Homesteading

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed

by Todd Walker

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

This rustic swing bed provides mind-blowing naps! A swing bed is typically hung under a large porch or other roofed structure. Since I have neither of these structures, I decided to build one from rot-resistant Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and hang it under the trees at the log cabin.

Here are the materials and tools I used.

Material List

  • Rot-resistant lumber milled or purchased. Pressure treated dimensional lumber could be used but will not offer the rustic feel I was going for. My main frame was approximately 4×4’s with live edges.
  • 1x? boards for slats. Limbs used for footboard spindles.
  • Rope or chain. For hanging my bed from two trees, I chose 5/8 inch poly rope I already had for my log cabin projects.
  • Screws. Trim screws, 3 inch deck screws, and 6 inch TimberLoc screws.
  • Polyurethane to help preserve the wood and color of the red cedar.
  • 2 – Two inch wide auto tow straps.

Tools

  • Chainsaw mill. My Alaskan chainsaw mill has provided lots of lumber for several projects over the years. See DRG’s dining room table.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

  • Impact driver and drill… for driving screws and drilling pilot holes and rope/chain holes. Use appropriate sized drill bits as needed.

Size It Up

When this project came to mind, I had no real idea how large a frame I needed. Then I remembered DRG’s air mattress she bought for her tent but never got to use. The queen air mattress measured about four inches short on length than a typical queen mattress (60×80 inches). And since the swing would be under trees (no roof), the air mattress is waterproof and the best choice.

Size Dimensions
Twin 39″ X 75″
Twin XL 39″ X 80″
Full 54″ X 75″
Qu 60″ X 80″
King 75″ X 80″
California King 72″ X 84″

Chart courtesy of American Mattress.

I built the frame to handle the 60×80 inch queen mattress if I ever move the swing under a roof. On the frame, I added 5 inches to the queen width and about 15 inches to the length to accommodate the mattress and give enough room for corner holes for hanging the bed.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

These milled pieces have live edges.

Live edges had to be shimmed to make a flush top surface for the frame. I drilled pilot holes and ran the 6 inch screws in to secure all corners.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

As you can see above, two of the three sides are taller. This is to provide a headboard of sorts for the top and side of the bed. The shorter side would of course be the footboard. The short side is about 16 inches tall with the others being about 24 inches.

I used the toenail method to screw the four corner posts to the frame. I used both deck and TimberLok screws. I was pleased with how sturdy it turned out.

I ran a 2×3 down the middle of the frame lengthwise to help support the bed slats. Since I didn’t want to mill one inch boards, I used 1×6 cedar boards from a box store. Trim screws secured the slats to the frame.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Corner posts and slats installed. A ledger board was screwed to the frame to give the ends of the slats a resting place.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Vertical spindles installed the two tall sides.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Red cedar limbs made the footboard spindles.

I attached the footboard spindles with trim screws. If you’ve ever cut down a red cedar tree, you know how many limbs become available to you for other projects.

Choosing non-natural rope will give your swinging bed longer life. Natural fiber rope tend to degrade in weather sooner.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Drilling 3/4 inch holes in the four corner beams to accept the 5/8 inch rope. Tip: tape the end of the rope tightly to form a sharpened pencil point to insert into the hole. You’ll thank me later.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

A simple overhand knot holds the rope secure.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Applying an exterior polyurethane to highlight and protect the beautiful color of red cedar.

With a two-point connection, the bed is less stable getting in and out than if you had a four-point connection. I used two towing straps with hooks wrapped around two trees near my log cabin.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Philip giving it a test run after helping me hang the bed.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

The air mattress is 18 inches high, too high really for this swing bed.

Bug proofing is handy here in the south. I bought two of the bug nets pictured below. One of these nets is intended for a twin size cot or mattress. I figured two sewn together would cover a queen size mattress. I was right. Melonie, who helped install the log cabin subfloor and porch deck, was nice enough to cut, design, and sew these two together in her “spare” time.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

I bought two mosquito nets, which when sewn together, made a full-coverage net for the bed.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Swing Bed - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Queen size bug net hung with bamboo frame.

I enjoy cooler evening temperatures in the swinging bed at the log cabin. The whippoorwills serenade and I usually nap. It’s a peaceful place indeed!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Homesteading, Self-reliance, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Log Cabin | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Log Cabin Update

by Todd Walker

Log Cabin Update 2020

My last cabin update on the blog was from November 2019. Work had stopped on the cabin since DRG’s passing in March of this year. People asked me when I would get back to building the cabin and I’d respond, “When I get motivated again.” Well I’m finally motivated.

July has typically been a very productive month for me on the log cabin build. This holds true for 2020 as well. What follows is a series of photos highlighting the progress.

 

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

The swinging porch bed. A whole new how-to post is upcoming on this one.

I built this red cedar rope swing to add to the cabin site. The air mattress is queen size and really too tall for the swing. However, after extensive testing, it works just fine!

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Mosquito netting is a must when napping!

Flooring

The porch needed something other than old, temporary plywood with spotty coverage. I went with 1x6x12 pressure treated boards. Melonie was nice enough to lend a hand on both the porch and the subfloor inside the cabin!

 

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.comLog Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

 

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

The finished porch floor.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Mel laying down the glue.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Subfloor complete!

Front Door

I had been carrying a salvaged heartwood pine door around for about 15 years. I knew I would use it on the cabin as soon I started this project. Philip helped me hang this with hand-forged hinges, hasp, and nails gifted and made by Tim at Oxbow Farm. What a great craftsman and friend!

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Hammering cut nails into the hinge holes.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Cut nails

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Front door finished!

Gable and Loft Floor

To expedite the build, I decided to go with T1-11 plywood to cover the gable ends. I also used this material upside down on the loft floor so the bead board would be visible from the porch below.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Taking a break on the newly laid loft floor.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

One of the stained glass windows DRG bought several years ago. Thought it would go well as the center window of the cabin.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Steps for the Front Porch

Dimensional lumber would have been an easy choice for the steps. No, we needed to stay with the rustic look. I spent the morning walking the woods to find dead-standing red cedar the right diameter for the stringers and steps. Once hauled back to the cabin, I used my chainsaw mill to make the steps.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Notching stringers to accept the half-round log steps.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Step one.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Satisfied and taking a break on the second step.

Log Cabin Update 2020 - thesurvivalsherpa.com

Still has some tweaks we want to make but it’s a functional set of rustic steps!

