Homesteading

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls

by Todd Walker

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update Raising Walls

This one is considerably larger than my “practice cabin.”

I built my practice log cabin just to see if I could do it and to hone my ax skills. However, the Big Log Cabin is being built to provide a basic human need, shelter. This will be my home base on the land I grew up on. Roots run deep here!

After completing the foundation piers in the scorching Georgia summer, I waited for things to cool down before stacking log walls. Heavy lifting equipment and help needed to be lined up for cool Autumn weather. Everything fell into place.

It’s a family thing. I’m thankful to have kin folk with heavy equipment. Chris, my across-the-lake cousin, hooked me up with yet another cousin, Wendy (A & W Mechanical and Fabrication), who was happy to let me use their 20 ton boom truck! This was a far cry better than my tripod and chain fall system I used to set logs on the practice cabin. The boom truck easily handled the two 46 foot sill logs.

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On the chilly Friday morning, Donny, Woody, and I began setting the sill logs. Donny operated the crane, among other duties, while Woody and I coaxed the pre-drilled sill logs onto 1/2 inch rebar cemented into the piers. Lining up the holes in the sill logs as they floated over the metal anchor rods took some patient wrangling. Once the rod slide through the hole, we bent the rebar stub over the log to anchor the sill logs to the foundation.

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls TheSurvivaSherpa.com

About noon that same day, reinforcements arrived in the form one JJ Morris (Fuel the Fires). With a crew of 4 now, we made good progress and completed 2 courses of logs on the walls.

In the Butt and Pass method of log cabin building, each new row of logs has a length of half inch rebar driven through the top log into the log underneath to provide strength and stability to the structure. Each course of logs took about 45 sticks of rebar spaced apart at 30 inches. And each butt joint, the corner junctions, gets a stick of rebar to tie it all together.

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls TheSurvivaSherpa.com

This is the most time consuming part of the wall construction, drilling holes through the top log and partially into the lower log with a Milwaukee Hole Hawg 1/2 inch drill. Next comes hammer time! We drove the rebar into the bottom log with a sledge hammer. 

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls TheSurvivaSherpa.com

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls TheSurvivaSherpa.com

By quitting time Friday, we had complete two rows on the walls. That may not seem like much to some, but it was a good day’s work.

Saturday brought more help. Melonie (Mel of the Mountains) arrived and jumped right in to help where needed. She did a lot of lifting of the heavy Hole Hawg to JJ and Woody as they drilled and drove rebar. She also was in charge of filming this monumental occasion.

My cousin, Chris, operated the boom which freed up Donny for ground duty. He mainly operated his tractor to lift and drag logs from the landing to the crane. Of course if you know Donny, he did way more than that… entertaining stories and BS is one of his specialties. Two of my nephews who live on the land, Blake and Kyle, also came to lend a hand.

Five rows of logs were up by the end of the day Saturday!

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls TheSurvivaSherpa.com

Building with “carrots” has unique challenges compared to dimensional lumber. You’ll notice in the pic above that the sill log doesn’t rest on the second pier from the left at the bottom… even though the piers are on a level plane. We remedy this by adding blocking to raise the pier to meet the log.

Sunday turned into a short day. I had enough logs on the landings for what I thought would make 8 or 9 rows. After sifting through all the straightest logs the two previous days, reality set in. Many of the logs had warped while laying there since May of ’21 making them unfit for the walls. That was a hard pill to swallow. We ended up only having enough logs to complete six and a half courses. We knocked off around two o’clock.

Thanksgiving Log Cabin Update: Raising Walls TheSurvivaSherpa.com

Before gathering more logs, 30 more logs to complete the walls, I will add more supports for the 2 landings. Too much blood, sweat, and tears goes into prepping straight logs to see them warp in storage. Lesson learned!

Even with the setback, I’m so thankful to my family and friends for their love, support, and hard work on this project! Happy Thanksgiving!

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 haven’t done so already, be sure to check out the new Survival Sherpa School and smash that subscribe button at the top of the page!

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.

Categories: Homesteading, Lost Skills, Self-reliance, Doing the Stuff, Log Cabin | 2 Comments

Introducing the Survival Sherpa School

Survival Sherpa School Logo - Black

Retirement (June 2022) has me reflecting on my lifework. The dust-covered rocking chair overlooking the pond tells me that it ain’t over. In between working on my new log cabin, I’ve been building my next adventure, the Survival Sherpa School!

Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.

~ Fred Rogers

December 2022 marks the 11th birthday of this blog. While writing over 600 articles here, I’ve never made a dime from the blog. I’m not more virtuous than others by offer all this free information over the years. I don’t hate money, it’s just the model I chose from the beginning.

However, the Survival Sherpa School is a separate site with a mission to offer hands-on classes to help you learn, prepare, and survive. With the help of my good friend, Melonie of Mel of the Mountains, we now offer a variety of classes on many primitive and traditional skills from bark baskets to hide tanning. I’ll be adding more class content in the near future.

Do me a favor and go check out the site to see what may interest you or someone you know.

While you’re visiting the Survival Sherpa School, hit that Subscribe button to join our community. You’ll be the first to be notified of upcoming classes, events, and exclusive content you won’t see on this blog, YouTube channel, or social media.

Some of our followers have been here from the very start and I can’t thank you enough for all your faithful support! We’ve learned a lot together through the magic of the internet. I’ll continue to post value-added content here, don’t worry.

After our Appalachian Bark Basket class at Little Rose Nature Adventures, we’ve taught three more classes in two states (GA and NC)! Below are some highlights of the experiential learning going on.

Appalachian Bark Baskets

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More than an arts and crafts class, these eager students learned the context of making natural containers which their ancestors used many years ago.

