SPORTS AFIELD - March 1959

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Photo 1
Figure 1. What your woods home will look like. This cabin boasts a "store bought" roof and doors.



The products of the forest are no less rich in their potential today than in yesteryear. Here, in step by step picture form, is

HOW TO BUILD A LOG CABIN


BY EDWARD L. JOHNSON

     The man came across the valley and into the pines and strode out and up until the afternoon sun was full in his face. The pack mule, following close behind, labored under the weight of the heavy burden as the trail edged upward and grew steadily steeper, then leveled off on a bench and swung back into a great cove.
     Where a little knoll rose up in a clump of pines the man paused and picketed the mule. He took a swing across the cove and down by the all-weather spring that was flowing even in this dry summer season.
     Again he swung about the knoll, seeing its quantity of young pine that would make logs that could be handled by one man. He measured the height of the knoll with his eye and noted that it was high enough to insure against possible high water, yet was well protected from the storm by the hills that surrounded the cove, as well as the heavy stand of timber that fanned out in every direction. And this was near the center of the trap line he planned to tend.
     While midnight stars wheeled overhead and the fire burned low, the man hunched in its flickering glow. He had dragged a quantity of burned-out ash from the fire and spread and leveled it with a stick. Carefully he drew and planned the cabin and multiplied by four the estimated average size of the logs available, and before he slept he knew the number of wall logs that would be needed to build his forest home.
     The man rose in the early dawn and fanned the dull coals to a blaze and prepared his breakfast. He picketed the mule in the lush growth below the spring, and taking his ax, moved to the knoll. He cleaned leaves and loose dirt away from the crowns of the trees where the cabin was to stand and cut them close in against the earth.
     When the area was cleared he raked away the leaves, and using the bit of his ax, leveled the site and dug back the loosened earth and packed the floor area with a tamping stick until it was smooth and hard. He then went into the forest and cut four white oaks for ground logs, measuring them with the knotched ax handle and cutting the end logs 12 feet long and the side logs 16 feet.
     He dragged the ground logs to his cleared site and rolled in four large stones from the branch below the spring. He placed the stones and rolled the ground logs, and using a water-filled flask as a level, dug in the corner stones until the framework was level. He marked

Photo 2
Figure 2. Clear and level area 12 by 16 feet. (You can use water jar for level.) Dig foundation stones in at corners; heavy oak ground logs rest on these.



Photo 3
Figure 3. After foundation logs are in place, dig in stones all around the foundation. Chink with moist clay. Door jambs fit in notches cut in ground logs, or if you have a saw, build wall solid and cut door later.


the logs and rolled them back and notched them, then rolled them together again.
     It was now time to square the foundation. He measured back exactly 24 inches from the inside corner on either log and marked the points as A and B. He repeated this on each of the four corners and shifted the logs until the distance between A and B in each corner was exactly 34 inches. The framework was now square.
     On the second day he carried building stones from the branch and dug them in beneath the ground logs so that they fit snug up against the logs and pounded in moist clay to fill the breaks and bind them together.
     With the foundation completed, he cut two poles and nailed them together at one end and braced them together in the form of an A at the angle he wanted the roof. By placing this framework across the end of the foundation, he found that the roof logs would have to be full eight feet to allow proper overhang to protect the side logs.
     In the days that followed the walls went up rapidly: The logs were rolled, marked, then rolled back for notching. They were peeled, top and bottom, and a series of small hack marks were made on the peeled portions to roughen the area so that the log would hold readily to the chinking and daubing that were to follow.
     Fortunately the man had a saw. If there had been no saw he would have had to inset the door jambs into the ground log before he went up with the walls. He would then have had to chop the ends of the logs square where they fit against the jambs and nail or peg them in place.
     As the walls went up he would place one course of logs so that the larger ends all lay in one direction, then reverse them on the next course so that one large end was always over one small end. This kept the four corners coming up evenly.
     When the walls were six feet high the man began to prepare for an attic. He wanted a storage space as well as a cool but protected place to cure his furs.
     He had saved two heavy end logs, which were now rolled. These logs would carry the joists for the attic floor, and the heavier log which was placed in front would serve as top door jamb.
     Next he went into the forest and cut four oak logs that were 16 feet long. He hewed one quarter out of the two side logs and rolled them so that the lip of the hewed portion formed an end rest for the attic floor. These he called the plate logs. He then hewed the other two logs top and bottom, and spacing them evenly, cut them into the end logs so that their top sides lay on a level with the cut-out portion of the side logs. These were the joists and would carry the attic floor.
     The attic floor was made of oak poles, cut so that they fit snugly between the plate logs and hewn on the sides so that they lay close without cracks. In the middle of the floor a heavier oak log was used. It was notched

To build, or "roll" walls, first notch under log carefully. Rest top log in notch and mark spot.
Then roll top log back and notch. Keep height of walls the same by laying small end of one log over large end of another. Straighten logs by hewing. Cuts regulate wood remove Leave rough to hold chinking.
Photo 4
Figure 4.


Photo 5
Figure 5. When walls are six feet high, lay heavy log at front for door jamb top and two joists to support attic floor. Then prepare two plate logs. These are heavy logs cut on one side to L-shape. Butt ends of floor logs rest in this L.


Photo 6
Figure 6. Small poles can be used for attic floor. Notice trap door at far end. The variations here are endless. Build a half or three-quarter attic or none if you prefer. This was a trapper's cabin and a cold place to store furs was needed.


