Siege Punkin Chunk 2004: Mista Ballista's Story

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Punkin Chunk 2004: Mista Ballista's Story
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Mista Ballista returned to Delaware to compete in the Torsion division once again. It was a competition fraught with challenges.


Mista Ballista left Massachusetts at 11:30 pm, and drove straight through the night and onto the chunkin' field in Millsboro Delaware at 8:00 am. Here the trailer had just been detached, and Jeff pulls out a drill to finish a task that had been left undone from MA.

The only other team on the field was Fibonacci way down at the far end of the catapult line. And no wonder. It was beginning to rain as Roger covers up the equipment.

Despite the rain, the team continued on. Here Jeff begins deploying the rope bundles from the horizontal to vertical position. This is done by using a come-along on the front end of the ballista rope bundles. You can read more about Deployment here.

That night, Roger worked into the wee hours of the morning attempting to splice our new bowline together with the pouch from the previous year. The bowstring is a high tech 6mm 12 strand braid. Roger was able to splice it together with a home-made splicing tool made from a copper pipe and some solder. Nifty.


We worked feverishly attempting to get ready for our first shot at 8:30am on Friday, but missed the deadline. Instead we concentrated on making sure we didn't break any of our expensive parts. Here leather is wrapped around the new fiberglass arms we made. The leather is meant to protect the torsion bundle from the sharp edges left behind by the lightweight resin filler we used to remove the bigger rough edges from bagging the arms in the first place. Learn more about the arms here.

Next, we installed the new arms into the rope bundles. Eric and Dave manage the torsioning of the upper modiolus, Jeff handles the lower, and Roger makes sure nothing falls down.

Our new torsioning arms made this much easier. We got them much tighter by just pushing on these arms. Later, a come-along tightened them up even more. At the very end (on Sunday) we pulled out the hydraulic cylinders to put the final bit of wind into them.

At long last, we get to test the new bowstring Roger had worked so hard on. Here you can see our fancy new snatch block we built. Roger had forgotten the one we usually use, so we had to fabricate our own out of a spare pulley and scrap steel.

As the rope pulled back, eventually, one of Roger's splices came undone, and shot the pumpkin out of the ballista about 200 feet into the field. That was the end of our Friday adventures.


Bright and early the next morning, the torsion bundles were tightened and this Australian Blue Pumpkin was fit into the pouch. A pouch Roger once again worked late into the night repairing. We had warned one of the spotters about these particularly ugly pumpkins, and he recognized it when we shot it at him. Unfortunately, a bowstring splice once again slipped during pullback, but we had pulled back far enough, and tightened things up, so our shot went off 358.73 feet. This secured our 3rd place position in the Torsion division.

This just helped prove that all the work we put into these new fiberglass arms and lightweight bowstring is really paying off. This improved distance was at half the wind strength of last years best shot.

Roger spent the rest of the morning hunting down someone who knew how to splice this type of rope to avoid a third splice failure on Sunday. Once the secret was revealed (ie, no one had tried making a ballista bowstring before) we just made something up, and off he went.

Eventually Eric's son Trevor showed up, and got to play on the catapult. He liked all the catapults, but seemed more interested in all the carnival rides.

Later that day, disaster strikes. Team Chucky apparently was scared by our show of force that morning, and lobs a pumpkin straight up a few hundred feet and on to our torsioning system we were preparing to use. It left a massive amount of pumpkin mess on the deck of the trailer and all over our hydraulic cylinders. Mark donated many paper towels as we tried to clean up the pumpkin guts.

That night, the bowstring layout is tested again. One of the splices was misplaced and Roger had to remove it and try again. Getting everything even was really challenging on this project. An uneven location, and one line will take more force than the other and increases it's chance of failure. An uneven line could also cause the ammunition to miss the opening on the front of the machine and smack into the regulae.


We showed up Sunday morning even earlier than usual to test out the new bowstring. To everyone's relief, it holds! Huzzah!

Which of course meant it was time to pull out the hydraulic cylinders and put some real tension into our rope bundles. Hoo-ya! The new torsioning arms proved to be very safe, and all four ends were give a 1/4 turn for good measure.

We pulled the system back with an Orange pumpkin. The last Blue was sent to the Pumpkin Putter for use on its last shot. The bowstring held to the last. As Eric tugged at the Seacatch lanyard, however, it did not release right away, and the pumpkin slowly started to fall out of the pouch. When it finally launched, the orange pumpkin was sent on it's way but a small section was scalped off the bottom, thus disqualifying our shot. There was so much power in the launch that the lower bowstring sliced the bottom very cleanly off the pumpkin. The scalp was left on the deck of our trailer. We are guessing the shot went about 500ft.

Unfortunately, during this chunk, we also bent our stanchions. You can examine the animation of this in the Animation section below.

After fixing the decapitation problem, we spent the rest of the day slinging gourds. We were able to launch a new pumpkin about every 5 minutes.

Sproing! Off it goes! Too bad our lower right bowline bushing decided to go sailing off. This was our last shot.

Another view from below the raised rope bundles.

And then the 3rd place trophy was ours! Huzzah!


Move mouse over a frame number to switch to a different frame view.

0 1 2 3 6

In this animation you can see the bowstring slinging the pumpkin. Then in frame 3 the stanchions bend, and the pumpkin is pulverized. In frame 6, the remaining bits of pumpkin are sent skyward.

Google Video Service
Mista Ballista 2004

Shot sunday afternoon after the Punkin Chunkin copetition was over.
28 sec - Jun 25, 2006

Additional Pages for Punkin Chunk 2004
Punkin Chunk 2004 The 2004 World Championship Punkin Chunk was a great year for Team Tormentum. We brought Mista Ballista, our torsion machine. We also brought the Pumpkin Putter out of retirement to compete in the the new Human Powered Centripetal division.
Punkin Chunk 2004: Mista Ballista's Story Mista Ballista returned to Delaware to compete in the Torsion division once again. It was a competition fraught with challenges.
Punkin Chunk 2004: The Torsion Division The torsion division returned for more adventures this year. While the outcome as the same as last year, the adventures were all different.
Punkin Chunk 2004: Pumpkin Putter's Story The Pumpkin Putter returns from retirement to defend its previously unofficial title as champion human-powered centripetal. Don Young was instrumental in getting this new division together.
Punkin Chunk 2004: The Human Powered Centripetal Division The Centripetal division was very tightly matched. While the other machines had trigger problems, when they did work, they all sent the pumpkin out past 100 feet.
Punkin Chunk 2004: Other catapult divisions Battles raged in the youth and trebuchet divisions, and a new record was set in the unlimited catapult division.

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