Thank you friends and family for the outpouring of love and support over the years, and especially since my lovely DRG passed away. You are simply the best!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

If You Build it, They Will Come

by Todd Walker

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’m not one to ask for help often. But I’m glad I did. They kept showing up in the Georgia heat and humidity ready to sweat through 90+ degree temperatures.

The Crew disassembled the log cabin in one day at the end of June. Once the logs were moved to the new site, I started putting the puzzle back together. I managed to stack 7 courses on the sill logs before The Crew reached out and scolded me for not extending an invitation sooner. “All ya gotta do is ask.” I’m still amazed, but shouldn’t be, that they keep coming to this party. True friends do that, ya know.

Now we’re to the point of needing metal for the roof. Here’s a look at the progress since my last log cabin update (July 31, 2019).

 Stacking Wall Logs

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Just before The Crew showed up.

Re-assembling the wall logs was like a paint by numbers set. Dianne had labeled the logs before we took it down. It was just a matter of putting numbers back where we found them on the walls.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jeff and I swinging “Good Times” to secure logs with rebar pins.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two 21 foot plate logs finished up the walls.

Setting the Ridge Pole

I dreaded this task. I wasn’t sure if the plan would work. How could we get a 21 foot log over thirteen feet above the floor, balanced and secured atop two vertical ridge pole support logs?

Turns out that raising the ridge pole (RP) may have been the easiest part of the build. We cut and peeled two ridge pole support logs (RPSL) and attached them to the back and porch walls with 1/2″ all-thread rod. The poles reached about 5 feet above the plate logs to give me the pitch I wanted for the roof.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Peeling the freshly cut ridge pole support logs with draw knives.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Lifting the second ridge pole support log into place on the front porch.

We attached 2×6’s to the top of each RPSL as temporary lifting poles. A 2×6 spacer board was screwed between the RP and the temporary lifting pole. This would give the space needed for the RP to rest on the center of the RPSL’s when lifted in place. Two chain falls were secured to the 2×6 lifting poles before the RPSL’s were lifted into place.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ridge pole secured on front porch wall.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

All-thread in a counter-sunk hole which will be plugged with wood.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Chain falls ready for lifting.

We predrilled holes for the rebar pins in the RP before lifting. With rigging in place, we slowly lifted the RP to the top of the RPSL’s. This went smoother than I could have imagined. JT aligned his end and drove a rebar pin through the RP into the RPSL with 3 inches of rebar above the RP. The 3 inches of rebar was bent over on top of the RP for added holding power.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

JT pinning the ridge pole in place.

Even though we measured hole placement on the RP, my end was 4 inches short of center on the RPSL. I re-drilled my end from the scaffolding we built. I drove in my rebar to secure the RP. Time for much needed break!

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The ridge pole once the temporary lifting poles and chain falls were removed.

Rafters

I had originally planned to use log rafters and log gables on this project. However, with all the delays we encountered with the disassembly and reassembly, I opted for dimensional lumber to expedite the process. This is just a practice cabin, by the way.

We sank a deck screw in two of the 2″x6″x14′ laid out at a 45 degree angle. The screw allowed the boards to “scissor” on top of the RP as we rested the tails on the top plate logs.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Staging rafters over the ridge pole and top plate logs.

We slid the rafters down the RP and set them on 2 foot centers. We eyeballed the first rafter’s placement on the plate logs and toe-nailed it into place. I probably should have sawn the RP and plate logs flat to get a level run on the rafters. To correct the situation, we’ll have to lift or lower individual rafters at the top plate logs as needed. There’s always challenges when using dimensional lumber on raw logs.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jeff snapped this shot after we ran out of lumber for rafters.

Gable Framing

The gables, as mentioned earlier, will be dimensional lumber. I’m not sure what I’ll use for sheathing the gables. A few ideas are floating in my head.

A top plate log needed to be installed between the long porch plate logs. We skinned a log, measured and cut to length, and pinned it. We used two of the original ax-hewn floor joists from the first build to vertically support the cross member.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jeff and JT doing the heavy lifting on the cross member.

We laid two rafter boards flat over the RP to create a top plate for the gable studs. We started framing under the RP and worked our way out to the plate logs with 2×6 studs. Dianne did a fine job of cutting bevels and lengths for the studs.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This pics shows the flat 2×6 top plate studded up from the inside of the porch.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Gable view from the outside of the porch.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The Crew on gable day!

The sleeping loft will be above the porch where The Crew is standing. Like most of the plans on this project, we’ll figure it out as we go.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin… Again

by Todd Walker

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Three 21 foot logs, the crowning roof logs, lay on the ground debarked with pine sap oozing like beads of sweat. They would serve as my ridge pole and two top plate logs. Then it happened…

The landowner’s son, my good friend, walked to the cabin site and told me that the family was putting the land up for sale. I was shocked, not so much about the fate of my “practice” log cabin, but because he was raised on this beautiful land his entire life. He apologized about all the work that I had put into the cabin.

“It’s a practice cabin, buddy,” I said.

A year and a half of felling, bucking, skinning, stacking and pinning logs together. My options were limited. Let it sit unfinished and eventually rot to the ground. Or move it. DRG and I moved to the property across the road just a few months ago. Yep, that would be its new location.

Weeks before the news, I had arranged a work day with a group of our friends to finish up the walls. The building party turned into a demolition day. Each log was labeled and numbered to make reassembling the log puzzle less confusing. Stick by stick, the team worked all day to tear down 1.5 years of work, some of which they helped build.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Many thanks to these fine friends on demolition day!

Deja vu

After the dust settled, the job of rebuilding began. I figured reassembly would take less time. I was right.

Foundation

I decided to go back with dry-stack stone piers for the foundation. This would save money since the land had plenty of stones for stacking. Boulders I couldn’t physically lift, there were several, I used my rope come-a-long to inch them onto a trailer. My friend’s tractor would have made this task a breeze, but it was in the shop for repairs.

One lesson learned from the first stone foundation was I didn’t need to be exact on stacking each pier. I got them close to level using a water level and tweaked them as needed once the sill logs were on top. Dimensional lumber would require each pier to be exactly the same height. If you enjoy putting puzzles together, this job is for you.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Dry-stack piers

Sill Logs

I needed to start stacking logs. The challenge was to transport the two 1,000 pound, 18 foot sill logs from the previous site to their new home. My log hauling operation consisted of Donkey Kong (4-wheeler) and Junior (LogRite Arch). This duo had successfully hauled all the other cabin logs across the creek, up a 75 yard incline which makes young men huff and puff, and across the road to my place.

