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An Introduction to Log Cabin Construction

Attend MOTHER's summer Eco-Village mini-series class in this article on log cabin construction, including log construction tips, the full-scribe method, sawing the notch and detailed building instructions.

| November/December 1982

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    Forest Service studies have shown that when you cut the sides off the logs, slicing through their growth rings and disrupting some of their cellular structure, you significantly reduce their insulating value. Good round timbers, on the other hand, produce walls that retain heat pretty well.
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    Diagram: Figure 2 Sawing the notch.
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    Log cabin construction completed.
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    Diagram: Figure 1 The full-scribe line. 

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If you haven't visited MOTHER's Eco-Village, you can "attend" our class an introduction to log cabin construction right here! (See the log construction diagrams in the image gallery.)  

The folks who participated in last summer's mini-seminar series at our Ecological Research Center had the chance to take more than a dozen Show-How classes, including earth-sheltered housing . . . biodynamic/French intensive gardening . . . wood-gas generation . . . solar water heater construction . . . beekeeping . . . and more. 

Well, we wanted to share a bit of that experience with those of you who couldn't make it to our western North Carolina EcoVillage's 1982 session. And we decided that this time, rather than simply tell you just a little about each of the classes that were offered, we might be able to give you a better feel for what went on—and pass along a good bit of useful how-to, as well — by actually reporting the content of just one of our mini-seminars. Furthermore, to make the piece all the more informative, we decided to present a Show-How that deals with a topic we haven't recently covered in the magazine . . . log cabin construction. 

So imagine, if you will, that you're standing in a small hollow beside a partly built square grid of cut and notched logs, which rests next to the completed log home (built by MOTHER staffers and used as a crafts workshop) shown in one of the accompanying photos. In the background stands a simple waterwheel, while a short distance behind that, the more imposing dam of MOTHER's pond with its hydroelectric generator-looms overhead. You're not really thinking about those two sources of water power just now, however, because right in front of you is a jovial—looking fellow who leans against the unfinished log structure . . . waits placidly for the latecomers to get settled . . . and then begins. 

Hi! I'm Rick Compton, and this is the Log Construction Show-How. We've got three examples of this building technique right here on the property. First off, there's the craft shop right behind me. We here at the EcoVillage built it using the "chink" method . . . see the white mortar chinking between all those logs? I'm leaning on the second example, an in-process model being built by the Scandinavian, or "full-scribe", method. And on up the hill you can see the last example, a log home that was put up from a prefabricated kit. The kit building's got squared-off logs with splines that fit together sort of like those on tongue-and-groove flooring.

I'm going to deal mainly with the first two types of log buildings, because I happen to think that—if you've got the time—one of these is the way to go. After all, log kits are relatively expensive. You can pay around $10,000 for the materials needed to make a 1,000-square-foot "packaged" house and—if you go by the fairly accurate rule of thumb that it costs four times the price of a kit to actually finish the dwelling—up to $40,000 for your completed home.

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