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So I will admit, in a moment of profound, existential boredom, to picking up and leafing through the SkyMall catalog in the S80 on my flight back from Maker Faire yesterday. I will offer my standard excuse for such behavior: I was looking for clever ideas to liberate by re-make-ifying them. And one of the things that jumped out at me was a litle arched Japanese-style garden footbridge like the one shown below. A simple piece of carpentry, admittedly, but of elegantly minimal beauty. I looked around for plans online, and discovered these, by Rod Bird at Redwood Bridges in Mena, AZ. Rod apparently makes and sells bridges like these for a living, so double love to him for open-sourcing his design.

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Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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Comments

  1. hurf durf says:

    Exactly how do you open source a wooden foot bridge?

    FFS, its two pieces of wood with other pieces of wood screwed into them. How closed source is that? Haven’t people been making bridges for roughly a billion years?

    Next thing you’ll be saying he “repurposed” the wood.

    Stop it. Stop the trendyspeak. Seriously.

    1. I actually don’t know whether he repurposed the wood or not, so I certainly wouldn’t make a claim about it one way or another. Is there some reason you think he did? Let me know! I might be missing something.

      As for “open-source:” You’re right. That term is more than bit trendy these days, and hence bad prose form. I’m burning a stick of incense for George Orwell right now.

      Bad form or not, however, I think “open-source” is accurate in this case.

      You make and sell a product for money, in order to, you know, feed yourself and the people you care about. The more you do it, the better you get at it. You develop the physical design and improve your manufacturing techniques. You can either A) keep that acquired know-how to yourself or B) share it with the world. Conventional wisdom calls for option “A”–you hold your know-how close to your chest to deter imitators and preserve the market for yourself. It takes a certain selflessness to opt for “B,” and that decision is often referred to as “open-sourcing.” The term has long since passed from being a term of art in the software industry into ubiquitous connotative usage. You might as well argue that only mineral ore can be subject to “the acid test.”

      Greater point being, a maker’s generosity in publishing the details of his products should be acknowledged and rewarded, regardless of how “simple” the work might appear. The simplicity of this object, in fact, is the biggest reason I like it.

      But then, I’m not an expert. Perhaps you’ve built one of these? If so, send me some pics, bro. I’d love to post them.

  2. mightyohm says:

    Regardless, any time someone releases the plans to a product so that others can hack, repair, or otherwise fool around with it, that is a Very Good Thing indeed.

  3. Rod Bird says:

    Hello to all!
    I thought I would jump in and comment on why I give out my free plans on how to build a garden bridge. I opened the original garden bridge website way back in 1997 and started out with the simple bridge design that you see on this website. I have developed over 100 different designs since then and have written 20 published articles on woodworking and some that reside in the Library of Congress. I learned woodworking on my own and have never taken a woodworking course, but have a knack for it.
    I can say that” Bridge Building has been very good to me” I am just trying to give back a little to the general public by helping people be able to build their own garden bridges. Hundreds of people have used my free plans at http://www.redwoodbridges.com to build them, from all walks of life. General contractors, retirees, teenages, grandMas, teachers from many different countries have emailed and called me and have built their own garden bridges from my plans. How cool is that? I have remained available for anyone with questions or anyone who needs help in building garden bridges or other wood crafts and am just an email away.
    You can do a search on google for ” Garden Bridges past and present” and see that bridge building has been around for hundreds of years and I am proud to have re designed an age old product that has been very useful down through the ages and even more so now so, I don’t mind sharing my “trade secrets” to help my fellow man and feel very blessed that I can make a living for my family doing what I love to do.
    Thanks again to all and be sure and catch my videos on youtube/gardenbridges.
    Take care,
    Rod redwoodbridges.com

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Rod. Very nice to hear from you. Thanks again for sharing your designs and your experience. Cheers!