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Nearly Finished

Hat’s off to the extraordinary people of Chester and surrounding towns!

Without you we never would have had a chance (or a reason) to get this beautiful bridge built and across the water.

All with good humor, an historically low bandaid count, hundreds of hours of hundreds of local hands (and backs!) in the project mix.

And the TFG crew was spot on, too.

Moving the bridge along the roadway went so smoothly that the dogs were bored. We’d borrowed a truckload of the 8′ sections of out feed roller from Local Hero Dick Lewis. Four of them are truck-strapped to the bottom chord – the track carefully swept and made painstakingly level – we jacked the bridge down off it it’s assembly blocking onto the wood runways.

A single Tirfor, configured for a single line pull, was anchored to the far shore via a giant white pine, with the pull aligned align the bridge axis via single come-along side pull of not so much tension.

In moments there was a long line of locals wanting a turn at the winch. We began of course with out host Chuck Myette, who immediately tried to find every single contributor to the project a spot in the line.

Our own Katie Hill down from Burlington (VT) for 10 days on the TFG crew took the bridge for a spin and the whole business crept towards the far abutment.

Touch-down which really occurred hours later, was (as we had hoped) anticlimactic. No drama, no trauma! The jacking team gingerly raised the bridge enough to allow the insertion of a large crew dedicated to falsework removal.

Don Seela and crew had spent nearly a week building this robust understructure that was rapidly dismantled piece by piece, and tossed into the pond upstream. Here he is taking credit for the entire project. His next project is in Haiti.

At this point the bridge is 15″ higher than it wants to be at the end of the job.

Upstream, 10×10 wrestling began, with much hilarity.

Once the falsework was removed, the jacking crew returned to lower the bridge in two inch increments onto the Locust blocks and the 2011 dimes provided by the community of Chester for this purpose. Slow and steady work with Dr Brungraber’s robust Buda jacks.

Meanwhile, everyone else in town pitched in to clean up the site and sort out the tools.

Monday morning at dawn just a few of us left had an opportunity to see the first peaceful moment on this site in ten days.

The cedar shingle job will start up in a day or two, when the rest of the materials are delivered. We built some staging to support that effort and loaded it up with shingles. They’ll run up three feet or so and then switch to roof brackets, making room for another team to install the siding (all sawn from the site). Once the portal trim is done, I expect there will be a quiet dinner in Chester involving some very fine, and very exhausted people.

We did it again, but never by ourselves. Good work in a good place, for a good purpose, with some great people.



Sunday 7/31

Well, we did it. But you’ll have to wait for a full report, because we’re in the middle of an uproarious dinner party right now, and then it’s back to the shop to finish loading up.




Saturday 7/30

Another glorious day of accomplishment. Leveraged by a glorious day of weather, after too much rain the day and night before.

Starts with a meeting, of course.

And a little inspection of the rigging, followed by a moment of prayer, and off we go.

We went from the circumstance above to the one pictured below in a few short hours of heroic effort.

Dr Brungraber turned up and started agitating immediately for enhanced progress on all fronts – a kind of defibrillator to our effort, and reporting immediate results. Alicia Spence returned and leapt into the breech with direction and exhortation; and we found the perfect balance (on the roof, on the staging, on the decking, on the rig) of locals and Guild folk. The flywheel came fully up to speed.

And after an very long day and somewhat sketchy internet access, (our excuses for this abbreviated blogpost), a couple hours after dinner we looked like this: . . . . bridge complete with all components, decking largely complete, roof boarding complete, staging for siding in place, and roll-out scheduled for Sunday 11am.

Tomorrow’s plan?

Start with the cedar shingles whilst the rigging guys and gals set up to jack the bridge down to the rollway, and build an anchor point on the far shore.

We have an appointment to keep with the Wason Family, who are heading over here in the morning having been promised that the rollout will begin promptly at 11am.

We are pretty sure we can deliver on this; and all the while provide meaningful work in shingling and siding for the ever-growing crowd of locals who are turning up, likes moths to the flame.

However, the sad diaspora has begun: Old pal Scott Samsel has headed home, and Dick Anderson will be rolling up his tent before sunup for a ride to the airport.

Still, we’re awash in timber framing talent and enthusiasm, and the luckiest people alive by most measures.

Hope you’ll stop by.

Friday 7/29

I think we’ve finally noticed that every day begins and ends just about the same way; with Ed Schum working. Folks were anxious enough to get back at it today that we started a full hour and half early, supported by a kind of rotating breakfast and lots of coffee.