I crossed my fingers and headed toward the creek with a sill log in-tow. Donkey Kong crossed the creek and stalled with its front tires off the ground. The opposite end of the long log was stuck on the other side of the creek. I knew then that I was in for a long afternoon of winching up a steep hill. After five winching episodes, we made it to the top! And in 90+ degree Georgia heat with high humidity. I was soaked.

I rebuilt my lifting tripod at the new site, hung the chain fall, and started setting sill logs. The first row is important and takes the longest to get set. To square the corners, the Pythagorean Theorem was used to form a 3-4-5 triangle at each corner.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

From the first build: The corner nail is near the head of the hammer where the two chalk lines intersect. The tape measure forms the hypotenuse of the right triangle.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Five sill logs set and squared at the new site.

Log Courses Going Up

Before disassembling the cabin, each log was labeled to make putting it back together a no-brainer. It’s like paint by numbers.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Logs staged in order for assembly.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

A fine sight!

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Four rows complete!

Every log you see was felled and bucked with an ax, with a few back cuts using a one-man hand saw. Logs were debarked with a barking sud or draw knife. Most of the assembly on the original site was done with a brace and bit and sledge hammer. I chose this pioneer method the first time around. On the rebuild, I’m running power tools with a generator. The use of modern tools has sped up the process considerably. I even have a shop fan to move hot air around the new site.

Floor Joists

Those who have followed this log cabin build may remember the hand-hewn log floor joists on the first build. I made the decision to abandon this floor system. Why? Two reasons…

  • During disassembly, we discovered that one sill log notched to accept the floor joists had significant decay. This log came from a dead-standing pine tree which seemed to be solid. I opted to replace it with another log.
  • Even if the sill log had remained solid, I quickly realized that the alignment of the two notched sill logs had to be perfect to accept the hewn log joists.

Pressure treated lumber was used as joists. It was cheaper on some boards than non-treated. Plus, I’m not sure how long it’ll take to get a roof over the cabin. The old plywood subfloor was salvaged and tacked on the new joists as temporary flooring.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Shimmed and screwed rim joists.

Installing flat boards on round logs had a few challenges. There are gaps between the two, some almost 1.5 inches. I used shims to keep the 2×8’s rim joists plumb. Six inch screws secured the joists where large gaps appeared. Joist hangers were set on 16 inch centers for the 10 foot run on the floor.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Temporary flooring with lifting tripod .

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

The front porch joists are 2×6’s to cover a span of less than 6 feet.

We’ll keep practicing until we finish this log cabin. We’ve been here before.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Self-reliance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Scary Sharp: Rooster’s Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method 

by Todd Walker

Scary Sharp - Rooster's Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

This quote, falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln, is inspirational but scary to anyone new to ax-manship. I get the idea of the quote. But four hours to sharpen an ax?

Okay, if an ax is in really bad shape, you could spend a few hours on the work bench. But once you’ve spent time achieving a keen edge, you’ll understand why Horace Kephart advises to never loan your ax to someone unless they know how to use it. A dull, abused ax a misery to swing and quite a job to bring back to working-sharp.

Scary Sharp Axes

I’ve always kept my working axes Sherpa Sharp, which by definition is a bit honed enough for a day of feeling, limbing, and bucking logs without needing to be touched up in the field. My method changed four years ago when Craig Roost (aka – Rooster) introduced fellow Axe Junkies to his simple Scary Sharp method.

If you’ve never been able to shave arm hair or slice newsprint with your ax, give Rooster’s Scary Sharp method a try.

Below is a list of stuff I use to sharpen my axes in the shop and field.

My Shop Tools

  • Wet/Dry Sandpaper: Progress from 220, 400, 600, 1,000, and at times 1500 – auto parts stores carry this sandpaper in 9″ x 11″ sheets
  • Bench Belt Sander: 80 to 120 grit
  • Drywall Hand Sanders: One for each wet/dry sandpaper grit to speed up the process
  • Leather Strop: A barber’s strop glued to a board
  • Green Buffing Compound: Rub into the leather strop
  • Buffing Wheel: Rarely use this machine on working axes
  • Files: Bastard file is used for bits needing to be re-profiled or when nicked/chipped
  • Rigid SuperClamp: This floor vise has revolutionized my shop
  • Safety Equipment: Leather gloves and eye protection
Scary Sharp - Rooster's Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Files, file card, 220, 400, 600, 1,000 grit sanders, and a leather strop impregnated with green rubbing compound.

My Field Tools

  • Ax Puck: Medium and coarse duel sided grit
  • Strop: Leather belt, leather ax sheath, or wood
  • File: A small bastard file
  • DiY Fixin’ Wax

Refer to the Ax Anatomy chart below if you’re unfamiliar with any of the terminology in the tutorial. Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Shop Maintenance  System

You may sharpen your axes differently. This is the system I use to maintain my working axes. The condition of vintage axes I restore varies from light rust removal with a wire wheel to major vinegar bath and material removal with a file. This post is not intended to cover the complete restoration process of old axes. It’s a maintenance step to keep working axes sharp. Even “out of the box” axes likely need to be honed before severing wood fibers.

Belt Sanding

All new-to-me vintage ax bits typically go on the belt sander first. Hold the axhead so that the sanding belt moves from the poll of the ax to the bit. The other way around will end up severing the sanding belt. Work the bit from toe to heel on the part of the belt that gives way to pressure. In this way, the belt conforms to the convex grind angle of the ax bit.

Scary Sharp - Rooster's Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This is my sweet spot on my homemade belt sander.

Make a few passes on one side and repeat on the other side of the bit. I sand both sides maybe three times with 80 grit depending on the need. Swap out to 120 grit and repeat the process.

I don’t use leather gloves. I want to feel the warmth of the ax bit during the sanding process. The axhead is dipped in water several times throughout the process to keep it cool and preserve the temper of the bit.

Hand Sanding

Hand sanding can be done without a vise (see Rooster’s video below). However, my Rigid floor vise makes the process easier and faster. Clamp the handle in the vise with the axhead perpendicular to the floor. Stand to the side and behind the bit you’re going to sharpen. Now would be the time you’ll want to wear leather gloves.

Below is a video demo of me sharpening my broad ax with a 12 inch bit…

Cut a strip of each grit to fit the drywall sanding handle(s). With as much sharpening as I do, multiply handles with each grit attached saves time from having to change out sand paper if using only one handle. Plus, I had these handles in my drywall box from my handyman days. Using them to sharpen axes is way more pleasurable than their intended use.

