T.J. Dale puts the finishes touches on his trebuchet. The medieval weapon can launch a cantaloupe more than 600 feet. It takes Dale more than five hours to set up and prepare for a launch. Photo courtesy of Walter Hermreck

T.J. Dale puts the finishes touches on his trebuchet. The medieval weapon can launch a cantaloupe more than 600 feet. It takes Dale more than five hours to set up and prepare for a launch. Photo courtesy of Walter Hermreck

Walter Hermreck
Special to The Gardner News
T.J. Dale recently hurled a cantaloupe more than 500 feet using a medieval device. A Cub Scout Master, Dale and Cub Scout Pack 3888 of Gardner participated in the district’s annual Cub Scout Day Camp at Olathe Lake. In addition to the usual activities of leather working, archery and other events, day camp attendees were treated to a trebuchet demonstration.
Cubmaster T.J. Dale of Gardner designed and assembled the trebuchet. The Scouts enjoyed watching the machine being loaded and fired.
A trebuchet it is considered a “siege engine,” or a catapult-like device. Trebuchet literally means, “stone hurler.” They were invented and used during the medieval period as an answer to overcoming fortified castle walls. The trebuchet could hurl up to 350-pound stones over great distances with enough force to damage or destroy castle walls.
There are three characteristics distinctive of a trebuchet. It is powered exclusively by counterweights and gravity; it uses a long arm with a pivot; and uses a sling. The counterweight was a key upgrade at the time from other siege engines.
Dale’s trebuchet isn’t designed to destroy a castle wall, but his scaled down version will toss a cantaloupe more than 500 feet. He accomplished a 530-feet throw during the Scout camp using 750 pounds of counterweight. The next day, he threw more than 600 feet with 800 pounds of counterweight. Dale, a welder, has always liked designing things. He has built projects ranging from Pinewood Derby cars to boats and rockets. His cars are often in the winners’ circle of the open class races.
Dale used an online simulation program to help him design the trebuchet. Design, building and testing took several months and involved three prototypes.
His trebuchet is not as portable as Dale would like, he said. Transporting the machine takes two trips because of the weight. Once the parts are on site, Dale spends approximately five to six hours assembling and leveling the trebuchet and preparing to fire.
To prepare for launch Dale uses two pulleys to pull the arm into place for firing. As the arm is pulled back the counterweight is slowly lifted. The weight is located on the front of the arm just past the pivot point; this is what gives the trebuchet its power and distance. Once Dale has the arm fully prepared, he loads his ammunition of choice – the cantaloupe – into the specially designed sling. He does this with caution as the melon rests directly underneath the counterweight.
After everything is prepared, he stands back several feet, does a countdown, and pulls the trigger rope to fire the trebuchet. The long arm swings skyward pulling the sling holding the payload. As the sling catches up to the long arm, it gains momentum and releases the melon at the angle the trigger pin is set; this is usually between 40 and 45 degrees.  During the day camp, the sling released the melon at approximately 19.5-feet high. The trebuchet launch is smooth and the cantaloupe travels a good distance.
The young Scouts appeared delighted as they watched the fruit being hurled across the field.
“I want the boys to know that you can build things with your hands,” Dale said.  “I enjoy teaching them that with a little research, dedication, and hard work you can do anything you put your mind to. I also want them to know you can have fun without a screen.  That is what scouting is all about, new experiences.”
Those interested in scouting, please visit www.GardnerScouts.com.