Building with Logs: Log Framing

If you're long on logs but short on cash, consider these four practical homestead projects, including log rail fence, hoisting derrick, swing set, pole shed, diagrams, endless possibilities.

| March/April 1985

Several years ago, my family's back-to-the-land dreams came true when we moved onto a chunk of rural acreage in Utah. There was a house on the property, but neither outbuildings nor fencing — both of which would be needed for the menagerie we planned to assemble. Fortunately, one thing the place did have was a large stack of peeled pine logs left behind by the previous owners. The logs were all exactly 24 feet long and ranged from 4 to 12 inches in diameter.

After getting settled into our new home, I began mentally casting about for ways to construct the fencing, outbuildings and other homestead structures we'd need, using, as much as possible, the materials I had on hand ... meaning that big stack of pine logs.

But there was one small problem with the idea of building with logs: Although I had construction experience and was familiar with standard framing, those logs were round. Obviously, I'd either have to mill them into lumber — which was out of the question — or find some way to use the logs "in the round" to build the structures I needed.

I discovered the solution to my problem one day as I was driving through our valley. A neighbor had recently built a log rail fence, and the unusual method of construction caught my eye: The logs weren't attached to the sides of the posts, as I would have expected, but were somehow suspended between them.

I stopped for a closer look and was delighted at what my inspection revealed: My neighbor had drilled holes into the ends of his log rails and bored matching holes horizontally through the upright posts. He then used pins made of lengths of 1-inch-diameter galvanized pipe to peg the rails to the posts.

Since then, I've worked extensively with this unique log-framing technique, and I've found it to be both easy to work with and inexpensive. Once you collect a few basic tools — an electric drill or hand auger and bits, a handsaw or chain saw, a hacksaw or bolt cutters and a sledge (or the back of a maul) for driving in the metal pins — you're in business.

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