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.

| July/August 1985

Building a log cabin is part of the back-to-the-land movement, this guide to building the traditional hewn-log home follows master logsmith Peter Gott workshop notes. (See the log building photos and diagrams in the image gallery.)

For homesteaders, building a log cabin is a traditional part of the back-to-the-land movement. Owner-built log cabins make cozy, inviting homes, and maintain the rustic yet practical lifestyle that modern homesteaders are working to achieve. This detailed manual gives instructions for laying the foundation and laying of the logs, as well as a history of American log cabins, to get you on your way to building a traditional hewn-log home of your very own.

The first people known for building log cabins and erecting permanent log structures were members of prehistoric Baltic and Scandinavian tribal societies whose homelands were blanketed with dense forests of tall, straight conifers. It was also the Scandinavians who developed the technique of hewing—the squaring of the sides of logs to provide flat walls. And it was they—Swedes and Finns, to be exact—who introduced this rugged, practical form of building a log cabin to the Americas in 1638, at the first and only purely Scandinavian settlement in the British colonies, appropriately named New Sweden (in what is now Delaware).

Over the next few decades, as New Sweden came under the control of first the Dutch and later the English, the Scandinavians' construction techniques were tossed into the cultural melting pot that would soon boil over to become the United States of America.

A variety of more sophisticated forms of abode passed in and out of style as America matured, but the log cabin remained common—especially in the mountainous states—through the early 1930s, after which relatively few new log structures were built. Consequently, a possibility arose that the last few hand-tool-wielding log craftsmen might be allowed to go to their graves with their unique knowledge unshared.

Fortunately, concurrent with the New Frontier visions of the Kennedy era, a number of Americans—most of them young in years, but a few youthful only in spiritheaded back to the land in hopes of finding a lifestyle that would prove to be simpler, as well as more wholesome and meaningful, than anything available in the increasingly impersonal techno-industrial urban culture.

4/6/2007 4:40:11 PM

I am seriously thinking of building log buildings. I read about the skids yy you mentioned to raise the logs,that sounds interesting. I need to figure out how to do it by myself. I have a winch on my truck. But if it is not too expensive I might want to make a derrick like you talked about. Is ther anyy reference material that will helpme in this endever? Thanks Mike

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