One rod at a time

Today, I enjoyed forming and welding a about 700 feet hundred feet of pencil rod to a heavy structural frame. It will form the framework for one of the top portions of the small mountain we are building for the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. As I worked today I was reminded of how we discovered the technique more than twenty years ago. 

I was asked to build a large archway around 1990 and signed on to do the project although I had little idea of how I would go about it. I knew it was possible and was confident we would figure it out. a week later I travelled to Disneyland for a holiday with my family. Splash Mountain had just opened and we were looking forward to the experience. As luck would have it, just as we travelled up the giant lift before the long drop to the bottom our vehicle stopped. Something had gone wrong with the complex ride. We waited for a long time and then were informed the ride was broken. We would be escorted from the attraction. The walkway out of the ride went through the back areas of the mountain, behind the scenes. While everyone else was disappointed I couldn't have been happier. In those few brief moments, as we navigated the dark recesses of the mountain, I learned more about building theme park features than I could have dreamed possible. What I saw was the inside structure. Large steel members formed the primary structure. Substructures were welded to them and smaller, thinner pieces to those. I could see the concrete squeezed through the diamond lath which formed the skin of the ride. The reverse engineering of how it was all put together began. I knew instantly that this method would allow us to build anything I could imagine. That discovery allowed me to build that giant arch in the following weeks.

Four years later we travelled to Disneyland once more to visit a brand new land called ToonTown. As we entered this creative place my brain went into overdrive. I walked the land for days, taking hundreds and hundreds of pictures, studying every detail, not just seeing the wonderfully creative place the Disney Imagineers had built but also trying to figure out exactly how they had done so. I figured it out that the bulk of the land was made with sculpted concrete and then carved to reveal the details. But how?

On my return home we set about reverse engineering the process once more, trying everything we could think of to achieve similar results. We tried many tools and techniques, including tools we made, eventually developing a style of our own. Now, twenty years later we still use these same hard earned techniques and materials. In the intervening years we've welded many hundreds of miles of steel, fastened on tens of thousands of sheets of lath and troweled on and then carved many thousands of cubic yards of fiberglass reinforced concrete. We can now confidently build anything I can imagine. And I can imagine plenty.

-grampa dan