I had it in mind to finally post a followup to The Central Bridge entry Friday, I’d been waiting on image accreditation permissions and access to an artifact, a literal lone surviving piece of that long lost bridge…
Then the distraction of this thirty hour April Fool’s Day storm and a bit of news which also crossed my horizon created a need to update the blog’s readership regarding an entry of a few months back, a lamentation entitled A Trace of Tears. The news and need to update is in how the low bidders chosen pre-qualified “timber specialist” has now formally engaged a subcontractor, one that redetermines how the framing of the new Blenheim is now to be executed, being that it is not the same automated manufactory they had enlisted to execute their last new-build.
The timber framing community is a small one, so I have some sense of the firm enlisted. I do take solace in the fact that the three Trusses and the Tie, Floor Beam and Lateral Bracing systems which will unify them will be laid out and cut by genuine human beings.
I am at the same time bewildered that a pre-qualification process intended to limit bidders to those with deep wooden bridge resumés would then allow any of those deemed qualified, to sub off the whole of the fabrication effort (The very aspect of a joined timber truss bridge build that requires deep experience in know-how and understanding as to the requisite of full bearing tight fit) to a firm which had not navigated that same process. It is an absurdity that flies in the face of reason and fairness and makes a mockery of that process.
That said this Timber Frame subcontracting firm does have a short bridge truss resumé, one limited to single numbers, recent developments which have only come to pass in the last several years since the very storm which took The Blenheim from us. Nor is this outfit a scribe-centric shop. historic practice demonstrates in the form of surviving example, and I adamantly hold to the notion that joined timber bridge framing, is for the need of both practicality and accuracy best laid out with “Scribe Rule” methods, this for all the reasons I articulated in Trace of Tears. I do unhappily understand that that notion is little shared and reasonably not understood by lay-people, nor for reason explored in an archival entry I penned a few years back titled Commonly Uncommon, is this even commonly understood by Timber astute Carpenters should they not be fully versed in both traditional bridge truss practice, and full blown layout to assembly scribe methodologies.
That solace I find in this development is not only in the removal of the incapable robot, it is also found in the human connection which will undoubtedly unfold. Among those to cut this replication of the grandest of grand joined timber wooden bridges so recently lost to us, will be individuals, who will in the doing likely experience a spark of imagination, and perhaps that spark might help them find the focus to make this allied trade of Bridgewrighting, their live’s calling.