The Kinship & Influences to be Found in the Journey

In our last entry we explored the possibility that the design of an area Long variant was perhaps influenced by other nearby Longs, or as a particular detail suggested, a Paddleford, constructed just the year prior – Others have pointed out how the Bement and its Counters share a commonality in detail with the none so far off Rowell’s, itself a variant, one which however sees its Counter Braces placed atypically as they are, with purpose, in that they are displaced in the configuration of truss-work as demanded by the placement of an Encased Arch sandwiched between the double Posts & Braces. (an Encased Arch variant detail we have discussed as perhaps having influenced another famed Bridgewright in a previous entry) And though yes, it is not impossible that this bridge did influence the Bement’s designer, it is perhaps too easy to put too much into what is in truth only chance and happenstance.

The Counter Braces in The Rowell's are in this case displaced by the Encased Arch which runs between the typ Double Posts

The Counter Braces in The Rowell’s are in this case displaced by the Encased Arch which runs between the typ Double Posts

Nearby bridges with a shared detail still standing in our time – In their time the area was peppered with Long’s, both in Hopkinton and the bridgwrighting hotbed of Henniker. A number there built in the decade prior and one rebuilt just the in the previous year as demanded in loss driven by a high-water event. The 1853 Long was built by Henniker Bridgewright Frederick Whitney, who is also credited with a Paddleford right there in Henniker, this in the very capitol of Long and Childs Land.

I may have over emphasized the what in the influences over design in last months wonderings. More appropriately, whomever was the designer of this span was influenced as much or more by those he had worked with, as he might have been by any bridge he may have helped build.

I know this in the kinship I find with our unnamed friend. He lived and worked in what was then arguably a center in bridgewrighting knowledge, yet traveled as the work demanded. This bridgewrights abilities were found in things shared by the core of capable others in both the local framing yard, and in traveling for on site assemblies of yard-cut examples, and in rigging, layout, and joint cutting skills and knowledge shared in the mixed crew site builds a Journeyman Bridgewright might have then found himself signing onto.

Today this area is still arguably a hotbed of Bridgewrighting skill and knowledge, and I have likewise traveled. There is much to be found in the Journey, the demands of the road and projects found on it reveal much. Some who share experience on that road willingly share all they know, others little. Irregardless, every destination, every project, every coworker, be they capable equal or up and coming apprentice can and will daily reveal insights.

In their time I can understand a reluctance to share, though even with competition being what it was in that time, the common era of wooden bridge building, I expect this was the exception and not the rule. Today there is far less work in this discipline, though no shortage of competition. I for one, would rather see the work go to a cast of highly capable equals, rather than the all too common and more than vexing alternative.

I also believe it is an obligation we hold as Journeyman, to pass on that hard won wisdom garnered as what was almost lost was somehow pieced back together. Knowledge, is that most important of tools of our trade in the journey of a life’s work. It also should be handed down, and continue to see daily use.

This, a hope I cherish, that someone after me will likewise do what feels right in their heart and hands. It is part of that same hope we all hold, that someone might pick up a tool we once held, and see it as we did, and do with it, what needs to be done…

But for his time at heart, hearth & home, for the Journeyman, the Journey is the destination.

About Will Truax

I'm a timberframer and preservation carpenter, and regularly work on Covered Bridge restoration projects. Bridgewrighting can be a tough row to hoe, for a myriad of reasons. From scheduling issues to differing opinions and philosophies on what is appropriate in methods and materials, to multiple jurisdictions still not sufficiently vetting bidders resumes - Which is to say, just because a company is on that state approved list and capable of building that seven figure overpass, this does not mean they are capable of restoring a wooden bridge... So, I have much to say about all this and more - And despite my tough row observation, I promise not to whine. View all posts by Will Truax

3 responses to “The Kinship & Influences to be Found in the Journey

  • Ernest DuBois

    Hi Will,

    Your take on sharing knowledge prompts me to comment because it is one I share.

    That said, and with the qualification that I have a limited sense of the mentality on the American scene, here where I am trade knowledge is keenly guarded as hard won, an outdated notion leading to rapid decline as I have witnessed, and the widespread use of cross-head screws.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Will Truax

      Hi Earnest –

      Thanks for the visit and the kind comment!

      Your choosing to close with a diss on cross-head screws brought a smile to my face in that they are a pet peeve of mine, and they do perfectly exemplify how the failure to share does often find those with this mindset exploring new thoughts and possibilities vary rarely. After all how can one both refuse to share method, and then reasonably stand over anothers shoulder to see how they approach their work?

      By the way I enjoy your blog very much, in that I use axes daily in my work myself >

      — Will


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