Log Cabin

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.

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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

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.

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Copyright © by Survival Sherpa

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

Chinking the Log Cabin

by Todd Walker

The cracks and gaps between the logs needed to be filled to make it look like a real log cabin. The process of filling the gaps is called chinking. Before modern products came along, chink was made of mud and/or clay, and straw. Chink serves as an insulator against cold wind, moisture, and insects.

When I started this project in January of 2018, I thought of using Georgia red clay for chinking. That idea lost momentum as the project drug along. I decided to go with masonry mortar. It’s quick, easy and relatively cheap.

I chose to use the Butt and Pass method of log home construction. The folks teaching and using this method recommend masonry cement or mortar for chink. Nothing I read suggested adding anything to the mortar mix to help prevent the chink from cracking over time. Butt and Pass log cabins are not known for settling as other construction styles are prone to do.

My mix ratio of water to one 60 pound bag of mortar was 3.5 quarts to 1 bag. The bag instructions said one gallon per bag. I found that much water made the mortar too wet and had a hard time hanging in the gaps.

We mixed the mortar in a wheelbarrow.

Before slapping any mortar in the gaps, I used my pneumatic framing gun to drive nails 2-3 inches apart in all the cracks between the logs on the outside of the cabin. I dropped the air pressure so an inch or so of the nail stuck up above the wood. Some gaps can be fairly large in the corners due to the Butt and Pass method. I had to get creative there. I then went back and bent the nails vertically to give the chinking something to hold on to.

A lot of nails went into this process.

Once I nailed all the outside gaps, foam (Great Stuff) was sprayed into the large corner gaps. I then stuffed fiberglass insulation into the remaining gaps between the logs. It’s important to not stuff the gaps too full of insulation. There should be a little space between the nails and the insulation in order for the mortar to grab the nails. After the foam set up, I trimmed the bulging foam to make it recessed from the nails.

Now comes the fun part! Experimentation with applying the mortar was frustrating. I tried scooping it in the gaps with the masonry trowel. Most of the mortar ended up on the ground.

Then my good friend Melonie of Mel of the Mountains, who I’m apprenticing under for brain tanning deer hides, came to help with the chinking. She owned a bakery for sixteen years and made extravagantly decorated cakes. While on a scaffold board at the top log of the cabin, I glanced over at her while she was chinking and was shocked at how easily she applied the mortar. When I questioned her ease with this skill, she said it’s the same technique as icing a cake. She held the mortar board up to the gap and swiped the mortar into the gap and smoothed it with her trowel. Amazing! That was a game changer for me.

The same as icing a cake she says.

There’s a learning curve to every skill you’re tackling. Chinking is no different. Having the right tools helps. I used a one and half inch masonry trowel which is rectangular in shape to apply and smooth the mortar. The joints are somewhat convex. A flat finish didn’t appeal to me.

The corners were a challenge to create a smooth finish. The trowel wouldn’t get into the spaces to smooth the mortar. I ended up using my gloved hands to smooth the finish as best as possible. If anyone has a better idea, I’d sure like to hear from you!

Working the mortar with the trowel.

Once the chinking was complete, I stood back and realized that my log building actually looked like a traditional log cabin! A very satisfying feeling came over me.

Satisfied!

Below is the chinking video on my YouTube channel if you’re interested in this sort of thing.

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: Doing the Stuff, Log Cabin, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , | 2 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

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics

by Todd Walker

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A boot full of blood. Tenons and bones severed. A tourniquet to stop arterial bleeding.

After watching the video footage of the ax striking my foot, all of the above should have happened but didn’t. I kept working on the log cabin. In fact, a whole month passed before a coworker noticed and asked how I sliced my boot.

“Huh?”

“Your boot. How’d you cut it?”

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Inspection at school.

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I really had no idea. I would have remembered almost lopping my foot off. No recollection of me bent down like a toddler filling his diaper, mouth gaping in terror, in search of blood. I racked my memory.

An axman should remember and learn from close calls. I dug into old video footage and found the ax-boot encounter.

In all my years of swinging axes, I’ve never been bit seriously. Blood has dripped from minor nicks while handling an ax or in the sharpening process. But never in full swing.

At the 1:22 mark in the video below, you’ll see how I violated the Frontal Zone Rule by dangling my foot over the log like bait over the rail of a deep-sea fishing boat.

Did Danner Defy Physics? 

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Forces occur in pairs. Each force is of equal strength but in opposite direction. Even though the two forces are equal, this does not mean that they will cancel each other and stop movement.

Nothing defies the physical laws of nature except comic book superheroes. My Explorer boots reached Superman status after stopping a speeding ax.

Dan, a buddy of mine, said I should bronze the boots and place them on my mantle as a family heirloom. He has a good point. Even with the ax gash, I still wear them to school everyday to teach traditional outdoor skills. On weekends building my log cabin, they remain watertight and too comfortable not to wear.

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Boots still on the ground in our outdoor classroom.

American Made Craftsmanship

I keep my working axes honed and shaving-sharp. The ax strike separated the inside edge of my boot sole, surgically splitting one stitch, and slicing the leather upper. I really expected the adjacent stitching to begin to fail. Two and a half months of daily wear since the ax-ident and not a stitch has unravelled. These Superman boots are built to last. Thanks to Danner’s superior, Made in America craftsmanship, my foot is not a nub!

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Thank you, Danner!

Buy Once, Cry Once

“Price is what you pay and value is what you get.”

~ Warren Buffet

Buying high quality boots is like old-fashioned window shopping. The item catches your eye. You really want it. Then you see the price tag. There’s no way you can pay that price. But you still go out of your way to walk past that window daily to get another look and dream of owning the thing.

