Timber Framed Covered Bridge Project
by the Darlington, Wisconsin, High School


Joey Weigel, a local businessman contacted me in the hallway at the beginning of the 06-07 school year. He asked if I might have any students that would be interested in a covered bridge project he had in mind. I said, I would check. I’m thinking a covered bridge for his yard, 10-15 footer. Two weeks later we met in the wood shop and he shows me a Xerox picture from a painting in his office. Then he tells me the bridge is for his cabin. It would be just like the picture, slanted out walls and ends, 28 feet long and 10 feet wide made out of rough sawn 6” by 6” pine timbers. By the time his words got through my ears and into my brain my eyes were bugging out. We began laying out 14 foot 2x4’s on the shop floor to gage the width and height size proportions. We didn’t want it to look like a wiener dog!
The picture below is what was used as a guide


Darlington Redbirds


We took a drive just out of town to the cabin to see the bridge site. Unbelievable! Four thousand square feet, with a four-story elevator! The “cabin” was awesome. It was back in the woods and had a million dollar view. I said OK we’re in. This would be a lot of hard work but, the chance of a lifetime for my students. 
We began making drawings and scale models out of 1/4” foam core board. Within a week the bridge had grown to 32’ and then 44’ in length. Serious plans were being drawn on the CAD program and material estimates put together. We locked in the gen-eral overall sizes and started making a 1/4 scale model of the bridge using 2x2’s for the 6x6 pine timbers
To handle the challenge presented by the 11 degree slant of the walls and X wall mem-bers we made giant miter boxes to guide our timber frame beam saw. 
This made cutting through the 6x6’s in one pass repeatable. We also made miter boxes to guide the cuts required for the truss members.
In the end this worked so well that we could have
used anyone to cut the pieces.
While all the jig building was going on the students
were outside behind the shop laying and leveling 4x4’s as a building base. 
2x12’s were placed and assembly of the supporting beams being laminated together began.
There would be 5 beams under the 2-1/4” by 8” Oak plank deck boards. Each beam would weigh 1,000 pounds and cost $500! The students realized this was serious busi-ness.
With the deck done and several wall members cut the process of drilling and assem-bling the timbers began.
All the timber was fresh cut and sawn the week before we got it. So green in fact, that when you sawed it
the moisture actually flew up in a mist!
Each 12 foot 6x6 weighed 80 pounds. Handling these was tricky and we had to use our heads. We worked smarter, not harder
It was late into the evening but on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006 we put up the first two wall sections. These were braced and tied together and we were in business. 
It looked sweet!
While the walls were going up we were cutting 
the truss members.
Soon there was enough deck space that we could
layout blocks for a jig to assemble trusses. 
Twenty-three trusses would be required.
Next we went to work building the rake ends of the gable. These were tricky as they ta-pered out from 16” 
at the eave to 32” at the peak. Cutting lookouts at compound angles and notching trusses to cantilever some of them was a challenge. Model building saved a lot of wood here! 
With the gable end units assembled we were ready for the boom-truck to come in and set the trusses. 
We had an “in school field-trip” that day and the students worked all day and got the job 
done in 6 hours.
One inch rough sawn pine boards were used on the roof for aesthetic reasons. After applying them we shingled and made three copulas to add a little piazzas to it. 
The copulas will be put on after the bridge has made it through town and under all the wires. 
Final height on the trailer was 20’ and the crane operator said it weighed in at 28,000 pounds.
As placed on the abutments the span was 38 feet 
and it sagged about 2-3 inches. 
The center of the bridge was jacked up for a 1-2 inch crown and knee braces were in-stalled reducing the span to 20’. As a final step tension rods, anchored to the main beams will be installed spanning this 20’.
It will truly be “load worthy.” 
 The final bridge bracing that was done. 
The knee braces and then the 1" truss rods on each side
L-R   Jordan Torstenson ,  Jerred Jacobsen ,  Tim Houtakker
Several students in the other Woods Technology Building Trades classes contributed help from time to time in the final construction of this project but, the three students pictured above took on and accepted full responsibility for this project and it’s construction.
Cost of materials for this bridge, $16,169. Donation to the program by owner, one 16” Beam Saw and cordless Paslode framing nailer. Cost of this experience, PRICELESS!
I know that as my students grow and travel, sooner or later in life, like all of us, they will have to cross a bridge or two, that should not be a problem for these three.
If you would like us to build a bridge like this or other unique project for you contact -
Dick Anderson - P.E.O. (Provider of Educational Opportunities) Darlington High School, Darlington, Wisconsin

