Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pontoon Bridge, Pt. 1

Stepping away from things OGRE for a moment, several years ago I thought I might find a way to make my hobby help pay for itself. I felt I could mass-produce wargame terrain pieces of sufficient quality for sale to fellow wargamers. A D-Day bunker and Normandy boccage were two projects I did preliminary work on, but the one that came closest to fruition was the Pontoon Bridge. As you may recall from the earlier Hussars, CHARGE!, one of my interests is the Napoleonic era. It is a genre well represented (oh hell, over represented) by various manufacturers. At the time however, no one (that I recall) was producing a 15mm pontoon bridge set. I decided to rectify that. There was not a lot of info out there on the pontoons, but I did find a description in one of my books that gave the dimensions in metric. As 15mm was nominally 1/100th scale, it was a breeze to reduce the measurements to millimeters, and produce a scale drawing. From there I was able to use Evergreen Scribed Styrene to make some master models.

 My plan was to make rubber molds from these masters, then produce resin casts. I figured two pontoons and four roadway decks would make a nice starter pack for sale.

This is actually two deck sections, I placed them together to make casting easier. I distressed the ends of each individual board, as well as adding wear and tear to the center sections.
 The mold with the masters in place. The small piece is an add-on extension to reach the river bank.
The other half of the mold. You can see the deck 'damage' quite clearly here.


 The molds came out fine, but I could never make a perfect cast. There were incomplete filling, voids and bubbles, and the decks never got truly hard. There were several reasons for this--- the resin was out of date, I didn't stir it properly, and this resin wasn't appropriate for the thin deck cross-sections. I ended up with two pontoons that were salvageable, and a couple of deck sections. I was majorly disappointed, and put the whole project away in a drawer. Let's fast forward a few years. I was culling my unfinished projects, and ran across this drawer. Guess what, the decks were still flexible, never hardening. I won't say I agonized, but throwing away that mold was not easy. The mis-casts not so much. But I couldn't bring myself to part with the masters, so I threw them in the Artillery Drawer.
Where they languished for another year, until...........

............a week ago. I was determined to finish this bridge. Here are all the original masters. I felt I needed at least three more pontoons, but making new molds and casting them was out of the question. I had given up on trying to make a business out of the hobby, and making new ones from scratch would be faster anyway.
Taking measurements off the originals, I cut out all scribed styrene first, then assembled them.
The roadway decks on the left are new, and you can see they are longer than the originals. These are to go from the pontoon to the bank. The original (short) extension and decks were glued to the pontoons. You can see the battle damage to the one pontoon and the long decks.

 I now have the flexibility to make a one pontoon bridge,
 a two pontoon bridge,
 (guess where I'm going with this) a three pontoon bridge,
 (right, right) a four pontoon bridge,
 (Red Fish, Blue Fish) and finally, a five pontoon bridge.
The Napoleonic minis I collect now are 18mm, but they scale well with this bridge. The width of the deck is the same as the frontage of my figures' bases. Here is a Russian 12pdr gun (by AB Figurines) for reference. (Apple green gun carriages, you gotta love the Russians.)
And surprise, surprise, they are already 90% painted. I know, I can hardly believe it myself. I'll be returning shortly with pictures in Technicolor® splendor. Thanks for looking, Don

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