Photo 7
Figure 7. Use A-frame to get roof's slant the same at both ends of cabin. Lay progressively shorter logs to bring wall to peak. Trim ends to A-frame's slant. Near peak, fit four poles to run back under roof logs and brace vulnerable peak.


so that it fit down on the joists and was nailed in place to give the joists extra support. The entrance to the attic was made by leaving out a section of floor.
     The main floor of the cabin was the ground. Had the man wanted a log floor, he would have inset it into the ground logs in the same manner as the attic floor. Of course, he would have had to hew the tops of the logs to give a smooth surface.
     Since only limited space was needed in the attic, he rolled four logs on either side above the attic floor, and the square was completed.
     It was now time to even the corners before the longer roof supports were rolled. A strip was nailed down each corner as a guide and the ends of the logs were evened with the saw.
     The binder logs, or roof supports, were cut 18 inches longer than the side logs so as to give the overhang needed on either end to protect the end logs from the weather.
     The first roof support was placed directly above the wall logs. From there on up they would slope sharply to the comb. The gable logs would also be sloped at the same angle by sawing or chopping the ends the same slant as the pitch of the roof. This angle was preserved by bringing into use the A-framework which had been used previously to determine the length of the roof logs. Using it as a guide, the two gable ends went up evenly and at the same pitch.
     As the gable ends went up the man would place a large log at one end and a smaller one at the other. On the next course he would reverse the procedure. This prevented the binder logs from lying parallel; rather, he set them at angles to one another, which within itself formed a bracework.
     The last log to go up was the ridgepole, which was slightly larger than the other roof logs. It was inset into the topmost gable logs so that it completed the triangle.
     As time drew on, the man worked feverishly, striving to complete the cabin in time to pack in additional supplies before the snows came.
     To make the door opening he cut straight poles, hewed them evenly on one side and nailed them to the top log of the square with a single nail, spacing them the desired width and plumbing them with a piece of shot on a string. He then nailed them to each of the end logs. Using them as a guide, he sawed the door opening.
     A set of door jambs were cut and split from oak, their split sides hewn on line, and were inset in slots that had been cut into the top and bottom logs. They were then fastened to the ends of each of the several wall logs with wooden pins and the guide poles were removed.
     The door was made of split logs that were hewn and fitted and fastened together with a heavy Z-bracework, also of split logs. It was hung with hinges made of oak,

Photo 8
Figure 8. Watertight roof can be made completely of forest materials. Split logs down middle, hollow centers. Lay two side by side, hollows up. Cap space between with log, hollow side down. Logs extend over cabin sides to throw water past foundation.


using the forked limb pattern. The latch, too, was a product of the forest.
     A lone window was cut in the same manner as the door. It was fitted with a piece of grained deerskin that had been taken and prepared there in the forest.
     The gable ends were braced with oak poles that ran from the comb and angled down the underside of the roof logs to the center of the cabin. An A-bracework was also placed in the center of the attic, and the structure was ready for the roof.
     The channel logs were now brought in and the laying of the roof began. Two hollowed-out logs were placed with the channel up and nailed down close together. The third log was turned with the channel down and placed over the break. When both sides were covered in this manner, larger cap logs were hollowed and inverted over the comb, covering the top ends of the roof logs.
     The cabin was now ready for chinking, and the only material in its structure that had been packed in was the nails that were used in the roof and in and about the door. The cost of these nails had been exactly $5.92.
     The man then went into the forest and gathered a quantity of moss, which he mixed with moist red clay and pounded into the cracks between the logs. Into this daubing he inserted chips from his hewing, placing them at an angle and at intervals of three to four inches apart.
     All that remained now was the heating and cooking facilities. With the building stones available, the man could have cut an opening in the rear wall and built in a fireplace and chimney. He decided, however, to use a small stove. The only work in installing it would be cutting a hole through the back wall and running the pipe up the outside. He would have to leave a space between the pipe and the wood where it went through the wall. This space could be filled with baked clay or small sandstones mortared together with pounded clay.
     The stove would give better heat on much less wood than the fireplace. He decided that he could pack in the stove and pipe much easier than he could cut and carry the extra wood that would be required for the fireplace.
     When the cabin was completed the man counted the logs and found that there were two dozen 16-foot logs in the side walls, 26 12-foot logs in the ends, 15 17 1/2-foot roof support logs, including the ridgepole, and seven gable end logs that ran from 10 1/2 feet at the bottom of the triangle to 18 inches at the top. There was a total of 68 8-foot channel logs in the roof, with four 5-foot cap logs on the comb. The door had taken seven 6-foot pieces plus the braces, and the attic floor was made up of 48 white oak poles that were 10 1/2 feet long, except for the cut-out opening. There were two 16-foot joists, two 6-foot door jambs, door bolt and catch, and the poles used in the attic bracework. The hinges were of four 4-foot oak pieces that would normally have been discarded as worthless.
     All this, and one piece of grained deerskin, every item but the nails a product of the forest about him.

Photo 9
Figure 9. Roof ridge is capped with hollow logs. Cabin is complete now except for chinking. Use moss mixed with clay or cement for this. Nails driven between logs help hold chinking in place.


Photo 10
Figure 10. Door is six-foot logs held together with strong Z-brace on inside. Oak hinges (A) are pegged to wall cap (B). C is top of right door jamb; D shows log space prepared for chinking.


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