Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bridgework, in 54mm

With the upcoming sesquicentennial observance of the first battle of Manassas scheduled for later this month, my attention has turned to all things Bull Run, including the Stone Bridge that sits astride that waterway.

 Recently, a colleague asked me to render in miniature some of the salient features of the Manassass battlefield that will be used in public programming for the sesquicentennial events.  I was really taken with the Stone Bridge, especially after just completing my 54mm Burnside Bridge of my most recent entry.

After making this "rough draft" for my colleague, I decided to make a much more detailed, and nicer one for my troops.

Back to the Victory Woodworking shop to draw up the plans and start the process moving forward.  Though considerably smaller than the Stone Bridge of Bull Run, the design and look of this little bridge will certainly be informed by its bigger brother.

I traced my pattern for the walls onto a piece of clear pine and made a bee-line for the band saw.

I wanted to have a stone coping along the tops of the walls, though I didn't want the hassle of trying to exactly match the curve in a piece of thicker wood, so I followed a more deconstructionist path.

Starting out with standard 3/4" thick pine, I cut out the walls and then cut off the top edge to a depth of 3/16.  I set the wooden copings aside and took the walls to my planer.  I passed the pair of walls through my planer until I had removed about 1/8" of the thickness.  When reunited with the copings, not only were they a perfect match (natch) but they had an ideal overhang of 1/16".  This method saved me alot of time and head-scratching.

Originally, the interior ramps were to be comprised of two 2x4s, however, I wasn't satisfied with the width.  I want the hubs of a gun or limber to have room to spare when making a crossing, so I added a middle section to the sandwich of another 3/4" thickness.  The result was quite satisfactory.

I have some oversize Allen Wrenches that I've mounted to wooden handles specifically as tools for adding texture to my "stone" bridges.

Assembled and painted, with trees mounted (more on those trees here) things are looking pretty swell.  The ground was terraformed on my belt sander using my coarsest belt.  The wood was shaped, in this manner very (very) quickly and I was really pleased with the result.  A generous layer of white glue was brushed over all and very fine sawdust provided a convincing texture.

Acrylic paint provided the bulk of the color with some india ink highlighting the divisions between the coping stones, and a "peach" Prismacolor pencil providing the mortar.  A  very light dry-brushing of white brought out the highlights while subduing the stone work.

Just add water.
Preparation is key to a successful pour of casting resin; a dust free environment, thoroughly dry (and cured) painted surfaces, a clear understanding of the product directions, and the proper containers for measuring and mixing.

I used masking tape bolstered with 2x4s to create cofferdams to contain the pour.

A good seal is essential.

In the past, I've always used two-part Envirotex resin to create water.  My local art supply store was out of my old standby so I had the opportunity to use another product that I've eyed for years - 

Castin'Craft Clear liquid plastic casting resin.  I shall henceforth and forever refer to this product as 

Noxious and caustic to the eyes, this product is a real pain to mix.  Rather than the simple one-to-one mixing ratio of Envirotex, the catalyst for this product has to be measured out in drops per ounce.  I actually had to count out 120 drops.  Nonetheless, I gave it a very thorough stirring for two minutes and commenced the pour.

My estimate of ten ounces turned out to be just right.  By the way...

this stuff creates a great deal of heat whilst curing.

Twenty-four hours later, the result was adequate, though some unwanted texture and shrinkage (along the edges of the creek banks) was present - phenomena I've never experienced with Envirotex.

Though I'll use the rest of this can, I won't be buying the product again, and I'd dissuade anyone thinking about going down that road.

And speaking of roads...

The bridge is finished and ready for traffic.

A supply wagon lumbers along on a sunny afternoon in summer of 1862 outside of Greenbrier Maryland.

The lazing teamster is lulled by the rumble of a distant thunderstorm.

He will be rudely awakened, however, as he's overtaken by skedaddling cavalrymen with mounted Sesesh in hot pursuit.

The action just never ends around here.

Soldier on!



JDRoseCOM said...

Mr. Gentile,

Excellent work. I did not know there was an iconic bridge at Manassas. I learned something new. Will have to check it out next week.


JD, West Virginia

Ubique Matt said...

Entertaining post and a very nice paint job on the bridge.


original_rundis said...

That is one nice bridge!

Anonymous said...

The Burnside Brige was nice but somehow, can't say why, I prefer this one. Brilliant idea for making the coping BTW.

Scott B. Lesch said...

I think that the old MARX playset bridge looked more like this one than the Burnside Bridge. By building raised approaches You've fixed the problem with the MARX playset bridge and a few foam bridges available. They sit flat on a table making the span too steep to actually set up troops upon. There's also a certain amount to toy look to your bridge that works with toy figures. Great.

Mannie Gentile said...

As always I appreciate your comments. I debated whether or not to finish this bridge "bright", as it seems the "toy" idea is conveyed, I'm glad that I did.

Best wishes,


Adam said...

Superb post, thanks for sharing.

pylgrym said...

WAR ON! I well remember setting up my Marx bridge in Mrs. Lewis' 5th grade class at East Richmond Elementary, St,. Louis, MO in early 1962 to commemorate the battles of the creeks and their salient points!

pylgrym said...

Loved the MARX bridge and used it as a salient point in many a bedroom battle in the early sixties. THANKS for your blog, mannie!