Begin swiping from heel to toe of the ax bit with the 220 grit sand paper. Move the sander in a semicircular motion. You’ll be reminded of Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rain Man with all the counting you’ll be doing. I stroke one side 30 times. There’s no magic number to this and you don’t have to count – it’s just what I do. I flip single bit axes in the vise and sand the other side 30 times. For my double bit axes, I reposition on the opposite side and stroke the second bit before flipping the ax.

On the second grit, 400, I change from a “heel to toe” direction to a “toe to heel” stroke. This helps me see how well I’m replacing the previous scratches on the bit left by the 220 grit. Continue changing grits and direction until you make it to the highest sanding grit. Most times, I only need to go to 600 grit and a good stropping to get my working axes Sherpa Sharp. I rarely go up to 1,500 grit unless I’m sharpening a new-to-me ax.

Stropping

I glued an old leather barber’s strop to a wooden handle years ago. I rub green compound into the leather and use it in the same way as the sanding handles. I only strop the bit about 10 times on each side to remove any burrs and give the bit a mirror finish.

Rooster even made a strop for a drywall sanding handle. He demonstrates his full method in the updated video below.

Rooster’s method produces remarkable results. The foam pad under the drywall sanding handles allows the sandpaper to conform to the convex shape of the bit. So simple a novice can do it!

Field Maintenance System

There have been times when I lay into a tree and notice the bit not penetrating the wood fibers very well. This is usually because I failed to sharpen my ax in the shop before heading out. You may be tempted to overcompensate with more power in each stroke. Not a wise idea. This will lead to early fatigue, damage to the handle, and possible injury. Stop swinging and touch up the bit.

Puck It

For years I’ve used a Lansky Puck to touch up axes in the field. The course side is 120 grit with the other side being 280 medium grit. The medium grit (280) is all I use to hone in the field. I use water, not oil, on my puck since I always have water available. Sometimes I use it dry. Either way, I rarely use this stone if I’ve “Rooster’d” my axes in the shop beforehand.

Grip the puck so that your fingers and thumb are not hanging over the bottom of the stone for obvious reasons. Make several circular strokes down and back on one side of the ax bit. Flip to the opposite side of the bit and repeat. I like to hold the ax so its bit in my line of sight. I can adjust the angle of the puck to meet the bit edge as needed. For double bit axes, I sink one bit into a stump to hold the ax in place while sharpening.

I strop the edge with the leather ax sheath to remove burrs as a final step. A piece of wood can also be used as a strop.

I apply a coat of DiY Fixin’ Wax to the axhead when I think about it. This helps prevent rust, which isn’t usually a problem until carbon steel sets for a while. Due to the beef tallow content in my Fixin’ Wax, it also helps to remove pine sap from my tools.

Steven Edholm (SkillCult) has a video of how he made a field “puck” from a Japanese water stone. Pretty creative. The stone has 250 and 1,000 grit sides. I have a stone like this but haven’t made the field puck yet.

We’re interested in learning how you keep your working axes sharp. Let us know in the comments, please.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists

by Todd Walker

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

As the song says, “I started out with nothing, and I’ve got most of it left.”

Those lyrics summed up my feelings since starting this log cabin project in February. I all I had to show for my effort was a bunch of skinned logs scattered through the woods and fields. That all changed this summer. Here’s the progress as of mid July…

Setting Sill Logs

I had my doubts about dry-stacked stone piers as my foundation. The largest sill log measured 14 inches in diameter by 18 feet long. A handy online log calculator estimated the weight for this one log to be 925 pounds. The stones/boulders were far from flat. I did my best to shim them with smaller stones to keep them steady.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dry-stacked stone piers have supported log cabins for hundreds of years… but I had my doubts.

I spent way too much time with a water level trying to ensure all the piers were the same height. Round logs are not dimensional lumber. Get the stones close to the same height and lay logs on top.

In all honesty, my plan was to use only hand tools for this trial of self-reliance. Trees were felled and bucked with an ax, debarked with a bark spud and draw knife, and hauled to site by me as the mule pulling my LogRite Junior Arch… until I attempted to move those half-ton sill logs. A real mule was needed for this job.

My best friend Philip had just finished skinning the two sill logs when Allen, the land owner, walked up to visit. He told us he had just acquired a Kawasaki Mule. Perfect!

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Philip taking a break after debarking one of the 925 pound sill log with the barking spud in the foreground.

Even with Junior hooked to the back-end of the Mule, the big sill logs were a beast to haul back to the cabin site. But it worked!

Log Lifting Tripod

Lifting close to a half a ton of wood, even a few feet off the ground, would require a lot of mechanical advantage using simple machines. Dead cedars were cut and lashed together to form a tripod. The largest leg/pole was about 6 inches in diameter. Standing this heavy tripod up by myself was like watching the Three Stooges. Wish I had filmed this for some comic relief.

Here’s the video of how I lashed the tripod for those interested…

After positioning the tripod over the heaviest sill log, I attached a four-to-one block and tackle system at the top of the tripod. Upon testing the pulley system, I could only lift the log a couple of inches. Not good. I quickly realized that, even if I was able to lift the log, I could not hold the log in place by myself and control the placement on the piers with precision. I needed a lifting device I could control when working alone. I bought a one-ton chain fall (hoist) for $60 the next day. This one tool revolutionized the job!

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The chain fall rigged to the tripod made light work of heavy logs.

Our video below shows how maneuverable the logs are when choked at the balance point.

Sill Logs Notched and Set

I positioned the first sill log on the ground next to the piers to mark for notching. I made relief cuts with my bow saw on each mark about one inch deep. I used a boy’s ax to remove wood chips between the saw cuts. This produced a flat surface for the log to rest on the non-flat stone piers.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Flat notches were cut using a buck saw and ax.

I re-choked the log with the tow strap near the bottom of the log. Lifting by myself with the chain fall, the log slowly turned until the notches faced down. Then the log was lifted to the height needed to be lowered onto the piers. On the way up, the log scraped the side of the piers toppling a few. I re-stacked them and lowered the log cautiously. They held up fine but had a touch of wobble. Small rock shims were inserted to steady the piers.

After months of preparation, the feeling of seeing a huge log off the ground and resting on rocks was pure excitement!

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The first log up!

Square Corners

The next day I set the second log to create the first corner. How do you make corners square using different sized logs which are not even? Here’s how I did it…

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The corner nail is near the head of the hammer where the two chalk lines intersect. The tape measure forms the hypotenuse of the right triangle.

