Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Family of bridge builders

Over this past summer we have done a number of projects at our new land, dubbed stonehaven by the missus.  After the Stonehaven dental radio commercials I expect that are on the radio all the time.  Or something.

There are plenty of stories here to be told about the land.  I should probably do so more often.  Today we'll do a pictoral walkthrough of our own little bridge to nowhere.

As mentioned previously, there is a trail that walks around the 3 acres or so of property.  It starts near the firepit, running north.  As it gets to the north edge of the property it doubles back and runs fairly close to the back of the shed/cabin.  This is so convenient to cut through, both kids and adults alike move

First, let's start with the river that needed the bridge.  You can see the trail just beyond it here, curving to the right.

The tree off to the left is my favorite baby pine tree.  Because it's my favorite, I expect it to get eaten by a deer this winter.

The stream is a bit hard to see, so let's look from another angle.

The rocks there in the middle are where the kids told me we would build the waterfall.

I should mention, that we inherited a busted metal gate and some scrap wood with the land.  It sits right behind our handy toolshed.  Pretty sure we're going to plant some trees in front of that, possibly as early as next year.  You know, to improve the image some.

Anyhow.  The plan was simple in my head.  It didn't quite work out the way I had planned, but I think in the end it looked better than I was expecting.  First we took a couple of pine logs from the woodpile for our foundation on one side.  This was to help hold it against the sloping sides of the stream bed.  The other side was a small length of 4x4 post that was the remains of a previous gate on the front of the property.  We then hacked a bunch of 2x4's to roughly the same length and nailed it all together.  We only had a few nails the first go around so we had to finish another day.  The results of the first trip:

You'll notice the board on the left is a bit apart from the rest.  This is attached to a separate log as apparently I am pathetic at measuring, even when all I have to do is get two pieces of wood the same length by laying them side by side.  My carpentry skills are not well known.  For good reason.

A more clear picture of the foundation:

Yes, that's a rock there on the left.  The middle 2x4 is a bit short.  The plan is to make the dirt leveled out to cover some of the flaws.  At this point we didn't want anyone stepping in the slight hole that the rock is filling.  At this point I'm thinking that it's not quite what I'd prefer, but I suppose it will do for the kids. I'm glad it's not front and center to show off how really pathetic mu woodworking skills are.  Thankfully the appearance improves.

At this point the kids insisted on the side project of making the waterfall.  We took a few minutes to make that happen here on the downhill side of the stream bed.  This was one of the important milestones for them.  Go figure.

On our next trip two weeks later, we collected more boards like the ones above the bridge in the last picture.  They look to be about a half inch thick and 4 inches wide.  The original plan was to have these boards run length-wise.  Primarily because it would be easier and I'm using a hand-saw to cut everything with.  However after this stage we wisely decided the bridge would be much less stable if we carried through with this plan, deciding to do more cutting but have a better overall bridge.  After having the kids haul in a few more from the woodpile, doing some cutting, removing a couple of splinters, we were good to go.  This time we brought screws instead of nails, with the hopes that they would hold things together longer.  Guess we'll see if that's true or not over time.

Here is our progress so far.

Apparently I didn't get a cross-section after this point.  You may also notice that I continued to eye-ball the lengths of most of the cuts on this wood.  Partly this is on purpose, because I didn't want it to look too "clean" cut.  I like the look of an obvious home-made bridge.  I think that comes from growing up.  There was a bridge over the 10 foot stream that exists in my grandfather's sheep pasture that I have fond memories of, made of telephone poles for the two main structures and leftover 2x6's for the planks, which are also varying lengths.  Anyway.  It's looking better, but nothing genius level at this point.

My wife, ever the artist, suggests we use the stain that we purchased at the beginning of summer to coat it with.  Previously we had to replace the broken window in the shed, this was one of the first projects we did.  Maybe later I'll post pictures of that.  The point here is that we had 3/4 of a gallon of stain left over from that project.  I was a bit nervous as kids with stain and paintbrushes is kind of a dangerous mix, but we ended up doing it anyway.  I have to say, the end result looks really good!

The lighter picture here shows the structure better, the darker is closer to the actual color.  It will never look this nice again, it already has a huge amount of dust on it from kids jumping up and down and such.  The thing is a beast and should hold up quite well to it's environment.  It's quite solid with all of those 2x4's under it.

All in all it was about a 4 hour project.  The kids had a good time helping, we all learned something and best of all we now don't have to worry about stumbling or jumping across this area to get to the trail.  Yay!

Until next time!

Monday, September 06, 2010