Friday, July 24, 2015

Peter Pontifex!

    As I finished work on my scenario for Ligny, it became apparent that I would need more bridges... a LOT more bridges, in fact. Not only that, but I had a mere six days to come up with them. A quick email to Czar Barry revealed that I could tap him for at least 2 bridges, and I had about 5-6 of my own existing. Thus, another SIX bridges were needed. Yikes!

Fortunately, my recent Windmill building activities had left me with plenty of raw materials. 

I also had this old bridge armature made from artist's board and a few pieces of Balsa wood, left over from the last time I scratch built some bridges about 20 years ago.

Two pieces of square balsa wood were used as the bridge supports at either end of a sheet of balsa. The floor of the bridge was glued to the supports, and for extra strength, "nailed" to the supports with pins. The up-sloping sections were than glued and pins to the other half of the supports, and the sides glued on.

The construction thus far was brushed with a thinned coat of white (PVA) glue, and allowed to dry; the sides were then cut and glued to the "ramp" ends of the bridges.

Another coat of thinned PVA glue was applied and allowed to dry (a nice, warm sunny day helped a lot there!).

I then cut a myriad of  "boards" for the construction, most of the bridges using square ended craft sticks (essentially, wooden coffee stirrers), and some from (wider) balsa strips left over from the Windmill projects. The boards were glued, horizontally, to the bridge sides...

and then transversely to the floor of the bridges. 

As the bridges were to be used for Ligny, I wanted at least one of them to be made of stone and whitewashed, as many of the area buildings were. I made that bridge with thicker sides, and used an old hobby product, "Squadron Green Putty", to fill the cracks in the side walls. 

Everything was brushed yet again with another coat of thinned PVA glue, but in the case of the "stone" bridge, I added a generous portion of the scenic sand I used for my Egyptian bases to the glue.

They were then allowed to "bake" ion the sun again for a few hours so that they would dry thoroughly. 

That left them alongside our hydroponic Tower Garden (above), planted with cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, kale, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes. Once they were dry, I primed them with black spray primer (white for the "stone" bridge). The next evening (the Monday before Historicon). I spray painted them all black, top side and bottom (again, white for the "stone" bridge), using the $1.99 Wally-Mart spray paint. At that point I was out of time, and packed them up for the trip to Fredericksburg.... along with a large nylon brush and 4 colors of craft paints!

Bridge #1 - the narrow craft sticks were used for the planks on this one. 
As I was due to arrive in Fredericksburg several hours before Tim would fly in from Scotland (by way of Ireland), I figured I would dry brush the bridges in my hotel room while I was waiting for him, thus continuing a long tradition of my doing last minute work for my games at the site!

Side view of Bridge #1
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a SNAFU with the room reservation, so I wasn't able to get into the room until after Tim arrived at about 6 PM, and we'd have to change rooms the following day for the rest of our stay. 

Bridge #2 - same planking, different paint colors used. 
So, I dug out the bridges, paint, brushes, and palette from my tightly packed up car.  

Side view of Bridge #2
I didn't really want to be painting in the lobby and risk getting paint on the furniture. 

Bridge #3 - the wider, thin balsa strips were used for the planking here. 
So, I decided to do the painting in the warm afternoon Virginia sun out there in the parking lot!

Side view of Bridge #3 - I like this mix of colors best. This wide bridge used the old armature.
I got a few amused looks but that was about it. At this point in my life, I could really care less; look, if push comes to shove, I'm probably far more successful by conventional standards than most of them are anyway!

Bridge #4 - the sand and glue mix really worked great for the "stucco effect".
Hard to see where that green putty was applied now, isn't it?

Side view of Bridge #4
When I got home after Historicon, all the bridges got a coat of flat acrylic varnish, a coat of Magic Wash, followed by a second coat of the acrylic flat varnish. It did the most good on this bridge,  although that's hard to discern in this photo.

Bridge #5; narrow but using the balsa as planking. This wood seems to take the dry brushing better.
Between the temperature in the 80's, bright sun, and mercifully low humidity, it was quite "dry" brushing; I had to go into the bathroom off the lobby several times to wash out the brush!

Side view of Bridge #5
It took me about 90 minutes to do the six bridges, each with 2 consecutive courses of dry brushing.

Bridge #6 - back to the craft stick planking.
At that point, Tim was getting to be a bit late, and I was getting hot out in the parking lot, so I went into the lobby, linked into my office remotely, and started handling prescription refills and other routine tasks. 

Side view of Bridge #6
Shortly after 6 PM, Tim arrived and we were finally able to check into our room. 

"See... I am painted above AND below! Rare and wonderful, eh?"
After a short while, we drove on over across the Rappahannock  to the Convention Center, and collected our badges. From there we headed to Wegman's along with Freddie, Jeff, Bill, and Terry where we had a sit down dinner in the seafood bar of the supermarket! The highlight was the universal carding policy for the wine and beer we ordered - a group of guys who had obviously not seen  the lesser side of 50 for several; years at the very least... and not a one of us with a Virginia Driver's licence. Tim's UK license, which doesn't have his birth-date readily decipherable, almost required calling the on duty manager to confirm the rather obvious fact that he was well over legal age, LOL!, 

Here are all six bridges together, with the Sailors of the Guard for scale. 

Note how the width of the narrow bridges almost exactly accommodates the stand width (1.75 inches). 

I'd like to claim that as being due to brilliant design, but in fact it was merely the width that the broad sheets of balsa wood came in any way. Just call me Pontifex Maximus henceforth!  :-)


  1. P. Max, an engineering feat that would make Napoleon envious.
    On time and under budget. Nice work!

    1. and, I have a lot less spare balsa to store as well, LOL!

  2. Yes what Jonathan says, amazing work in double quick time. Have an extra grog ration!

    1. Thanks, Mark. I had wanted to add some more bridges to my collection for some time, but I wasn't quite expecting to do so many so quickly!

  3. Very effective and I really think they capture the essence of rural bridges crossing streams and small rivers. If you had done one more you could have played that seven bridges of Konigsberg game with them, although it seems that your version would have eleven or twelve of them anyway!

    1. Thanks, Lawrence. That's exactly the idea; these aren't the kind of bridges that are going to stand for centuries, but the kind that will inevitably need to be replaced after heavy floods, etc.

      Conversely, I recall seeing the famous bridge over the Danube at Regensburg (Ratisbon); trying to destroy that would have been pointless due to the huge Ice breaker "islands" each bridge support was constructed upon.

  4. Hey Peter, your Battle of Ligny, 1815 at Historicon 2015 posting is not working or did you remove it?.....anyway...Great job on your bridges very handy indeed and useful for any period wargaming...well done!


    1. Hi Phil,

      I was working on it and accidentally hit the publish button, so I had to revert it to draft status. It will probably be up tonight.