I’ve used the Pythagorean Theorem many times to square corners using dimensional lumber. You need straight lines for this to work. I popped a chalkline down the center of each log. I tacked a nail at the intersection where the two lines crossed in the corner. From that corner nail, I measured three feet down the chalkline and tacked another nail. On the other log, I measured four feet and drove in a nail. I lifted the second log just enough to allow me swing in or out until the distance from both nails measured five feet. This creates a 3-4-5 right triangle ensuring the logs are perpendicular in the corner. A 6-8-10 triangle would be more accurate, but I was by myself and didn’t want to stretch a tape measure 10 feet from nail to nail.

Tight-Pinned Corners

The Butt and Pass method requires no notches. Metal pins hold the logs together to create a sturdy, solid structure.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The brace and bit used to make pilot holes for the rebar pins.

 

I cut 1/2 inch rebar in 20 inch lengths at my shop. Back at the build site, I use a brace and bit to bore a 1/2 inch hole almost through the first log. Probably should drill all the way through but almost through seems to work. Now I drive the pin through the pilot hole and into the adjacent log. I started using a 6 pound sledge with a 36 inch handle. My accuracy suffered. The long handle also kissed my ribcage a few times while hammering bent over. We sawed the handle in half and found it to be the ticket.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A twenty inch rebar pin hammered flush.

A note worth mentioning on driving pins. If you miss hit and bend the pin, stop. Straighten the pin as best as possible before pounding more. A bent pin will find its way through the side or top of the adjacent log. Once all four corners were pinned together, the sill logs became unbelievably steady on the piers.

Log Floor Joists

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

3 of 5 log floor joists set in sill logs. I’ll explain the leveling process on our next article.

I’ve begun hewing log floor joists. Dimensional lumber would speed up the process but I want to use as many raw resources as possible on the cabin. One side of a log gets hewn flat and notched with tenons on both ends. The tenons will mate with mortises notched into the sill logs. I’ll do a more detailed article on what I’ve got planned for the floor system.

Until then, here’s our latest video on the floor system…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Homesteading, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes

by Todd Walker

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Photo credit: Didi Davis

Less than a century ago, woodsmen skilled with an ax could chop wood all day and return to do it again, day after day. They were held in high esteem and highly sought after. Power saws and combustion engines sent yesteryear’s axes to hang on old barn walls. Today the usefulness of axes seems to be limited to splitting firewood… or, for the lumber sexual, as boutique wall-hangers.

How you choose to acquire wood is up to you. However, the steps of cutting timber hasn’t changed. A tree must be felled, limbed, bucked, and hauled. Like other aficionados of working axes, I enjoy experimenting with the potential of our most under-appreciated tool in the woods.

It doesn’t take long for the ax handle to transmit to an inexperienced axman’s brain, and his muscular system, that brute force only dulls the functionality of this tool. Fatigue and frustration are the result. And injury is not far behind. There are no secrets to becoming a proficient axman. However, there are a few techniques and strategies I’ve learned over the years which may shorten the learning curve.

Giving unsolicited advice is not my thing. But if you’d like to continue, here’s my take on thick ax handles, brute force, and working axes.

Heavy, Stupid, and Unreasoning

Watching a beginner axman swing is painful. I cringe when I think back on some of my early ax work. But ax-manship can only be improved through swinging sharp steel on the end of a stick. Like any other skill, practice makes permanent; whether good or bad.

When asked to coach someone new to the art of ax work, I try to convey the two types of force used – finesse and brute force. The origin of the word brute comes from the Latin word brutus, meaning “heavy, stupid, unreasoning.” Set the macho aside in ax work and you get a beautiful, rhythmic relationship between the wood and axman.

Muscling through wood is a white-knuckle affair. I broke my favorite double bit handle last year, not by over-strike or mishit, but by stupidly applying my full force throughout initial contact. The handle was thin, flexible, and a joy to use. Brute force ended its usefulness. It is now taped together and serves as a pattern when thinning down fat factory double bit handles.

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bucking eastern red cedar with the tuned handle on my best double bit.

Simply reducing my forward force just before the moment of impact would have allowed the inertia of the axhead to do the work. Giving that extra “push” through the strike does more harm than good. You’ll not only save ax handles, you’ll reduce some shock sent up the handle. A thinner handle flexes to help absorb and reduce the beating on your body. At least that has been my experience. Wielding an ax with brute force is not how the old timers lasted all day, day after day. This type of finesse is seldom mentioned or passed down to inexperienced axmen.

The resurgence of interest in axes is encouraging to see in outdoorsy groups. Axes are chic, sexy, and scary – all reasons we like them. The novice buys a high dollar ax and proceeds to break the fat factory handle, even after adding a bulky leather over-strike collar. Handle manufactures compensate for low Ax I.Q. with fatter handles. And then again, the age of working axes was so long ago that even commercial handle makers have no reference point as to what a handle should look like and feel like in the hands.

Thicker, modern handles are not the cure. Wrapping your hands around these clubs makes the uninitiated think they’ll never break. Stephen Edholm makes a logical argument (from actual experience with working axes) for thinner handles in the video below. Anyone who chopped all day with an ax will echo the same.

No replacement handle I’ve ever bought in recent memory was ready to hang and go to work. To be fair, there may be some turnkey handles out there. I’ve never found them. I either make my own or customize the club-like handles from hardware stores. Then there’s the rare occasion of finding that forgotten ax at an antique store or yard sale grandpa used before the chainsaw came along.

You can see the noticeable difference between the modern and old working ax handle below.

Power vs Finesse

On occasion, I have split toothpicks (Stim-U-Dent – matchstick size toothpicks) with my ax. I don’t say this to brag. It is, however, a lesson in muscle memory, striking where I look, and relaxing at the end of my swing. Knowing I’m not chopping heavy wood, I began to notice that I was unconsciously easing up about halfway into the downward arc of my natural swing. As a result, I’d hit my mark more times than not.

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Striking where you look.

The human brain is a beautimus, complicated computer. Since few people actually use axes, baseball may help illustrate the point. A pitcher doesn’t aim the baseball as it leaves his outstretched arm. The ball is thrown, not aimed. There’s a significant difference in the two. The same goes for batting. I coached my players to throw their hands at the ball. This is oversimplified. But the brain tells a player when to grip the bat tightly and when to relax the grip. A death grip at the beginning of the swing tightens the muscles in the arms, shoulders, and upper torso causing the swing to be herky jerky. As a result, accuracy plummets since the “flow” is lost. Through years of drills, coordination, practice, and timing, batters learn that aiming won’t hit the target.

I don’t aim my ax. I look at the exact spot I want my blow to land. I then throw my hands through an imaginary plane from my nose to the small target. My only swing thought is “strike where I look.” My natural, controlled swing gets the job done more efficiently. Once you can strike where you look, power will follow accuracy.