The "Bridges to the Future"
The latest project of Richard and his students at
Darlington, Wisconsin, High School


The Bridge Guys are having some "serious fun" with the compound angles that must be cut on the rake ends of the gable roof (that's technical talk and we love it). The picture attached shows three of the main pieces that have been cut so far and they are correct. This give the bridge a great angular look and extra extension over the deck is to better protect it from the weather.

The "Bridges to the Future" project has been selected to receive public recognition at the Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. (there educational mission is to build collaborative partnerships across the public and private sectors for the benefit of rural Wisconsin for the improvement of life in rural Wisconsin  www.wirural.org/about )  annual awards program in Wisconsin Rapids on June 5th. Right up our alley!

We will be sending out requests for bids on the stain finish for this years bridge to local paint suppliers in Darlington. This is a good learning experience for the bridge builders and Brad Wells a professional painter will visit with the Woods Tech students tomorrow and talk about the value of this part of the construction business.

I have proposed to the parents of the Bridge Builder's that they come along and work on the bridge in the evening with their students. Got this idea when one of the guys said, "Bridge building was their sport." So instead of just sitting and watching the students perform, get in there with them and see what it is like to learn and build a timber framed covered bridge.  This is sort of a revolutionary - non-traditional idea at the high school level so we'll see how it is greeted in later up dates.

Last but not least, if you have any questions or comments on our Bridges to the Future, please e-mail us and we'll respond as best we can. 

Thanks for your interest in Technical Education and Learning.  "Crossing a bridge in your future will be a bit easier after you have built one or two."

Last Sat. John Sonsalla (former DHS Biology Instructor) stopped in and told me his neighbor was in the process of cutting down 8 - 40 foot tall pine trees and wanted to know if I had any use for the logs. I mean come on, is this a setup? Me, -"Bridges to the Future" program - instructor -  building a 24 foot long timber framed covered bridge out of rough sawn lumber - have a use for 40 foot tall pine trees, who is he kidding! Why would I say, YES?
Contacted Dave Ohnstad, who has a portable Wood Mizer sawmill and we are now going to take bridge building a little farther into the 21st century learning by going back in history and cutting our own beams and planks for the next bridge!  Have attached a picture of the "lumber yard" for the next bridge.
Log collecting continues and goes well, but has take a back seat to work on the bridge roof.

Great news on the finish - It went like a charm - took about 4 hours - no muss no fuss. I think the easy of application, environmental friendliness, carefree, silver patina aged look is great. Also many thanks to Gary Schroder, of Schroder Log Home Supply for his generous donation of the LifeTime wood treatment product finish. www.loghelo.com

After Brad Wells (painting contractor that finished Joey's bridge) visited the high school and gave the Bridge guys some first hand information on finishing and bidding we decided to go with a product from Log Home Supply, called  LifeTime. A low-maintenance finish that gives a silver patina color. LifeTime is nontoxic, environmentally friendly, made from naturally occurring plants and minerals. It comes in a powdered form. With 1700 square feet of surface area we will need 18 gallons ($255).  I used this product on a log cabin I build in 2004 and it works great.

In the picture you can see that all the false work has been removed and the bridge is self supporting with a clear span of 22 feet. Can report that the bridge wall trusses are flat to slightly cambered and looking good. Will be adding the final dead load weight of the deck boards, roof boards and shingles. Will continue to monitor and measure the dead load deflection.

And last, but not least - yesterday Art Hackett, and his crew, from Wisconsin Public TV came to the high school for the story and interviews with the bridge guys. They were here for 3 hours and covered the students working and problem solving on this years bridge as well as visiting where it will go and then a trip to see last years 44 foot long bridge at Joey's "cabin".  Made for a special day in the lives of these 5 students.    The IN WISCONSIN segment  7 pm out of Madison Channel 21 will air later this summer or fall after they get some footage of the this years bridge being moved to it's home in June.  I will let you know when I know more.  Thanks WPT for the time and interest in our "Bridges to the Future" program and how we are working to instruct 21st century skills, today.

