About this project
The Siege Toys Project is complete on Kickstarter, but you can find us at our own website at SiegeToys.com!
Siege engines are machines that can throw stone balls hundreds of feet through the air to attack a castle. They're also full of physics. In this project, we’re bringing you two new model siege engines: the Catapult and the Ballista. Unlike our previous project, the Trebuchette, the Catapult and Ballista don't get their energy from gravity. Instead, you have to twist a rope bundle around an arm until it's tight, and then when you pull the arm back, energy is stored in the twists of the rope. When you fire, the rope acts like a spring and pulls the arm forward, launching your projectile out into a parabolic arc.
Siege engines are truly ancient machines, dating back thousands of years. Some of the greatest minds of all time worked on their design, including Archimedes and Leonardo da Vinci. These devices are an incredible example of physical principles, bent to a practical purpose.
Today, siege engines are no longer used to knock down fortifications, but they are still an engaging construction project and a great demo of physical principles. And more importantly, they're tons of fun.
The Catapult comes with everything you need to get launching, including two steel axle bars, two rubber bouncy balls for ammunition, and two castle targets. All of the wooden pieces just snap together in about ten minutes, so you don't have to wait for any glue to dry. Once you've built it, you can adjust the range on your Catapult by winding the rope bundle tighter or looser. We recommend starting with three full turns of the axle bars for outdoor use, giving you a range of about 30 ft.
The Ballista also comes with everything you need to get launching, including four steel axle bars, two rubber bouncy balls for ammunition, and two castle targets. Again, all of the wooden pieces just snap together in about ten minutes, so you don't have to wait for glue to dry. Once you've built it, you can adjust the range on your Ballista by winding the both rope bundles tighter or looser. We recommend starting with three full turns of the axle bars for outdoor use, giving you a range of about 30 ft.
The Battle Pack comes with one full Catapult kit and one full Ballista kit, letting you stage your own battles, explore the engineering behind both machines, or even give one as a gift while keeping one for yourself.
The Trifecta is a great choice for enthusiasts who missed our previous Kickstarter project, the Trebuchette. This pack includes one full Catapult kit, one full Ballista kit, and one full Trebuchette kit. All of the kits come with everything you need, including ammunition, targets, and one pound of steel counterweights for the Trebuchette.
We have been designing and producing cool wooden toys in-house for over two years now, starting with our first two Kickstarter projects: the Trebuchette and Skallops. That’s given us plenty of time to work all the kinks out of our manufacturing process. Thanks to our laser cutters, we can take our products from computer files to fully packaged sets in just a few quick steps.
After trying out many different combinations of woods and finishes over the years, we’ve settled on a particular type of baltic birch plywood with a fine sanding and a tung oil finish. This particular wood is resistant to warping and has very few knots, so it cuts cleanly in the laser and has a simple, elegant appearance. The sanding and the tung oil add a nice feel and color to our products, while also protecting them from humidity and aging without the toxicity of a full stain and varnish treatment. The company has grown a lot since we launched the Trebuchette on Kickstarter two and a half years ago, so we now run our own wood supply chain in the bay area: each pallet of wood we order passes through two different wood shops for processing—cutting to size, sanding to thickness, and applying the tung oil coating.
There are a few pieces of the Ballista and the Catapult for which wood is not the best material. Every Ballista and Catapult kit also includes precision-ground steel axles, steel washers, and high-tension rope.
This is the stage in our production where things really heat up. We cut out every piece for all of our toys ourselves using two precision CO2 laser cutters in the back of our warehouse. Owning our own manufacturing equipment allows us to start and stop production at a moment’s notice, and to roll out design changes at no extra cost. It never gets old watching the lasers do their thing. In seconds, they can cut out any shape we give them using a path of finely-controlled fire.
We're bringing this project to Kickstarter because the realities of manufacturing mean that it only makes sense to do a production run if we can meet certain minimum order quantities of our raw materials: most importantly the baltic birch wood. If we can hit our minimum order quantities, we can afford to order materials in bulk, and we'll be able to produce these siege engines for a reasonable price.
Risks and challenges
Kickstarter projects always face the risk of not delivering on time. With us, that risk is minimal. We've successfully delivered two large Kickstarter projects in the past, we own our own workshop and laser cutters, and we're using the same production tools for this one that we've become very familiar with over the last two and a half years. Our designs are 95% complete, so all we have left to do is order the material, cut out the parts, pack them up, and ship them out.
To make sure we deliver on time, we've carefully calculated out our production capacity, and picked a limited number of rewards to deliver in time for Christmas. We’re sure we can hit this number, while still allowing some leeway in case we have hiccups during production. We'll be posting examples of our production metrics in our project updates, so stay tuned for those.
But still, things can go wrong. We think the proof is in the pudding, though, so instead of talking about what we might do in case things go wrong, I'll tell you what we've done for past Kickstarter projects when things did go wrong.
Our very first Kickstarter project, back in 2011, hit a major production problem. Our Trebuchette project had successfully funded in late April, and we expected to deliver in Sept / Oct. In mid September, we began production using an external job shop to do our laser cutting, and their laser caught fire. In a big way. It was down for weeks, with no sign of becoming operational again. We did a calculation and realized that the only way we could deliver on time for Christmas was to run our own laser 24x7 doing production for six weeks straight. And that's exactly what we did: the three of us took an eight-hour shift each, every day, for the six weeks leading up to Christmas 2011, and we delivered.
But that was a long time ago. We're much better prepared now, with two laser cutters—redundancy!—and a much better handle on our production processes and materials. We've spent the last two and a half years getting better and better at what we do, and we're confident we can deliver on time, barring natural disasters, major personal illnesses, accidents, burglaries, the zombie apocalypse, or the workshop burning down. And if one of those happens, we'll let you know immediately, apologize for the trouble, and get production back up and running as soon as we can.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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