Accuracy and Precision

Wasted ax strikes are frustrating and exhausting. Making every blow count takes a combination of accuracy and precision. At first glance, the two words seem the same. But in my world of teaching math and science, they have different meanings. Let’s apply them to working axes.

Accuracy is how close you come to the desired result. Precision is how consistently you get the same result using the same method. Translated to ax-manship, does my swing hit the target and is it consistent enough to repeatedly hit the target?

When bucking, I try to overlap each cut in a three to four swing pattern (depending on log diameter) down the face of the log. This overlapping pattern opens wood fibers to help prevent the ax bit from get stuck in the wood. Repeat this cutting pattern one double bit length wide from the first line of cuts. If accuracy and precision is dialed in, chips the size of the notch will go flying.

Developing accuracy and precision with working axes is like hauling logs, you gotta really want to do it. There’s not a lot of finesse in log hauling.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods

by Todd Walker

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Image used with permission from the builder, Wiley Log Homes.

We built crude log forts in the woods growing up. They weren’t water tight or warm. The wind would cut through the muddle of sticks and threaten to take your hat off. Those were fun times. A bona fide log cabin was what I dreamed of then… and that dream remains.

At nearly my age (55), Dick Proenneke set out to live in a remote area of Alaska. For 30 years, he lived in a log cabin he built with his own hands. You can learn more of his remarkable legacy of self-reliance and conservation by watching the documentary, Alone in the Wilderness.

For those following my cabin project on my YouTube channel, I’m in the early stage of cutting and debarking logs. I don’t have the luxury of waiting a year or more for peeled logs to season. I could wait but patience isn’t one of my strong suits. I’ll build my little “practice” cabin with green logs. I’ve already been asked in video comments how long I’ll let my logs season before building.

Here’s the thing, I’m not going to use traditional saddle notches to connect corners. I may try my hand at saddle notches on cured/seasoned logs at some point. Until then, my research turned up a little-known (to me at least) construction method which uses green, unseasoned logs in construction. If you’re not familiar with this style, let me introduce you…

Butt and Pass Style Log Cabin

The advantages of using the butt and pass construction technique is it requires little in the way of tools and construction experience for a DiY log cabin builder. I’ve got plenty of construction experience and tools. My dilemma is that I have green logs and want to finish the cabin before the end of the school year. This no-scribe, no-notch method will speed up the construction process.

The top photo of this article is a butt and pass log home built by Wiley Log Homes. Ronnie, the owner, gave me permission to share a few of his beautiful handcrafted log homes here. I hope to have a few shots of my own cabin corners soon. Until then, take a look at the corners of these Wiley Log Homes.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This cabin has a stone basement.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Five foot eves help keep water off the logs.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A good shot of the butt and pass corner style.

No matter what method is used green logs will shrink. However, with tight-pinned butt and pass construction, settling will only happen if the foundation/piers are not properly formed. With each course of logs, holes are drilled through the top log through the bottom log. A length of 1/2″ rebar is driven through the logs (tight-pinned) about every two feet. As the green logs cure and shrink, the logs shrink around their center line. The gaps between the logs increase but the wall height remains the same. Touching up the chinking over the first few years will have to happen as the logs cure, so I’ve read.

Self-Reliance on Trial

I plan to build my cabin with hand tools only. That’s a tall order especially when I have power tools at my disposal. The pioneer method doesn’t trump someone who chooses to use power tools. I have a comfortable home and don’t “need” this cabin. But somewhere, back in my deeper, primal self, I want this cabin, if for nothing more than to put my self-reliance on trial. Who knows, I may not make it through the project using just hand tools. Either way, this project has been brewing in my gut for years and feels good to take the first step.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My cousin said this to me after he saw the first logs de-barked. “Hardest step is the first one. I’ve been told this but usually by someone who ain’t doing the stepping.” ~ Tim Hester. This is a photo of Dick Proenneke peering out of his cabin door (Image credit: National Park Service)

I’ve only bucked and de-barked one pine tree so far. My first attempt at skinning logs was with a draw knife. The tool peeled bark really well but would not be a sustainable method for this old man. I needed a method where I’m not bent over scraping with pine sap flying in my face. Enter the tile scraper. I ground the edge on this old long-handled tool and it’s a far cry better than my draw knife on my back. I’ve been using it like a draw knife, scraping long strips of bark off the length of the logs, but will try peeling whole sections off logs by prying around the round part of the log. Not sure how well this will work since the sap is not rising like in spring time.

Another hand-tool concerns that comes to mind is boring holes to accept the rebar pins. Twisting a half-inch auger through logs can’t be easy. Yet another challenge will be transporting 12 and 14 foot logs to the build site in the woods. I won’t be able to split them in half or into rails the way I did in last year’s Axe Cordwood Challenge. I need draught horses, or oxen. Seriously!

Progress Report

To keep up with the log cabin journey, I’ve created a playlist on my channel titled, Log Cabin Build. Most are mine but a few are of Dick Proenneke’s cabin. I’ll also be updating here on the blog.

This is the last video in the log cabin series. I traded my draw knife for a DiY bark spud…

With only one day per week to work on the cabin, progress is slow. Winter break should offer a few extra work days. Below are some photos of my progress.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A storm blow-over bucked and ready for de-barking.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two debarked logs.

After the first two logs, I mentioned in my video about the fun you can have debarking logs. In honor of Tom Sawyer’s fence white washing pitch, I had a buddy and his son show up to my first Barking Party. Evan Newsom, first picture below, was the first to party on!

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tom Sawyer would be so proud!

I even have my school students convinced…

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Introduced students at RISE to the draw knife. They have acquired a liking for this tool.

Sure appreciate having the physical health to be able to attack this pioneer project. It will take longer to construct using hand tools. Patience may become a strong suit of mine after all is said and done.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

5o+ Reasons I’m Thankful for My “Country-as-Cracklin’-Cornbread” Raisin’

by Todd Walker

5o+ Reasons I'm Thankful for My Country as Cracklin' Cornbread_ Raisin' _ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Being raised in the South, these are a few things I’m thankful for today. I’ll bet some of y’all can add to the list.

