It wasn’t a Marie Kondo purge that led Dan Wenkel and Beth Robelia to get rid of their siege engine.
It’s just that the married St. Paul couple found they weren’t using their home-built trebuchet very much anymore.
“It does bring us joy, but it’s not the kind of thing we can use in our St. Paul neighborhood,” Wenkel said of their catapult-like device. “It doesn’t make it practical for medieval weaponry.”
So last week, along with the notices for lost cats, stolen packages and recommendations for stucco repair on the Nextdoor neighborhood website, Wenkel and Robelia posted a notice offering their throwing contraption, free to a good home — ideally one with a lot of space for flying projectiles.
Wenkel and Robelia, built the trebuchet in 2001 after seeing a documentary on the construction of one for the PBS show “Nova.”
“It’s kind of, ‘Hey, let’s see if we can make one of these things,’ ” Wenkel said. They got to work with scrap lumber, historical diagrams and trial and error.
Wenkel and Robelia, both science teachers, documented their project in a video that they showed at a Minnesota science teachers’ convention.
“People thought it was pretty cool,” Wenkel said, adding that they built their device before making tabletop trebuchets became fashionable in physics classes.
With a throwing arm about 10 feet long and a counterweight of up to 90 pounds, the Wenkel-Robelia trebuchet may not be powerful enough to batter down a castle. But it’s plenty big enough to seriously annoy the neighbors.
“We can throw a 20-ounce soda bottle about 50 yards,” Wenkel said.
The device was first set up at a field at the St. Anthony Middle School, where Wenkel teaches. For a while it was lent to a high school physics teacher. But Wenkel said for the past 15 years, it’s been stored in the garage of their home in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood.
Probably last used around 2004, the trebuchet has made fewer than 100 launches, Wenkel said, “because you don’t have much occasion to use a trebuchet.”
When they decided to get rid of it, the couple tried the Nextdoor neighborhood networking website instead of setting it out on the curb because “most people would look at it and not know what it was,” Wenkel said.
They started getting responses within 12 hours of posting the notice on Nextdoor.
Margot Sundberg, a 58-year-old Roseville woman, got her hand up first.
“When am I ever going to get the chance if I don’t jump on it?” she said.
Sundberg said she’s gotten “some great stuff through Nextdoor.” Mostly plants.
“This is the first medieval war machine I’ve gotten,” she said.
But the musician and graphic artist said she’s always been interested in history and weaponry. She’ll be adding the trebuchet to her sword collection.
It may actually get some use. Sundberg said she has friends who live on lakes who might be interested in giving it a try.
“It’s beautiful,” she said when she saw the trebuchet set up in the backyard of the Wenkel-Robelia home.
The couple demonstrated how it could be taken apart in pieces small enough to be transported in a Subaru Outback.
“No Allen wrench required,” Wenkel said.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the Ikea exploded diagram,” Robelia said.
They also gave Sundberg instructions on how to throw something and suggestions on what to use for ammunition. (Bags of flour make a nice display when they burst on impact.)
“This is the death zone right here,” Wenkel said of the area behind the launching arm where you don’t want to stand when the device is in use.
“It’s not really a toy,” Robelia said. “It’s a war machine.”