Log cabins are a unique style of home with a relaxed feel. They feature a timber build formed by stacked and interlocking logs, showing off beautiful wood on the exterior and interior.
Unlike post-and-beam homes, log cabins utilize an interlocking timber framework that supports the home’s weight. This eliminates load-bearing interior walls and creates wide open living spaces.
When constructing log cabins, the interlocking timber used should be carefully chosen. It should be sourced from trees that grow at high altitudes and have tight growth rings, which prevent cracking and warping when the logs dry out. They should also be kiln dried to further reduce moisture damage.
The most popular timber for log cabins is western red cedar and douglas fir, both of which can be purchased kiln dried to further reduce moisture problems. Other options include eastern white pine, spruce and yellow cedar.
In addition, logs should be milled with lower exterior drip edges to help water drain off and away from the house. This will minimize moisture wicking into the home, which can lead to mold and decay.
Regardless of the type of timber you choose, it is important to have your logs accurately cut and fit together. This can be achieved using a machine called a house line.
This line is operated by a computer interface that reads the plan and cuts each row of log stock to length. This process ensures the precision of each laser-guided, specified cut on every log that comes out of the house line.
Once the logs are cut, the home line operators then use a planer to shape them to size, matching the plans. These logs are then stacked on pallets according to barcodes that correspond with the locations on the plans. This eliminates any need for unpacking at delivery, or deciphering poorly handwritten numbers on each log.
To ensure the integrity of the logs, the house line operators make precise cuts to accommodate windows and doors that are installed in the log walls. These cuts are included to ensure a tight fit between the door and window frames, bucks and trim.
One other way to ensure a tight fit between logs is by pinning or spikeing them together in certain areas. This helps keep them snug and will significantly diminish the need for chinking, as well.
Another benefit of logs that are pinned or spiked is the fact that they can be more easily set into foundations. In some cases, this is done with rebar or large threaded stock that is inserted into the foundation and extends up past the subfloor. This keeps the cabin anchored to the ground and makes it more resistant to weather damage.
Butt & Pass
Butt & Pass is a popular construction method for building log cabins. It’s used mainly by beginners who are looking for a quick and easy way to build their home. The technique requires that each log is stacked on top of the next, at correct angles and then pinned or fixed together with rebar. This allows the logs to be more easily joined and enables log cabins to be more durable.
Another advantage of the butt and pass method is that it requires less maintenance than more traditional methods. It’s also a good choice for people who want to build their log cabins using naturally harvested logs, as it reduces the cost of the material and therefore reduces the overall budget.
It is important to note that while butt and pass is a good option, it’s not the best choice for every log cabin. Those that have more experience and woodworking knowledge may prefer to use a different method for constructing their log homes.
Saddle notches A corner joint made with a saddle notch is similar to a dovetail notch, but a bit simpler. The basic joint is made by cutting a notch into one or both logs of a corner pair. The log fits into the notch and is then interlocked with the next log in the same corner pair, forming a weathertight seal.
Like dovetails, the basic joint is cut using precision machinery or by hand- crafters. It also simplifies corner construction and may reduce labor costs.
The notch is usually cut at a 90-degree angle, with the end of each log interlocking at the other side. This creates a beautiful finish for a handcrafted log home.
It is also possible to use a dovetail to secure the corner joints, but this can be much more time-consuming and require more skill than a simple butt and pass joint. Dovetails can also be more expensive than the simple butt and pass system.
Chinking is another good option for securing the corner joints in a log cabin. It gives a distinctive appearance to the home and helps to seal the logs from wind, rain and bugs.
Dovetail is one of the most traditional and well-known log cabin interlocking timber types. It is a strong and secure joint that can be used in a wide range of applications. It can be seen in a number of popular and high-quality products, including drawers and cabinets.
A dovetail is made up of ‘tails’ and ‘pins’ that are cut at precise angles to fit tightly together. This makes it very resistant to being pulled apart and also extremely durable when glued. Dovetails are commonly found in kitchen cabinet drawer boxes where strength and durability are essential.
The dovetail can be formed by a craftsman in various ways depending on what is required. For example, a half-blind dovetail uses mortises on the ends of the boards to hide their ends and present only a thin section of end grain for a seamless finish. Secret double-lapped dovetails present the end grains on one edge of the joint, while secret mitred dovetails leave only a narrow section of end grain visible from the front and a thicker section on the sides.
It can be constructed with full round, square or D-shaped logs and is very popular with handcrafters as well as milled log home manufacturers. It is an aesthetically pleasing design that shows craftsmanship and skill.
Another method of constructing a dovetail is using a butt and pass notch. This is a very quick and easy way to notch your logs and does not require any scribing or tooling, which saves time during the construction process. However, it is not as structurally sound as the notch corner designs we discuss above so may be more vulnerable to the test of time.
Another less common log home notch corner is the upright groove and tenon corner. This is not as structurally sound as the aforementioned methods, but it does have an interesting look and feel to it which can be a draw for some people. Alternatively, the upright groove and tenon corner can be a shortcut to creating a dovetail notch if the owner does not want to scrib on their logs.
Vertical Corner Post
In a conventionally-built log house, interlocking corner posts are often employed to extend the length of the wall. These posts are often mortised in the side walls and/or front and back and may double as door jambs or window sills.
In some cases, the post has a groove or slot in which the siding is placed and supported by a kick plate. This system creates a very strong, airtight seal, which reduces maintenance needs in the long run.
The technique of constructing log cabins using interlocking timber has been used throughout the world since the Middle Ages. The French, for example, were very well known for using this method in their half-timbered houses.
This technique was also used by the Pennsylvania Germans, and has been documented in several sources, including The Pennsylvania German Family Farm and Amos Long’s The Pennsylvania German Log House. However, these references do not discuss corner-post construction in detail and, therefore, it is not clear whether this technique was widely used.
Another important source on log construction, and one that supports the claim of a widespread use of corner-post log structures, is Hermann Phleps’ Allemannishe Holzbaukunst. This book includes many illustrations showing plank-dimensioned log wall timbers with corner posts.
While the origin of this technique is unknown, it appears that it was very widely used in Pennsylvania, and may have been as well in other states. The technique was quite distinct from notched log construction and may have had European roots.