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Da Vinci’s Catapult

August 31st, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

A simple, small model of an unique leaf spring catapult designed by Leonardo da Vinci.  


Completion date: 30/08/2011
Power: wind-up crank
Weight: 75 g

Model of one of the Leonardo da Vinci’s less famous inventions: a catapult using a leaf spring to fire projectiles, which makes it unique in terms of Medieval technology. The original catapult was to use a single wooden leaf spring – an idea probably inspired by a bow. It did not become popular due to high manufacturing costs at the time. There was a number of full-size models recreated today, and they proved capable of throwing stone projectiles just under a quarter mile. My model, whose scale is difficult to determine, can throw a regular Lego ball just under two meters.

It took me a while to find a Lego element of proper elasticity – I eventually settled for two 12 L axles. It seemed that the axles will get bent permanently from the tensions present in the model, but eventually the did not – they turned out to be perfectly straight after disassembly. I believe a catapult using the same principles to work without risking damage to any Lego pieces could be made with two rigid levers mounted on tension bars, but that would look very much different from Leonardo’s original design. I wanted the model to be mechanically accurate; this is also why I didn’t include any arm-stopping mechanism that could potentially increase the range – I simply haven’t found any in the original drawings.


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  1. JT Robotics
    October 6th, 2014 at 19:40 | #1


  2. Sariel
    October 6th, 2014 at 09:19 | #2

    @JT Robotics
    Just a regular string, about 1 mm thick.

  3. JT Robotics
    October 6th, 2014 at 03:25 | #3

    What did you use for string? (if it is string)

  4. Sariel
    March 5th, 2014 at 14:11 | #4

    Well, you can build it by looking at photos and using your brain. That’s like 50 pieces there, a baby could build it.

  5. jelly
    March 5th, 2014 at 13:23 | #5

    ps .ferrari enzo gears are cool

  6. jelly
    March 5th, 2014 at 13:23 | #6

    hello sariel

    how i can build dat catapult i need it for my class experiments
    pls gimme a link or something

  7. LegoFan101
    September 5th, 2013 at 00:39 | #7

    I am using http://sariel.pl/2011/08/da-vincis-catapult/ for part of my science project! (Btw that is is website page) 😀

  8. John
    January 9th, 2013 at 12:27 | #8

    Thanks! Pieces on their way. A whole new part of the LEGO universe just opened up to me. 🙂

  9. Sariel
  10. John
    January 7th, 2013 at 14:53 | #10

    Hi, great model! I want to use this for an elementary science class, but my stumbling block is the winch spool. Any idea where I can source this piece? Thanks.

  11. Sariel
    January 4th, 2012 at 07:11 | #11

    Let me quote the description right above:
    “It seemed that the axles will get bent permanently from the tensions present in the model, but eventually the did not – they turned out to be perfectly straight after disassembly.”

  12. January 4th, 2012 at 03:47 | #12

    did you end up breaking any of the axles

  13. jostein
    October 14th, 2011 at 19:29 | #13

    i hawe built this one and instadd of shooting balls i am shootin worm gears so works greate:) but i am shooting mayb3 to 4 meters

  14. Joraaver
    August 31st, 2011 at 23:31 | #14

    @Nathanoj and @Sariel


    Here’s is the link of the book. And yeah, I was at the uffizzi museum too. Very small world indeed

  15. Sariel
    August 31st, 2011 at 21:53 | #15

    Don’t know, it’s one of the things I haven’t looked well into yet.

  16. Mike
    August 31st, 2011 at 19:35 | #16

    Nice and simple! Can you make a ballista?

  17. August 31st, 2011 at 16:40 | #17

    This is really neat! I agree, it is a shame that 2 axles have to be sacrificed for historical accuracy. I would love to see more models of Medieval technology.

  18. Nathanoj
    August 31st, 2011 at 11:58 | #18

    @joraaver @sariel I have that too! I think got mine in the uffizzi museum, Florence, Italy, where the statue of David is (so good luck getting one paul 😉 ).

    Quite a good model, 2 meters is impressive from something 12cm long, especially from Lego 🙂

  19. Sariel
    August 31st, 2011 at 08:32 | #19

    Funny, the description is so short and you still didn’t read it.

  20. Mecho12345
    August 31st, 2011 at 08:29 | #20

    poor axles 🙁 how far can it shoot?

  21. Sariel
    August 31st, 2011 at 08:05 | #21

    Thank you. I think I should look for such a book, must be a good reading 🙂

  22. Joraaver
    August 31st, 2011 at 01:35 | #22

    Wow, amazing. I have a book of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions, and this catapault is one of them. You matched his design perfectly. Congrats.

  23. shawn
    August 31st, 2011 at 00:31 | #23

    I was on here just a few minutes ago, and it wasn’t here. You must have just posted it. really cool design. Poor, poor axles though. 🙁

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