Truss post haves arrayed in their final relationship. You may remember that in addition to whatever camber we elect to give this bridge (a subject of much late-night discussion) with the tension rods, the ‘bent’ post pairs are themselves splayed along the truss run, furthering the illusion of archness.

This nice young carpenter from town, Teresa, has been with us for several days and distinguished herself as a capable cutter under the big top. Here’s she’s beta testing some carving tools for a newspaper reporter.

Truss assembled and ready to go (almost) on an overcast day with occasional light rain, torrents to follow after dark. We were blessed with a lot of local help today, especially with the hand lift that brought the truss up to waist height shown here to finish the drilling and bolting from below. The truss is alleged to weigh 3,500 pounds.

Photo above shows the entire raising crew for the final lift, including the elegantly slender gin pole set up, festooned with a tirfor left over from the Suriname Project. Our goal was a low-tech hand-powered raising, and we had a fine, slow, and quiet time.

Most of the way up in this picture to reveal how the gin poles rotate perpendicular to the truss, cable from a steel snatchblock at the top of the gin, supplemented with 4-part line through rated steel pulleys back to ground anchors to control overturning. All this rig times two still not nearly as cluttered as some we’ve deployed elsewhere. Thanks to the crew from VMI for a clever set up and execution. Those tirfors may be slow, but they are inexorable.

80% home and still plenty of cable capacity. Backhaul team now providing some strain.

Nearly vertical and now a question about two-blocking emerges. But the calculations proved true and we came to 90 without fanfare in front of a bigger crowd than this image shows, who were appreciative of the show, though some disappointed by the lack of drama (our plan, all along).

All good. Immediate bracing and de-rigging, then supper, and back to work.

After supper the rainfall increased while we all moved chords into place from the cutting tent and then various cutting stations were revitalized under the big top for the few sticks that remain. Predictions are for a very early truss two assembly on Saturday and a mid-morning tip up.

The real action under the tent was mostly conversation and refreshment, while Teresa pecked away at the carving.

They’re still out there, as I write this.

It’s a wonderful life.

Come see for yourself.

Thursday 7/28

A struggle today. We can see the finish line and we know it’s not far enough away. We’ll endeavor to get there without heroics or night work.

The layout kerfluffle necessitated a dyslexic modification of nomenclature, which in turn required an early morning visit to the plan wall for everyone. Thinking that this lesson might not have been universally absorbed . . . leadership remained wearily vigilant throughout the day to chase the unintended consequences. We’ve all been there.

And in this picture you can clearly see that we’re still a bit conflicted about which end is the New East. More beam migration and rotation follows, all in good humor, but perhaps with a growing sense that time is short.

Plenty of goodwill and energy still available to get it sorted.

And the astute reader will note that this particular chord is laid-out, checked and ready to install.

Stacking them up in the assembly area, positioning ourselves for success.

Something new headed for the cutting tent, though not without a last-minute rotation.

While over on the causeway Old Pal Tony from the PO channels Issac Walton in the eye of the storm . . . . Don Seela worrying the railway we’re building . . .

and Bruce Cowie deploys another in a series of preternaturally accurate holes for a tension rod.

Tony set aside the fish pole for some working on the railroad time with Don Seela and Chuck Myette. They’ll be ready for rolling when the time comes.

But in the end it all proved too hot and stressful to miss dinner, and worse, to dis our host Tom Edwards, who had us over to the house for a surpassingly good meal and good time . . . . I recommend the Ziti.

an altogether fine evening of camaraderie, ending in fireworks . . . . .

Which seemed like an pretty awesome idea until Charlie’s dog bolted into the woods.

We’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday 7/27

A good portion of this day was devoted to the remediation of a layout disaster, and the accompanying self-abasement. These guys in the picture above? It wasn’t their fault, but it became their problem pretty quickly. Anyway, it gave us the opportunity to teach the lesson once more attributed to The Queen, who opines that the real test of good breeding is how people behave when things start going wrong.

I am proud to report that we have passed that test, again.

It has been a little hard on the schedule though, all the same.

The silver lining? That guy in the back, Ed Schum, came all the way from BC to check us out because he thinks his town’s trail system needs a 60 (!) meter pedestrian bridge. So Ed gets to see the Real Us. And he’s still smiling, and turning into a Scribe Wizard himself.

Micah and Dick up to something with a top chord.

Really, all Katie wanted to do wash splash a little water on her sunburn, when THIS guy shows up and changes the tone of the morning. He took it pretty well, all in all. Good swimmer, too.

And when’s the last time in this digital age that you saw a scene like this Monet tableau? Can’t wait for the next canvas.

