Home Security By the Book

Art from Defending Your Castle by William Gurstelle.

I am not a crackpot. That said, I am the kind of guy who built his own air conditioner and toys with the idea of living off the grid. From there, it’s a short leap to DIY home security. Enter William Gurstelle and his book, Defending Your Castle. Gurstelle is an engineer and he provides you with instructions for building catapults, crossbows, moats, bulletproof shields and other defensive devices, and he does it all from a historical perspective.

Defending Your Castle, William Gurstelle

The book is organized via who might be invading your home, whether it’s Huns or Vikings or Crusaders or Mongols, and offers defensive solutions from the eras in which they raided. For instance, if you’re threatened by Genghis Kahn and the Mongols, Gurstelle directs you to build a Crouching Tiger Catapult, with which the Korean city of Kuju successfully resisted a Mongol siege in 1231 AD. The directions use modern materials, so you can build your catapult or hour glass watchtower today, but they each come with a history lesson that delivers perspective on how and why these are useful devices.

A good deal of the book amounts to a thought experiment, as your average HOA will probably frown on a new moat around your house, even though the provided instructions are practical and even mitigate insects and standing water issues. But those thought experiments are part of the experience of the book. That’s what separates this from a doomsday prepper’s guidebook. Gurstelle has done the research, so it isn’t just the engineering but the history behind it that you take away. Why these things were built is just as important as how.

There are also instructions for creating a palisade wall from pointed logs that would actually look at home in a rustic garden, and an armored door that might otherwise be found in an interior design catalog (assuming you can weld and you do a nice job).

If you’ve got a big picnic coming up, I recommend building both catapults in the book (the second from a design by Leonardo Da Vinci) and facing them off against each other in a water balloon fight. Do it for science.