Hmm, no "log cabin" node yet. Lucky me.

I am unusually qualified to write the "log cabin" node. I spent a very memorable part of my youth in a log cabin which my parents built in the Ozark mountains. Perhaps someday I'll write a node (or maybe a book) about that. This node will be about log cabins in general.

Just thinking about this node, I don't think I can do it justice. I need to be able to have pictures...

I'll do the best I can. (I may come back and improve this node as I think of things.)

First things first. What is a log cabin? Most people probably have some idea what a log cabin is, but in case not, it's a small house made by using the long straight trunks of trees as the primary building material that forms the walls. The tree trunks are laboriously "skinned", that is, the bark is removed, all the branches are removed, until all that's left is a long thick pole. We used white oak trees to build our cabin. Up north, they use lodgepole pines, which are very straight and don't taper too much and are ideal for building log cabins. And in the North, the cold weather protects the soft pine wood against rotting too much. In the south, pine doesn't last very long at all, and so is not suitable for building a log cabin.

We'd go out and find a nice, tall, straight, healthy white oak, and cut it down with a chain saw. (We had 40 acres of mountain land, one log cabin's worth of trees did not put a noticeable dent in the white oak population. The biggest threat to white oaks is whiskey barrels. You wouldn't believe how many hillbillies go to the "log woods" for "stave bolts", which are logs from which barrel staves are made.) Once the tree was felled, the limbs were sawn off, and the bark was removed. We used sharpened potato spuds for this... A potato spud is like a hoe with the blade bent 90 degrees out. So it's kind of like a pole with a big thick knife on the end, with the blade perpendicular to the pole. Anyway, that's what we used. There are special tools made for skinning logs, and we tried them, but the sharpened potato spuds worked better for us. We would haul the logs back to the cabin site by attaching them to our ancient Chevy truck with a chain and simply dragging them there. Sounds simple enough, but driving a truck through the mountainous woods of the Ozarks whilst dragging a giant log is full of challenges. .

The logs are laid out two at a time. Two especially large logs are chosen as the "sill logs". These rest on the foundation, which in our case was a kind of rectangular stone wall, 18 inches high at the lowest point. These two logs run parallel to each other, forming the base of (for example) the north and south walls of the cabin.

The next two logs to go up are perpendicular to the sill logs, and for the base of (for example) the east and west walls. The logs are notched so that they mate nicely. There are a variety of notches that may be used. The type used by Lincoln logs looks very nice, but requires very uniform logs if it is to work out. Lodgepole pines are such uniform logs. White oak logs are not. We used a saddle notch. A saddle notch involves shaping the bottom log to have a kind of angular peak, like the roof of a house, while the top log has a matching angular notch cut in it. It's not really very much like the Lincoln log notches. This is the type of notch we used.

The sill logs also support the logs which make the floor joists. The floor joists are perpendicular to the sill logs and span the space between them. The floor joists are spaced about 4 feet apart, and we put stone pillars underneath the floor joists every few feet to keep them from sagging. Levelness is important here. We also added more floor joists off the sill logs to form the floor of the porch. The floor joists are also hewn to be flat and level on the top surface so that floorboards could be laid on top of them.

Once the floor joists are laid, the logs that make up the walls can be laid. These are done in the obvious way, two on the east and west, then two on the north and south, etc. notching the logs as you go. To lift the logs, we used a block and tackle, which is a system of pulleys and chains that makes lifting the logs manually possible. We suspended this from a cable stretched between two big trees. There were some pretty hairy moments with my parents dangling from big logs suspended high in the air, but they managed somehow.

Once all the main wall logs were in place, the rafters were next. The rafters span across, parallelling the floor joists. Then, atop each rafter, more logs were used to form the peak of the roof, with the rafter making the bottom part of the triangle and two logs meeting at the peak of the roof. There was also a "W" shaped set of braces atop each rafter, made from, what else, logs.

The roof was made from pine boards, with tar paper on top of that, and then galvanized corrugated tin (well, we called it "tin" anyway) on top of that. Between the logs, in the "chinks", we put, what else, "chinking", which consisted of scraps of wood and concrete over that.

For the windows, we had big oak boards which we fastened to the outside of the logs on each side of the window (after hewing out a space for the boards). The boards were fastened with six inch spikes (a band name rejected in favor of Nine inch Nails). The purpose of these was to keep the logs from falling down when windows and doors were made. Once these boards were in place, the ever-present chain-saw was used to slice out the logs between the boards to make openings.

i could write a book about this, but that's enough for an e2 node for now.

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