A Guide to Building the Traditional Hewn-Log Home

A guide to building the traditional hewn-log home, including information on master logsmith Peter Gott and his log-building workshop, creating a solid foundation, site preparation, digging and acquiring logs.



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Log cabins are as much a part of America's history and folk tradition as the Fourth of July and Abe Lincoln. But the craft of building with logs has its roots in European soil.
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Whether you're looking for an inexpensive first home, a rustically luxurious vacation/hunting/fishing lodge, or a retirement cottage than makes a lasting statement about who you are, master logsmith Peter Gott will-in this manual- teach you the basic techniques you'll need to make that dream come true.
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Log structures built on relatively level ground can be perched atop mortared fieldstone pillars extending below frost line. Sill loge rest on the pillars, and the walls go up from there. Batter boards (behind corner pillars) aid in leveling and squaring the foundation.
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To use a draw knife, stand to one side and pull the tool toward you at a slight angle to the log. Peel through the bark and sapwood, down to solid wood.
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Among the tools of the logsmith's trade are (left to right) timber carrier, common ax, double-bitted ax, broadax, adz, draw knife, and peavey
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Timber carriers take much of the grunt and strain out of moving large logs.
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By taking notch measurements from a chalked centerline common to all four logs in a round, and using a couple of straightforward algebraic formulas to calculate notch depths (D and U), you can eliminate all guesswork.
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To establish hewing lines, eyeball and chap; a longitudinal centerline, then measure out hall the planned wall-log thickness to either side of the centerline.
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The saddle notch has a corner on the notch market for round-log construction. The V notch is especially suitable for use with a small-diameter hewn logs. The half-dovetail is the primary hewnlog notch, offering strong, tight joints.
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If the math, layout, and saw work have been accurate, corner notches should fit together tight and right. Minor adjustments can be made by running a handsaw between notch faces to remove excess wood.
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In the formula for figuring rafter length for a 45° (1:1 pitch) roof, X = ridge height above the plate logs, Y = half the exterior length of the tructure's gable ends, and Z is the rafter length being solved for. To determine full rafter length, add the desired eave over hang to the measurement Z derived from the formula.
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Large nail driven into joint.
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Large nails, dowels or bolts.
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In half-dovetail notches, the top notch slopes down from the inside to the outside face, while the bottom notch slopes up and in from the end.
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Locking plate notches.
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For chinking, Peter Gott recommends a mortar mix composed of three parts clay, three parts clean sand, and two parts portland cement. Smooth the mortar with a flexible trowel, undercutting the upper edge slightly. After the wood surfaces that will hold the mortar have been dampened (to prevent the dry wood from sucking moisture from the mud), mortar is pushed into the chinking cracks with a trowel. After smoothing, remove the tape. (Mortar stains on logs can be removed with a wire brush.)
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Peter Gott (on bench) demonstrates the balance and temerity required to pin rafter splices together. Locking notches are cut into the plate logs at each point where a rafter crosses. with a chisel or slick. Start the notch cuts with a chain saw, and finish them
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