Please pass on my thanks to your construction team who worked hard in all weathers to get the job done. If Sevenoaks Council ever change their ways, we shall be in touch again for an extension!

Paul M Cooling, Kent

Historical replicas

Because of our unique timber engineering skills, we are sometimes asked to solve design and construction challenges that no one else could consider.

The rare timber engineering skills needed to rediscover the past

These unusual projects show how Carpenter Oak & Woodland is uniquely able to respond to even the most demanding of briefs.

Historical replicasRecreating ancient war machines

We’ve been asked four times to construct working replicas of ancient war machines. Based on ancient designs, the war machines had to be as authentic as possible – and work properly, once complete. Although we worked to original specifications, power tools were used to save time and cost; for the same reasons, the timber was converted from the round log to square timbers at the saw mill. With the exception of these processes, the war machines were built by hand, using traditional methods.

Historical replicasBallista, Building the Impossible, BBC and The Discovery Channel

Built with Expedition Engineering for BBC TV and The Discovery Channel, the ballista was a faithful replica of a Roman catapult, described in ancient texts from around 25BC. When built, the ballista was able to fire a 26-kilogram limestone ball over 90 metres. The original was a highly powerful machine, with a spring tension of up to 200 tonnes per spring – which was capable of quickly laying waste to enemy fortresses.

Historical replicasTrebuchet, Warwick Castle

For Warwick Castle, we built the world’s largest working trebuchet – a mighty war machine which stands 18 metres tall and weighs 22 tonnes. The design of the trebuchet was based on notes and drawings from the 13th century. The trebuchet is made from oak – apart from its throwing arm, which uses the more flexible ash. The trebuchet comprises over 300 different parts, all held together with metal fixings. It can throw a projectile over 300 metres and needs a team of 8 men, working for half an hour, just to prepare and load the machine.

Historical replicasTrebuchet, Secrets of Lost Empires, Channel 4

Our first war machine was a trebuchet – a medieval siege machine – for Channel 4, built for a competition between two different siege machines. The trebuchet is a massive structure with a 49-foot throwing arm, capable of throwing a 300-pound boulder around 20 yards – at speeds of over 120mph.

Historical replicasLeonardo’s Crossbow, Leonardo’s Dream Machines, Channel 4

For Channel 4, we constructed a replica of a war machine that had been designed 500 years ago by the great Leonardo da Vinci. Never previously built, this giant crossbow, with arms almost 80 feet across, was constructed to da Vinci’s exact scale and specification. Da Vinci wanted to solve the problem of accuracy found in cannons – because, although cannons are effective, their massive recoil seriously affects their precision. The catapult would not recoil – and could therefore hit the same target, time and time again.