Really, we’re just not sure what this is all about, but we can assure you there were no tears. Alan Peoples, Brace, and Skeptic.

Here above we reveal the secret technology behind the impossibly precise hole angles provided for us by the engineering team. “What are we supposed to do with all those decimals?” asked a waggish framer. The pitch block, laboriously prepared, by-laterally aligned, meticulously reamed, is the answer. It has a sister in the second photo, for the other rods of the other diameter. We’re hoping to present a stress diagram soon, to show the impeccable logic that supports “all those decimals”, and for the differing rods, sized by Occam’s Razor.

Tip of the Iceberg

Old Pal Don Seela made the long drive from Dayton with a truckload of tasty tools to tempt the team here assembled; proceeds go to fund his seemingly endless trips to Haiti, and elsewhere, to build with Habitat, working through an outfit named FOCAS (Foundation of Compassionate American Samaritans). You could look it up.

The tools? Good stuff, but I couldn’t bare to show you the totality of it; it’d just make your wallet twitch.

Recent Heartwood Graduate Apprentice and all around timber frame hero Annie Harris joined us for the duration today – so now we’re feeling more confident of success.

Reed Leberman had to get up very early in the morning to get down here to work in the cutting tent with us again today. He’s off to represent us to the White Mountain National Forest at their celebration of the Week’s Act, scheduled for this weekend. You could learn about the Week’s Act on the Internet. Changed the face of conservation in NH and every other state a hundred years ago.

Will Truax and Simon Frez-Albrecht peacefully scribing away on the second truss.

And like everyone else on this site who is fortunate enough to have work, the work must go on. Here Dr Mullen after a day’s work, after dinner and after sundown, tries to talk down a California architect who is attempting to design a Buddhist temple without any lateral bracing. We applaud both their efforts.

This bridge has been a good project so far, and we sure wish you’d stop by, if only to say hello, and maybe try the ice-tea.

Tuesday 7/26

Your Blogging Host

Captured at work by one of those rascally kid photojournalists

The Rigging Team arrived last night in the rain, all the way from Virginia, and towing a car. (It’s complicated.) Led by ‘G2’ (Dr Colonel Grigg Mullen), and accompanied by ‘G3″ (Grigg Mullen III) and Senior Cadet Andrew Tunnell, they managed to miss a surpassingly fine dinner (accompanied by a hoard of charming kids to entertain us, and ICE-CREAM) at the Connolly Farm across town. Also a variety of nice local home-brews, and a very tasty Malbec.

Lots of rain last night which we didn’t need though the landscape seemed to appreciate it, and we certainly appreciated the break in the weather. Off to bed after a late night with the plans and the Virginia Riggers.

The diminished humidity allowed us to contemplate taking the upper chord for a walk. Not only did it need to migrate to a new work station in order to make room for truss layup #2, it also required a 180 rotation in plan. A most well-travelled chord; the dance may have resembled some sort of combination of jousting and chess, if only we had a blimp from which to view the choreography.

Will Truax is brought up to speed by Katie Hill over in the cutting tent as that jovial team rapidly changes the status of 10 posts from scribed to cut.

We couldn’t get Blake Johnson to say much, but apparently he hadn’t had enough of us via the Poland Job, so here he is again giving it a go.

They are still walking that beam around the site.

Scott Samsel is a long suffering and long standing supporter of TFG field events. He teaches what used to be called shop, in a public high school in Connecticut. They seem to do a major timber frame project at his school ever other year. He’s also more than a bit of an expert on hand planes and metallurgy, though in this shot I think he’s just trying to set Will Truax straight about something in the plans.

Meanwhile, Don Seela’s crew (Chuck Myette in the rear, Alan Peoples holding down the walk board) plows on at the weir with their second edifice of falsework – sure to be completed without drama or splash today. After some early morning consulting with The Virginia Riggers at the picnic table, and with Dr Brungraber and Mike Begyani via phone and the Internet, we think we have a very workable install – especially the critical final moments when the bridge must be supported somehow while the false word is removed, then lowered gently to rest on the Locust sacrifice blocks. Those of you who were at the Guelph Bridge raising may forgive us for obsessing over this particular step.

(Note that the white cylinder at left is NOT a styrofoam coffee cup from breakfast, rather part of the fixture used to open the floodgates as necessary. A kind of a long t-handled tool will be used for this; the operator leaning out of a bridge window.)

And in the end, they are still prancing around with that upper chord, just because its so much fun, I guess.

We are the most fortunate of people.