Steadfast Against the Storm

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.

A_Wall

A Stonewall in the woods standing steadfast against snowfall and time, much like little-known truths, somehow also obscured and almost lost, as if such were likewise buried behind layers of ice and a forest like tangle of trees

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.

Bottom Chord Scarf

The multiple abutment Trait de Jupiter / Bolt ‘O Lightning tension splices specified in the man’s patent and common to Long Truss bridges through to the end of their common era – One of the flawless fifty plus Bottom Chord Scarfs of Powers’ lost Masterwork

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.

Blenheim's Bottom Chords

In the foreground a now lost glimpse of the beyond amazing Bottom Chords of the Double Barreled Blenheim – In the distance my truck and tool trailer in a stop to pay homage on a pilgrimage driven side-trip on a return home ride from a hired gun timber gig

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.

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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

5 responses to “Steadfast Against the Storm

  • Dick Anderson

    Your picture of the bottom of the bridge is the best. Just as with the Sistine chapel little or no credit goes to the Baneenee brothers that did the tile floor for it. Except from other guys in the tile trade. Also Will did you see the Latrobe-Bateman Walking bridge that is going to be constructed at this years TFG conference in Madison, WI on May 20th?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Will Truax

      I saw some conceptuals, pretty funky!

      Are you planning on attending?

      Like

      • Dick Anderson

        Yes, since the conference will be right in my backyard I thought I would try to get in on the assembly of the bridge. Darren Watson from New Energy Works in Portland, OR is my contact. I have built a model from soda straws from looking at the picture and am now working the connectors. Crazy thing is that in the design drawings it shows that each of the timbers has been rotated 45 degrees and then chamfers have been cut into the edges where the connecting straps attach. This is indeed funky! Will have to see what Arnold Graton thinks?

        Like

  • Joshua Coleman

    Mr. Truax,

    Just this morning I was made aware of your blog and had the pleasure of reading your comments regarding the reproduction of the Blenheim Bridge. I eagerly agree with your strong aversions to the use of CNC manufacturing for timber framing, for many of the same reasons that you stated in your “Trace of Tears” post last December. We have striven to build our company on the foundation of well trained timber-framers who make use of their hands and minds throughout the design, layout, carving, and raising of the frames that we create. When I went on to read this updated post which clarified a more accurate account of the arrangements surrounding the Blenheim Bridge fabrication, I was relieved to receive some acknowledgment that we share a common value in the necessity of carrying on the tradition of hand-crafted timber framing.

    The processes and protocols which result from bureaucratic decisions often defy common sense and I do not claim to understand the reason why the rules on this project have been written and then applied the way they have. I do know that I have a shop full of young, highly skilled timber framers who are passionately working on recreating a piece of history, all of them excited to be part of this project and the great team that is working together to make it possible. I think it is safe to say that we are hopeful about the future, to learn even more about the many aspects of covered bridge restoration, to refine our craft as timber framers, and to be accepted as part of the community of Bridgewrights.

    I look forward to meeting with you someday, perhaps at a TF Guild Conference, and I would like to extend an invitation for you to visit us at our shop at any time you might have the opportunity to be in the area.

    Respectfully,
    Joshua Coleman
    Lancaster County Timber Frames Inc.

    Like

    • Will Truax

      Joshua –

      Thanks for taking the time and for acknowledging and understanding that there is reasonably frustration and bewilderment to be found in the “bureaucratic decisions” you alluded to among those who were part of the pre-qualified teams of bidders.

      And though I know not when I might next be in your area, thanks for the invitation…

      — Will

      Like

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