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Firecraft Essentials

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Fire is life and learning many methods to achieve a sustainable fire is essential.  IMG_1525

Modern ferrocerium rod in action.

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Although we teach primitive and modern techniques, we stress that your fire kit should be simple enough that a five-year-old can use it.

Homeschool Co-op Demo in North Carolina

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Melonie demonstrating the utility of turning raw animal hides into useful material for clothing and gear.

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Axmanship 101

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Students discovered and practiced hands-on techniques to safely fell, limb, buck, and split wood with their ax only. Thanks to Georgia Bushcraft, LLC for hosting this class.

Georgia Bushcraft Fall Gathering

A few of the classes we taught at this years fall gathering. Mel of the Mountains showing students how to make their own buckskin medicine pouches.

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Two ladies getting their hands dirty practicing the Flip-Flop Winch.

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As you can see, we’ve had a busy schedule recently! If you’d like to stay up to date on future classes and content, be sure to subscribe to our email list here. By the way, we will travel to you or your group’s location for classes and personal instruction.

I’d also like to thank my long-time blogging friend, Patrick Blair of NinjaWolf Studios, for his expert work in building the new Survival Sherpa School website! Be sure to check out Southern Dreams Homestead where he and Jessie are building a self-reliant urban homestead right here in Georgia.

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 the 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: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Education, Survival Skills | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Log Cabin Foundation Piers are Complete

by Todd Walker

A solid foundation is essential no matter what you’re building; a business, relationships, liberty, self-reliance, or a log cabin in the woods.

At my age, it’s tempting to build the log cabin so it only last my twenty or so years I have left (God willing.) But then there’s the generational thing I’d like to pass on to my children, grandchildren, and their children, just as Daddy intended when he bought this land 53 years ago. When I’m long gone, it is my hope that they will embrace this log cabin as a legacy of self-reliance and liberty. So I best build it to last!

When I mention to friends and family that I have 32 piers for my 1,000 square foot log cabin to rest on, they look at me kinda funny – like I’ve lost my mind, actually. Since this isn’t a conventionally stick-built house, I over-engineered on purpose.

The wall logs I harvested off our land average 14 inches in diameter on the butt end and 36 feet long minimum (estimated weight = 1,725# each). The longest sill logs are 46 feet long (estimated weight = 2,556# each). Now let’s go with just the 36 footers stacked 10 high on four walls, not including chinking or roof. I’m estimating the load to weigh around 34,500 tonnes for just the wall logs. I don’t know what a finished stick-built house weighs, but I’m glad I’ve got my 32 piers.

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Digging It!

Once the lot was graded, I laid out the footer/pier foundation locations. My cousin, Chris, who grew up on this land with me, has acquired all kinds of cool toys over the years. He has loaned his tractor to skid logs, graded the lot with his loader, and he’s digging footers (pictured below) in our soil made of shellrock, Georgia red clay, and sand. It was a challenge even for his mini-excavator. Shellrock is tough!

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I call on my cousin Chris when I need heavy equipment.

The footer holes fill with water after rain showers and have to be pumped or bailed with a bucket. I used the bucket method on two holes. Then the “work smarter, not harder” phrase came to me as I stood in muddy muck boots drenched in salty sweat.

I’ve got a sump pump! And a generator! That ended my bucket bailing. That pump sucks so well I named it Sleepy Joe!

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Being overzealous, I drained the other 30 holes. Shovel in hand, I began cleaning out the loose dirt and mud until my courage drained. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

That night it rained and recreated 32 small, muddy bathtubs. I’m a quick learner though. From that point on in this ditch-digging adventure, I tackled one hole at a time to avoid that distinct sucking sound.

The one-hole-at-time strategy is not efficient in the least. But given that my crew consisted of me in the beginning, it saved time and labor in the end by only shoveling holes once.

Then one fine day, help showed up. She’s not unfamiliar with the project as she has helped fell, skid, and skin logs here. Melonie (Mel of the Mountains) was a welcomed sight as she used her bakery skills to apply mortar between blocks. No waste and greatly sped up the pier building process. She also stacked block at each footer hole, hauled 60 pound bags of cement/mortar, built frames for footers, and backfilled piers with a shovel.

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Melonie, who ran an award-winning bakery in Atlanta for 16 years, had the idea of using a piping bag instead of me wasting mortar with my trowel.

Once a hole is shoveled and leveled somewhat, I then level the footer box, add rebar, mix concrete in the wheelbarrow with a hoe, and pour it smooth. While still wet, I set the first layer of blocks in the concrete. Laying the remaining blocks was a matter of following the bottom pattern. Easy peasy!

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Leveling a footer box and backfilling piers in the Georgia heat and humidity.

My largest piers were constructed with three blocks on the base layer. These large piers will support sill logs and also serve as a solid foundation for the ridge pole support logs (RPSL) down the center of the cabin and the purlin support logs (PSL) on either side of the ridge pole. Both of the RPSL and PSL will stand vertically on these piers to reach their respective roof structural logs.

I also cemented J-hook rebar in several block cells on the building perimeter. Sill logs will be pre-drilled to match the rebar locations. The rebar will be guided through each sill log as it is slowly lowered onto the piers.

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Rebar anchors for sill logs.

Once the log is in place, the rebar will be hammered flush over the top of the log to anchor it to the piers. This first layer of wall logs will take the most time and effort to install. Then the stacking begins!

This coming week I’m going to sort, label, and prep logs for the wall construction.

Thanks for following the journey, and, as always, Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance.

~ Todd

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa

Categories: Homesteading, Life-Liberty-Happiness, Log Cabin, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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: Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , | 5 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: , , , | 7 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

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