I'm working on a story where the main character is going to reap the majority of his income from "inventing" things that a semi-medieval alternate world doesn't have yet. Cooking oil, soap, safety razors, etc. One idea I've had is a portable snare trap for small game like rabbits, that uses a collapsible or foldable rod of some sort as the "engine" to pull the noose tight, and can be set up anywhere, regardless of whether there is a sapling or thin enough tree branch nearby--for example in grasslands.

My uninformed understanding is that what would best do the job here on Earth is fiberglass or carbon fiber, which this world won't have. Are there any natural options? Could cane or bamboo still be flexible enough to fulfill this role after it is cut and dried? Could steel (or some other alloy) be made in such a fashion?

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    $\begingroup$ Note that in real history cooking oil and soap have been known since the remotest antiquity, at least the 2nd millennium BCE. A medieval world which does not have cooking oil and soap strains credibility. What do you think the Romans did with all the olive oil they imported? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ You would have far better luck inventing medicines like Penicillin. Not only would it be mechanically hard for society to copy the invention, its a re-usable product that everyone from High to Low status would need. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ People in previous eras were not stupid. At some point there would have been a person wanting to set a snare at some location without a conveniently "whippy" sapling or branch, who would have experimented with cheap alternative materials. (Steel in a pre-industrial era is far too expensive to consider using for a purpose like this.) So, there are unlikely to be any cheap, easy "inventions" that will provide an income, especially since without a patent/copyright system people will just copy a technique without paying. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ Great points, all. Maybe I'll need to go in a different direction. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Why is green bamboo excluded? Is it because it falls into the same "natural" niche as a sapling? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 17:33

2 Answers 2


Highly springy steel can work, so long as it's well oiled and maintained and not left in the ground for extended periods.

Other options would be an efficient rope/pulley system so you can more effectively use Deadweight/Deadfall traps

  • $\begingroup$ Spring steel, ropes, and pulleys are all very expensive and difficult to make in a medieval context. Sure these things could be done, and would work, but I don't think the the cost would be worth it. Finding a suitable sapling for a traditional snare trap is not hard. Most of the work is in making the trigger mechanism. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ I agree partially- I don't think springy steel is significantly expensive in medieval times (it doesn't require the same degree of crafting as say a sword) - but the question specifically asked for non-sapling alternatives. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ Speaking of swords, the average peasant's wrought iron sword was about 40 times cheaper than a spring steel knightly sword. Spring steel is incredibly hard to get right without a thermometer and blast furnace which means you need a master smith to do it. So, even if this is not as complex as a sword, you will still need to pay master smith rates to get it made: I would estimate no less than 2-4 shillings. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 4:56

Annulled steel wire snare traps

These are literally the easiest traps in the world to make and set up. They work great for various small game but are especially effective for rabbits. All you need is a spool of wire (something in the 18-22 gauge range) and some basic wire cutters.

Annulled steel is what you get when you slow cool steel instead of quenching it which does 2 things for your wire. It makes it softer so you can bend it more easily without it breaking, and more importantly, it makes sure that the steel does not have any springiness; so that when you do bend it, it stays bent. These materials are something that pretty much any blacksmith born after ~400BC should be able to make for you.

All you need to do it take about 2-3 feet of wire and tie a loop into one end about 4 inches in diameter such that it can slide open and close freely. Next, find a rabbit trail and tie the other end to a tree. Because it is wire, it just kind of hangs there open in the air. Next you place a small twig sticking up out the ground just under your snare. When a rabbit comes along it will lift its head over the twig and go right into the loop. When it feels something slipping around its neck it panics and tries to run. This pulls the loop tight around its neck, and because the steel is annealed, in kinks up locking the loop tightly around the rabbit's neck strangling it. Whereas a string noose needs a spring to maintain tension, the kinked wire does not need to maintain tension because it does not release after the rabbit stops pulling.

These traps are so small and simple you can easily make 30-50 of them, stuff them in your pocket, and go around setting them all up, all in a single day.


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