Day 8: Catapults

14 Skills for 14 Days

Day 8: Homemade Catapults

I had a substantial phase where I built catapults. I built them out of anything. LEGOs, K’NEX, matchsticks, pens, pencils… Anything that could take tension or create leverage got co-opted into catapult pieces.

I primarily referenced The Art of the Catapult for blueprints.IMG_8127

This book outlines the development of catapults through the ages. It also comes with handy construction outlines for each model. Sadly, most of the instructions require extensive power-tool usage and advanced hardware.

Fortunately for the safety of everyone in my vicinity, I did not have access to power tools in my teenage years. So everything was pretty much hot glue and ingenuity.

Unless you have access to a handy 50 pound counterweight, the easiest model to go with in your apartment is the Onager, a Roman catapult from around 350 A.D. The Onager throwing arm is powered entirely by twisted cord. For the homemade varietal, the components you need are a frame to hold the cord, a throwing arm to winch up inside the cord, and a block to stop the swing of the catapult arm at its peak.

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Then just load up with the ammunition of your choice (ideally the severed heads of your enemies) and fire away!

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14 Skills for 14 Days Day 8: Homemade catapults

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Day 5: Stop-Motion

14 Skills for 14 Days a.k.a. Stay Home, Learn Skills

Day 5: Stop-Motion

Stop-motion filmmaking: an activity for sitting confined in a small space while closely tracking the incremental changes in a subject over a very long period of time.

This is what you’ve been training for.

And speaking of trains. I’ve recently acquire two tiny lego trains that I thought would be perfect for a stop-motion exercise. For instruction I referenced the LEGO Make Your Own Movie Book. It is not comprehensive, but it came with a LEGO skateboard, so that’s cool.

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A whopping 58 pages of rudimentary instructions

I also downloaded the app Onion Cam2, which allows you to do stop-motion right on your smartphone (for free!) It’s super fun, but I also learned that the lack of storage space on my phone means I’m limited to making very short movies. The constraints of no-budget film.

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I set up a tear-out backdrop from the book, lit with a desk lamp, and clipped my iPhone to a tripod. The app allows you to onion-skin, showing a transparency of the previous frame so you can judge how far to move each subject between frames. It’ll also export anywhere between 12 and 24 frames per second, depending on how much patience (or phone memory) you have.

The trains are great because, well, they don’t have limbs. So there’s very little you have to move between takes. All that to say is, this is not my most exhaustively detailed film.

But I still stand by it.