14 July 2021
The Lighter Side: How to Build a Bridge
So, you wanna build a bridge? Who doesn’t? If you’re feeling a little stumped for inspiration, we’re offering to be your muse and share with you some brilliant (if not entirely practical) ideas.
How long have you dreamed of building your bridge? Can you envision it in your mind’s eye? Have you decided what style of bridge you’re aiming for? As you probably know, there are four basic construction-styles from which to pick: beam bridges, arch bridges, cantilever bridges and suspension bridges. (Fancy-pants bridges such as cable-stayed bridges and tied-arch bridges are generally considered to simply be variants of one of the aforementioned categories.) Have you decided which one you’d like to build?
While there are many factors to consider when designing your bridge, it may be useful to remember that the oldest bridge still in use today is the slab-stone single-arch bridge in Izmir, Turkey, that has spanned the river Meles since 850 BC. Not only has this bridge been in continuous use for 3,000 years, it is also a Guinness World Record holder.
(Okay, I can hear what some of you history geeks are thinking right about now: Yes, there are bridges that are thought to be older. So, let’s just say the bridge over the river Meles in Izmir is the “oldest clearly dateable bridge still in use”.) If you want your bridge to literally last forever, then slab-stone single-arch may be your best bet. You’ll certainly get a workout building one of these!
If, however, ease is your primary goal, then a beam or girder bridge is what you’re after. Generally, it’s the most inexpensive too. But let’s jump right in and get down to business.
How to Build a Bridge in Six Easy Steps
Bridge building, if nothing else, is an exercise in precision.
Honestly, people act like bridges are such a big deal, but Dictionary.com keeps it pretty simple: “bridge (noun): a structure spanning and providing passage over a river, chasm, road, or the like.”
Sounds pretty simple, right? You’ve got this. Let’s go!
Step 1: Something to Span — Wherever Possible
Locate some infernal obstacle that needs to be spanned. In case you’re coming up empty on ideas for this one, here are some suggestions:
- A river. Avoid bears chasing leaping salmon, wherever possible.
- A canyon. Avoid coyotes and mountain lions, wherever possible.
- A busy freeway. Avoid traffic cops, wherever possible.
- A pond with an alligator in it at your golf club. Avoid alligators and stray airborne golf balls, wherever possible.
- A cliff-lined crevasse. Avoid blasted base-jumpers and misanthropic mountain dragons, wherever possible.
- A medieval castle with an intact moat. Avoid buckets of hot tar and guys with bows and arrows — you guessed it — wherever possible.
Select an option from the list above (or come up with one of your own) and let’s crack on. (Perhaps not the best choice of words when bridge-building. Oops.)
Step 2: The Lay of the Land
Now that you’ve chosen a location for your bridge, it’s time to scope out the lay of the land. Obviously, you’re going to need to build the first abutment on your side of the obstacle, so pack up your camping gear and head out. (Sure, sure, you could do this with a 3D scanner and CAD, but why deny yourself an opportunity for time in the great outdoors?) Once you’ve set up camp, you can spend a couple of days pondering the lint in your navel and the best location for your first abutment.
Be precise (about the bridge, not the lint). Bridge building, if nothing else, is an exercise in precision. Breathe the fresh air, clear your head and let inspiration bloom in your mind.
Step 3: The Modern Drawing Board
After sleeping under the stars for a couple of nights, you’ve formed a detailed mental image of your bridge. It’s time to pack up, head home and hit CAD to design the most brilliant bridge ever conceived. When you’re done, print a copy of your design and continue to step four.
If you want your bridge to literally last forever, then slab-stone single-arch may be your best bet.
Step 4: The Moment of Reckoning
Pack up the camping gear again (unless it’s still in the back of your car). Return to the location of your proposed abutment. Pitch your tent, get the fire blazing, and before the sun sets, hold up your printed design against the landscape and see how it looks.
Satisfied? Undecided? Spend another night under the stars and, over campfire-coffee in the morning, decide if it’s even vaguely worth the hassle.
Step 5: The Road Less Traveled
On your way home, stop at the lumberyard. Purchase around a dozen 2x4s and half a dozen inch-and-a-quarter dowels, all eight feet long. Trust us. You’re about to have the most fun you’ve had since you started this whole bridge-building malarkey. Return home and cut all the lumber into four-foot lengths. If you don’t have a saw, go back to the store and get one. You’re going to need it.
. . . you’ll actually have built a bridge — without a single fastener of any kind . . .
Step 6: How to Build a Bridge (No BS)
Grab all that lumber you cut and dump it in the back yard. Get your kids, significant other, neighbor, brother, friend or the pizza delivery guy to help you with the next step. You can entice them by promising them they’re going to have fun, because, well, the next bit is kind of cool and it won’t take very long.
Before we get to that, however, let us briefly interrupt this program for a word from our sponsor (aka: a shameless plug).
We love the intelligence of the design you’re about to build. Over 500 hundred years old, it dates back to Leonardo Da Vinci in 1502 and was conceived for both its mobility and ease of assembly. The Roman army could march unimpeded by rivers and other obstacles, literally carrying their bridge-building materials with them.
If, like us, you appreciate intelligent design and ease of use, we have a selection of tools that smooth out some of the quirks of your CAD platform, reducing frustration and repetitive tasks, and saving you time (so that you can get out there and build bridges to your heart’s content!)
For MicroStation users, visit us here. For AutoCAD users, see here, and for Revit users, this is where you’ll find what you’re looking for. Alternatively, call 727-442-7774 to get your questions answered by an expert Service Consultant.
End of shameless plug. We will now return to regular programming. Enjoy the videos and happy bridge building
Watch this video https://youtu.be/QKdQV2q5PRk and follow the steps. Your guests will be amazed. And you? Well, you’ll actually have built a bridge — without a single fastener of any kind and with only one extra pair of hands.
In the following video, you’ll notice that they notch the 2x4s. It isn’t obligatory, but if you need an excuse to play with your power tools, you now have one. You’re welcome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkoeCq1vso0.
Once you’ve built your bridge, we’d love to see photos or videos, so please feel free to share!
If, like us, you appreciate intelligent design and ease of use, we have a selection of tools that smooth out some of the quirks of your CAD platform . . .