Saturday, May 28, 2011

54mm Burnside Bridge in wood

That focal point of Antietam National Battlefield captured my fancy decades ago.  Spanning Antietam Creek just below Sharpsburg Maryland, Burnside Bridge has withstood fire, flood, and combat since the 1830s and remains an icon of elegance in stone and moving water.

I've been moved to express the bridge in art, as in this greeting card I made for the Save Historic Antietam Foundation,

You can go to their website here and see not only the incredible work that they do for the battlefield, but also a very compelling image of Burnside Bridge on their masthead.

Twice, I've reworked the BMC/Americana Burnside Bridge kit into something more accurate and pleasing to the eyes of those who ended up purchasing them.

I undertook those projects for the bookstore at Antietam National Battlefield, and the process of modeling the first one you can view here.

Recently I rendered the bridge on a five-board bench,

also for the bookstore and you can see that process here.

  Remanufacturing the BMC/Americana model was very time consuming, noxious fume producing, and never  completely satisfying.  Frequently during that project I'd find my mind drifting toward thoughts of making a 54mm soldier scale Burnside Bridge from scratch, out of wood.

Now, with my woodshop, Victory Wood Working, fully up and running the time seemed opportune to take a crack at it; again, as a product for the bookstore at Antietam, the Western Maryland Interpretive Association (their site here).

I drew up a pattern which I traced on a nice, clear, plank of craft poplar and started cutting out the components on my scroll saw.

Here one side of the bridge gets a good sanding on my Grizzly Industries belt sander.

I hammered a rock-like texture into all exposed surfaces.

The approaches on each end of the bridge are flared to accommodate the Rohersville-Sharpsburg road which enters and leaves the bridge at right angles.

The very distinctive abutments I turned on my lathe, and then halved on my bandsaw.  Stone texture was hammered into the resulting four pieces.

Four-inch spacers were glued into the carcass of the bridge and clamped.

An arced piece of pegboard was glued in as the roadbed substrate, and coated...

with a thick layer of Liquid Nails adhesive.

The roadbed was textured with a sprinkling of fine sawdust,

and roller-pressed semi-smooth.

Using my table saw fence set at minimal thickness I milled out several hundred little shingles with which to make the coping for the bridge walls...

As seen here...

on the actual bridge.

Using one of my nice High Speed Steel turning chisels I cut the stonework into each of the arches.

Terraforming was achieved by cutting contoured layers of thin plywood on the scrollsaw which, when glued and clamped into position formed the creekbanks.

Here's the complete structure ready for priming, painting, and application of resin water surface.

Painting was very straightforward, and much drybrushing was utilized to provide depth...

as well as to accentuate highlights.

Following the painting, I mixed up the binary Enviro-tex resin that would provide the illusion of a creek full of water.

Here, it's being poured on the creek surface to slowly spread to the masking tape dams along the sides.

Twenty-four hours later I had a pretty convincing creek...

and a bridge that's ready for delivery to the client.

As soon as the troops make their way across Antietam Creek, that is!

The troops, by the way, are a small portion of my pewter Third Michigan project which you can see more of here.

Soldier On!



Brianne, You may call me Mistressyness said...

Genious Work! and I think I recognize a lot of BMC troops marching over that brilliant wood masterpiece! But how did you make the bandsmen?


Brianne, You may call me Mistressyness said...

Brilliant work! Genious! It's fantastic!

Mannie Gentile said...


Thank you for the kind comments. Note the addition regarding the origin of the troops.

Hope its spring up there!


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

A magnificent piece of modelling!

It is of an extremely high standard, and could easily be used in any museum diorama.

All the best,


Ross Mac said...

Marvelous work! Well done.
Its good to have the tools, better to know how to use them but best of all to have the imagination to see what can be done.

Scott B. Lesch said...

Nice bridge! The problem with several model bridges like the BMC and old MARX bridges is that the height of the river banks isn't taken into consideration so that the bridge is over a flat plane. The approaches to the model bridges are actually too steep to place model soldiers.

Your bridge solves that and looks great doing it.


JDRoseCOM said...

Mr. Gentile,

Outstanding work. The bridge is a wonderful inspiration, artistically and historically.

My favorite rendition of the bridge can be found on the 1937 Battle of Antietam US Commemorative Half Dollar.

Keep up the good work!

tri-endurance said...

A good work!! thanks for the information and I now I can rebuild the bridge. Is the great models like 1:72?

Greetings Joe