly the size of a shoebox. That’s big enough to have some fun, without being so large as to get you into trouble. The project also comes complete with a useful spreadsheet that lets you simulate the performance of a mangonel hurling a projectile so you can better understand the physics involved.

The mangonel is constructed out of wood, just as medieval examples were. The guide explains how to put the the design together, including the use of graphite to lubricate moving parts — a technique also used historically. Beyond building the siege weapon itself, there are also instructions on how to instrument it with an Arduino to measure its performance accurately.

The only thing this project is missing is a brilliant video of the titchy siege machine in action. We want to see it knocking down some appropriately-sized castles! If you happen to be building your own siege engines, miniature or otherwise, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. Do include some excellent footage of your antics, to boot!

17 thoughts on “Build Yourself A Little Mangonel, You Deserve One

    1. “That’s an onager”, my asiatic wild ass!

      Disclaimer: The onager, also known as hemione or Asiatic wild ass, is a species of the family Equidae native to Asia.

  1. First thought “is mangonel” some kind of English/English word for what my Yankees self calls a catapult? Cuz that looks like a catapult.
    Second thought “better wiki this”. And found out (as noted above) “. It is sometimes wrongly used to refer to the onager.”
    So I learned two new totally archaic words and what a huge win for the day! Thanks HaD

        1. I don’t disagree, but your argument would be helped by a situation where wikipedia was obectively *incorrect*.

          I’m sure some people would argue that the only “proper” trebuchet is a counterweight trebuchet, but that’s a debate that existed well before wikipedia or the internet. Many sources have considered both traction devices (like the mangonel) and counterweight devices (like the “trebuchet” of later medieval Europe) to be “trebuchets”.

          (that said, I also interpret [craig]’s statement as incorrect, and a classic example of asserting “a=b” when the reality is “a → b”: all mangonels may be considered trebuchets, but not all trebuchets are mangonels)

          1. and as others have noted, the bigger gripe is that regardless, this device is definitely not a trebuchet *or* a mangonel!
            still a cool project, just badly titled.

  2. This is an onager : a Roman torsion powered siege engine. Also known as a catapult.

    This is not a mangonel – fixed counterweight powered.
    This is not a trebuchet – articulated counterweight powered – more efficient than the mangonel.

  3. Our first valentines day as a married couple, my wife and I went to buy lumber to build a trebuchet we’d scaled to fit into a honda civic while disassembled. We considered something like this or a ballista but we decided we really didn’t want to deal with torsion based launchers in favor of less work assembling/disassembling it. Also under the sorts of loads we were planning for the failure modes of a trebuchet had mostly predictable directions it’d fling bits that no one should be standing in line with anyway (we intended to take it to parks and let random kids fire tennis balls if they wanted).

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