Remember - "Crossing a bridge in your future will be a bit easier after you have built one or two."

Dick Anderson  Woods Tech Instructor Darlington High School 

- Bridge Number 2 is built and ready to go. The bridge builders came through, stuck with it and finished it up on Friday, June 6th!  Great job guys. You got down to "business" and you would make any contractor or business person marvel at what you have accomplished. To apply a fishing term to these guys, in the work world you call these kind of people, "keepers".

The next phase will be to move the bridge to it's new home and I will keep you informed as to when and where as soon as I know the details. This part of the project involves a different leg of the  ("3 legged stool" of school, business and community) team, the city of Darlington. Working together within each group, just like we did in our school building team unbelievable things will be accomplished (on time and on budget).

School is out and the site for the bridge placement has been staked out! The location will be just to the South of the new motel and banquet center and behind the new liquor store that is going to be built. If the liquor store owners have no objections we should be on to the next step of making the actual move. I have included a couple of pictures of the site. The first shows the framed footprint of the bridge as it will be seen from the back of the motel and the second is the view that will be seen looking southeast thought the port hole of the bridge. It will also be visible from the highway when coming in from Platteville.

We will be placing eight 2'x2'x6' concrete retaining wall blocks on a bed of mesh and gravel for good support then back fill to ramp up to the bridge deck. Will keep you posted of our progress and the exact move date when I know.

Last weeks presentation of our "Bridges to the Future" program at the DPI's 21st century best practices was well received. Educational and business professionals from 8 states were there to listen and talk about education changes for the 21 century.

From the construction ("school leg" of the stool) team I would like acknowledge the following:

Max Herman - GRK Fasteners www.grkfasteners.com for the screws used on Bridge No. 2 - I will say that if I were a contractor GRK would be the screw of choice for me. With outstanding performance they lived up to and exceeded their product literature. They work! 

Tom Tanner - Hexion Specialty Chemicals www.hexionchem.com for the Cascophen Adhesive System G-1131 (Resorcinol)  product we used to laminate the bottom chords in the main wall trusses for this bridge. It was easy to mix, apply and work with. Students followed the MSDS, the product bulletin guidelines and the success is evident.

Gary Schroeder - Schroeder Log Home Supply, Inc www.loghelp.com for the Life Time wood treatment finish for the bridge. Can't say enough about this product. Easy to mix, easy to apply, easy to clean up, nontoxic, environmentally friendly, no muss, no fuss. Just look at it now and the silver patina will only get better with age. Stunning!

If you didn't get a chance to read last weeks Wisconsin State Journal's front page article on the "Bridges to the Future" program here is a link that you can click on to get it. http://www.madison.com/wsj/topstories/289815 

It has been said, "If you blow your own horn, play the music softly"

With that in mind - Madison, Wis - Wisconsin will host the Institute.21, the annual Partnership for 21st Century Skills Best Practices Forum, on June 11 and 12 in Madison. The partnership is the leading advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. http://dpi.wi.gov/ 

We have been invited to be one of the seven schools to be a part of the Wisconsin Showcase and present the work of our "Bridges to the Future" program at Darlington High School. So we are off to a pretty good start to the summer.

Remember - "Crossing a bridge in your future will be a bit easier after you have built one or two."

Dick Anderson Woods Technology Instructor Darlington High School


Some interesting sites that you might enjoy

A picture tour of the 64 remaining Covered Bridges of New Brunswick
The Covered Bridges of
New Brunswick
Visit Nova Scotia's Covered Bridges of the past
The Covered Bridges
of Nova Scotia.
The Old Railway Stations
of Canada
Jerry Barnes' Garden Railway, The SCRR
Visit Lonnie Hedgepeth's Covered Bridge that is being built for his live steam train.
Visit Lonnie Hedgepeth's
of Rocky Mount, North Carolina site. He has used the plans provided on my web page and is building a Covered Bridge for his Live Steam train.
Julie's model covered bridge
Julie and her father Gary built
a model bridge using the plans on my Covered Bridge site for a school project
The Minas View Golf Links
Golfing with a difference
Historic Aircraft Pictures
Where we live and what we do
Over 10,000 Pictures of old cars
John's Old Car and Truck Pictures



Total hits on the Summerville Pages