  • A dust trail behind a truck coming down the long dirt driveway meant you had visitors or someone was lost and in need of directions.
  • The memory of your first green persimmon when you wiser cousin assured you it was an apple.
  • Daddy’s brains and eggs with a side of country ham for breakfast.
  • The day Daddy walked me down the church aisle and stood with me as I was “washed in the blood” and later baptized.
  • Watching Mama skid the black Pontiac to a stop on the dirt road, wait for the dust to pass, and fetching her snake-killing rock from the boot to dispatch a rattler her tires missed.
  • Eating Thanksgiving dinner at Mother Vaughan’s tiny house, where she and Papa Vaughan raised 10 children, followed by pick up football games in her front yard with cousins.
  • Feeling the painful pinch of a crawdad on your finger under a rock in the creek.
  • Camping beneath the Southern stars on Henry and Randy’s trampoline.
  • Watching your line straighten with a speckled trout hooked on the flats of Apalachicola.
  • Riding your pony dressed like John Wayne and shooting your cap gun.
  • Cane pole fishing in a watering hole in the front pasture.
  • Feeling the mud squish between your toes while walking over the freshly plowed bottom field searching for arrowheads after a spring rain.
  • Shooting Daddy’s single-shot 20 gauge at a squirrel directly overhead and getting kicked to the floor of the jon boat in the middle of Little Echeconnee Creek.
  • The smell of Daddy’s Southern cornbread dressing cooking on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Paddling a seasoned fly fisherman all day on the lake just learn his tricks.

5o+ Reasons I'm Thankful for My Country as Cracklin' Cornbread_ Raisin' _ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

  • Watching the lukewarm summer rain dance on the lake and listening to the rhythm on the tin roof of the plywood shack we called The Cabin.
  • Listening to the grown folk tell family stories which we thought were unbelievable.
  • Finding Mama and Aunt Cindy in the hog pen after school, elbow deep in mud, helping a sow in labor.
  • Pulling over on the dirt road a mile from the house to eat a watermelon on the tailgate of Daddy’s pickup.
  • Building a treehouse with scrap lumber and previously bent nails.
  • Eating the first peach of the season straight off the limb.
  • Skipping rocks across the Flint River to determine how many children you’ll have one day ~ thankfully, that didn’t come true.
  • Riding calves in the pasture in the dark.
  • Cow patty fights.
  • Swinging over creeks on wild grape vines.
  • Scalding hogs and scraping hair in late Autumn.
  • Boat (broken sticks) races in ditches during a Summer gully washer.
  • Freaking out when a Cottonmouth wants to join you in the jon boat while frog gigging.
  • Walking the bottom creek to reach the wooden bridge several miles away.
  • Carving our initials on the Beech tree next to the creek feeding the lake.
  • Dirt clod battles.
  • Listening to Merle Haggard on 8-track on a sleepy Saturday morning.
  • Camping on horseback.
  • Shooting a real gun for the first time.
  • Listening to old timers spin yarns and solve the world’s problems at the Grill.
  • Trying to stay vigilant on a 24 hour detail “protecting” our bumper harvest of corn at the big city farmer’s market but falling asleep on burlap sacks anyway.
  • Loading hay bails on the trailer in the heat of a Georgia summer.
  • Old weathered barns.
  • The smell of saddle leather and horses.
  • The prick of a catfish fin in your hand.
  • The tickle of horse’s lips as she eats sweet feed from your hand.
  • Singing “Amazing Grace”, all the verses, in a small town church.
  • Riding our bikes seven miles one way to the Hays General Store across the street from the Dickey’s Peach packing shed.
  • Sitting in the swivel barber’s chair at Mr. Lindsey’s filling station and sipping on my RC Cola with salted peanuts fizzing and floating inside the bottle.
  • Filling your chest waders after stumbling in a beaver pond while duck hunting in February.
  • Living in a small town with no red lights, a general store, post office, one church, a cotton gin, and a peach packing shed.
  • Riding on the back of a pickup truck on dusty dirt roads.
  • Burning household trash in a 55 gallon drum.
  • Pronouncing pecan correctly… Pee-can.
  • When the judge looks out the courthouse window and asks, “Melvin, those your cows coming down the road?” and dismisses Daddy from jury duty to round ’em up.
  • We still called sushi bait.
  • Grits. We have grits and redeye gravy!
  • When someone says, Fixinto or Piddlin‘, we know what they mean. I reckon so.
  • Hauling a load of trash to the dump and shooting bottles Daddy tossed in the air to help my dove shooting skills.
  • Chasing fireflies on summer evenings.

If the good Lord made anything better than being raised in the South, He kept it to Himself.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way

by Todd Walker

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Technology, a modern marvel, keeps our hands clean and our hearts distant from the trees which built and furnish our homes. Very few ever experience turning a log into dimensional lumber with an ax and saw. Those days are long gone except for a few holdouts, myself included. While our production rate is dwarfed by modern milling methods, resurrecting  traditional skills is worth every ounce of effort, sweat, blood, and fears.

In 1969, we left the city and moved to the country. The old house at the front of our family farm rested on massive hand hewn timbers. Crawling between the stone pillars at age 7, I still vividly remember the ax-scarred wood, a signature left by men who carved out a living homestead from trees.

It was just an old dilapidated house. But those timbers told the forgotten story of the old ways.

And, like their story, my journey to preserving lost skills continues… in the old ways.

Hewing Timber by Hand

There are three basic steps in hewing timber: scoring, juggling, and hewing. There’s no complicated gear list required to turn round logs into square timber. Here’s what you’ll need.

Tools

  • Ax(es) – Start with what you’ve got. A dedicated broad ax (hewing ax) is not required.
  • Saw – Something to cut the end of the log flat. A chainsaw is not traditional but certainly advised if you don’t have a good crosscut saw.
  • Log Dogs – Two large metal staples to secure the log in place while hewing. A 2×4 nailed/screwed to the log works as well.
  • Marking Tools – Chalk line and carpenters pencil.
  • Level – To create plumb and level lines for the layout.
  • Measuring Device – Measuring tape or ruler for layout dimensions.
  • Cant Hook – Not essential but helps when moving larger diameter logs.

Tree Selection

Tulip Poplar grows fast, straight, and uniform. However, if you’ve ever split this wood, you’ve probably noticed that the grain tends to run off in a spiral fashion to one side of the log. My experience hewing, which is limited, Tulip Poplar caused me to change directions of swinging a few times to follow the grain orientation in such a way as to cut across the grain. This prevented my ax from following the grain deep in the stock.

I’m now experimenting with pine. Whatever tree is used, green wood hews easier than seasoned. A tree with clear grain and no knots (or not many of these rascals) is desirable.

Dog the Log

The first order of business is securing the round log to prevent movement in the hewing process. You’ll need two shorter logs which the longer log will rest on perpendicular. These supports are called cribbing. Larger cribbing logs will lift the work off the ground to a more comfortable working height. Your back will thank you.

Drive one end of a log dog into the long log with the other end driven into the cribbing log. Repeat this step on the opposite end. This process is called dogging the log.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A dogged tulip poplar at my fixed camp.

My crude log dogs are two pieces of rebar which I forged in my shop. This metal is not the best as it can be brittle and break under stress while forging.

Below is our video of the tulip poplar hewn above.

Lay Out Dimensions

Cut both ends of the log perpendicular with a saw. Now you have a smooth surface to lay out the dimensions of your timber on opposite ends of the log.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A 10 x 10 inch square layout on one end of the log.

Start the lay out at the top end of the log (smallest diameter). Measure and mark the center of the log with your ruler and pencil. This may not be in the pith of the tree. Place your level on the mark and draw a plumb line down the middle of the log. Measure over from that line your desired width and make a mark. If you’re finished timber width is 10 inches, this mark would be 5 inches from the center mark. Repeat this layout on the opposite side of the center mark. Use the level to mark both of these vertical plumb lines.

For a 10 x 10 inch square timber, measure and mark from the center line up 5 inches and down 5 inches. Draw the top and bottom lines level. All four lines should be drawn to the edge of the log.

Repeat this lay out on the butt end of the log.

Snap Chalk Lines

Strip or flatten the bark off the log where your chalk line will be snapped. I use my felling ax for this step. Cut a notch or slice on the pencil line at the top edge of the log. Secure your line on the end of the log and run the line through the notch, down the length of the log, and through the other corresponding line notch at the opposite end. Secure the line and snap the chalk line.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Be sure to snap the line vertically to preserve the plane laid out on the end of the log.

Snap the line by lifting and releasing the string vertically. This will create a plumb line down the length of the log. This is the plane you will follow for a squared off timber. Note: If you lift the line out away from the log, your plane will not match your layout on the end of the log.

Scoring

The pine I’m hewing now is the largest diameter (18 inches) I’ve worked. This size is large enough to stand on to score. I’ve only done two types of scoring: slash and juggling (or joggling).

Slash scoring is done by making a series of overlapping ax cuts down the length of the log. These slash cuts are angled (30-40 degrees) into the log and about 3 inches apart down the side of the log. A sharp felling ax with a 36 inch handle is what I use. The longer handle makes reaching the bottom side of the plumb line “easier.” There’s really nothing easy about hand-hewing timber.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

V-notches cut to the line create jogs which are removed in the juggling process. The notches don’t have to be super clean.

The other scoring method I’ve used is juggling. Also called joggling due the joggles protruding between the V-notches down the side of the log. If the log is large enough to safely stand on, step up on the top of the log and cut notches to the line about a foot apart the entire length of the log. Make your notches about twice as wide as the depth needed to reach the line. Standing on top the log gives me a better read on making my notch vertical down the entire plane of the log.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A view from above a V-notch. The blue chalkline is faintly visible to the left.

Slash scoring, in my experience, is best when there is not a lot of wood to be removed to reach the line. With more than a couple of inches to be removed, juggling works better for me.

Juggling

You’re now ready to remove the joggles or the slashes, depending on the scoring method used. For simplicity sake, I’ll describe the method for removing joggles. Either way, this step holds the most potential for injury. The reason being, if your juggling on the ground, is that your making powerful vertical ax strokes which are not backed up in your frontal zone.

There are ways to reduce the risk of an ax in the foot. The safest way is to swing from on top of the log to remove the jogs… that’s if the you’re able to stand on top of the log. Be sure to keep your feet behind the chalkline and the swings below your feet.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jogs removed with a felling by standing on top of the log. I tend to cut too close to line. About a half-inch of wood should be left for the hewing process.

You can remove jogs while standing on the ground. With the log to your left, place your right foot forward and about two feet to the right of the log. Your left foot should be well behind your body with the left leg braced on the log.

I’ve also removed joggles by standing on the opposite of the log. This is very safe but requires that you turn the log at an angle so you can reach the joggles with your ax. This also means the log must be repositioned to plumb before hewing. On smaller diameter logs, straddling the log is an option.

I like using my felling ax to remove joggles. I’ve seen some use a broad ax to do the job. And then again, Tim at Oxbow Farm (link to his YouTube channel) has demonstrated hewing beams using his felling ax only. Do what works for you.

When the joggles are removed, there should be about a half-inch of wood proud of the chalk line. This remaining wood will be removed in the next step.

Hewing

Hewing to the line transforms a round log into square timber. The hewing swing is not a full ax stroke. It’s mostly performed through forearm movement. Hewing is best performed with a circular slicing motion on each swing regardless of the style of ax used.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Reverse this stance if you have a right-hand hewing ax.

Note: The pictures shows me using my broad ax which is hung left-handed. I’ve yet to re-handle it for right-hand hewing. However, when hewing with my felling ax, I hew right-handed, which is described below.

Stand with the log to the left of your body for right handers. Place your right foot forward and away from the log with your left foot back. Brace your left leg against the log for stability. Grip the ax handle right hand forward and left to the rear. The forward hand should be close (6-8 inches) to the ax head.

The traditional broad ax handle in America was short, in the 20 inch range. Handles were steam-bent into S-shapes or dog leg patterns to help the hewer’s knuckles clear the log edge on swings. My handle is straight and causes me to bark my knuckles from time to time.

Start from the top of the log and work towards the butt end. Begin with gentle strokes on the line to separate the remaining wood. Continue to raise and lower the ax in a controlled manner as you follow this kerf to the bottom of the log.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Very thin shavings can be produced using a broad ax.

Each swing should end in a slicing motion. Some of the chips removed will be as thin as potato chips. When your forearms need a break, and believe me, they’ll be screaming, standup and sight down the log edge to check for plumb. I usually notice that my bottom edges have un-hewn wood proud of the plumb line.

The process described above is repeated on the remaining three sides of the log. To hew the opposite side of the log, remove one log dog and reattach it on the hewn side of the log. Removing both dogs at once may shift the log out of plumb. With two sides are hewn flat, the timber will lay steady on the cribbing. If the cribbing is level, the remaining two sides can be hewn plumb. Adjust as needed.

Logs to Lumber: Hand-Hewn Timber the Old Way - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The hewn surface isn’t as smooth as I’d like on the first pass with the broad ax. It needs a another pass to help smooth out the side.

My journey in the traditional skill of hand-hewn timber has just begun. I’m rewarded with useable timber, rough to experienced hewer’s standards, and a deeper connection to simple technology and the old ways.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

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