Your desire hasn’t changed, you’re just not willing to pay the price.

Price is painful once but value lasts long-term. You see, I wanted a pair of high-quality, American-made boots, that could be resoled after many years of tramping in the woods. Even after the ax sliced my boot, not one tear rolled down my face. My foot is worth more than the price of these fine boots! I’m a lifetime customer now. If Danner can’t re-craft the sliced leather upper, I’ll continue to wear them as a sober reminder while swinging axes.

Fit, Finish, Break-In

Opening the box and holding these brand new boots made me smile. The seams were double-stitched with precision. One feature I like about these Explorers is the minimum amount of seams in the boot. This can only reduce the chances of leakage or snags when tramping through rough terrain and bogs. Even the laces are made of quality material.

The Vibram sole grips wet and dry soil like a mama hugging her son returning from war. The wide rubber sole adds stability and amazing traction. I typically trim pine bark off the top of logs where I’ll place my feet when under bucking with my double bit ax. This step is not needed since I bought the Explorers. The aggressive treads hold my feet in place securely on the bark. The only surface I’ve found they don’t grip is freshly peeled inner pine bark (see above blooper video). A man would need hobnail boots to stand on this slick stuff!

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Nature’s slippy slide

I kept an old pair of boots in my truck the first week I wore my Explorers. Never needed to use the spares. No hot spots on my heels or other suspected pressure points I would normally feel from snug fitting leather boots. I played around with the lacing to fine tune the fit over that first week. The full-grain leather upper began mating to my feet like the soft breath of wool socks on a winter day. These rugged boots love my feet and punish rocks and roots – even axes.

If you want a boot that can handle the rigors of building an off-grid log cabin, rugged backwoods adventures, and still look good at the office, pay the price and get yourself a pair of Explorers. If you want lightweight, synthetic, Vegan friendly, foreign-made footwear, look elsewhere. Danner Explorer full-grain leather boots are handcrafted from top to bottom in Portland, Oregon (Made in USA).

One of my grandsons will receive my Superman boots when I’m gone with the story of how they saved my foot that hot July day 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 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: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin

by Todd Walker

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I think I now understand why so many pioneer log cabins had packed dirt floors.

Ease of construction may have been the #1 reason. Lacking dimensional lumber, time, and labor, a dirt floor was an easy solution. You weren’t necessarily poor, but the term, “dirt poor”, stuck. Believe it or not, there’s a growing number of wealthy folk returning to earthen floors.

With my self-reliance on trial, I wanted a wooden floor for my little log cabin in the woods… complete with a front porch overlooking the creek. As promised in our last article, here’s what I came up with for my budget floor support system.

Round Log Floor Joists

A big box hardware store is a 10 minute drive from the cabin site. They sell dimensional lumber of all sizes to speed up the build. However, this whole “self-reliance on trial” thing had me going another direction.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The living area with five log joists set in place.

When I first started this project in February, the cabin dimensions were going to be a cozy 8’x10′. The first tree I felled was bucked into 10 foot sections for the 8 foot walls. Since expanding the cabin size to 10’x12′, the 10 footers wouldn’t work for wall logs. Bingo! These would become my floor joists.

Hew One Side Flat

Ax-cut logs need to be sawn flat on both ends to start the hewing process. Secure the log to cribbing with log dogs. Last year I made two from half-inch rebar which work fine. Hammer one point into the log and the other into the cribbing log. Repeat on the other end of the log.

I choose the side with the fewest knots to hew. Pine knots are a curse from the devil for hewers. The chosen side is turned and secured to the cribbing perpendicular to the ground. Dog the log before marking plumb lines.

Measure the center of the log end horizontally and place a mark at the halfway point. Place a level on the mark vertically and draw a plumb line. Do the same operation to draw a level horizontal line through the center mark. You should now have two lines intersecting to form a cross hair on the end of the log. Repeat this step on the other log end.

One more plumb line to draw before we’re done. Determine how much wood you want to remove from the side of the log. Place the level at that point and draw a vertical plumb line. I took off about an inch of wood which created ample flat surface on the joists.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Plumb and level lines drawn

Where this second plumb line meets the top of the round log, use a knife or ax to score a slit through the line. Drive a nail shallow in the cross hair. Hook the string of a chalk line box to the nail. Slip the string into the slit at the top of the log and run the chalk line to the other end of the log. Secure it in the other slit you made. While holding the line in the slit, reach down the line with your other hand and pull the chalk line up vertically, not horizontally. Release and the sting to “snap” or “pop” the chalk line.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The chalkline secured in the ax slit at the top of the line to be hewed.

By the way, all my logs have been debarked. If hewing with bark on the log, strip off a section of bark where the chalk line will be snapped. Read more about hewing with the bark on in this article.

Scoring

Scoring is the process of making relief cuts down the side of the log to remove the bulk of wood before hewing to the line.  With so little wood to remove from the floor joist, I thought slash cuts would be best. Slashing is a series of overlapping 45 degree cuts about 4 inches apart down the length of the log. However, the logs had seasoned enough to make it difficult to remove wood after slashing.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Slash scoring with the log turned 30 degrees added too much extra work.

I ended up cutting “V” notches about a 8 inches apart down the log side. The raised wood between the notches are called jogs or joggles. The joggles were removed close to the chalkline with my ax. The log floor joists were all in the 6-8 inch diameter range. Not large enough to stand on to cut notches with my long-handled felling ax. I stood on the opposite side of the log and cut notches using a 26 inch boy’s ax. Make sure that the notches go all the way to the line and are plumb through to the bottom of the log.

 Joggling or Juggling

Now is the time to remove the joggles. On these small logs, I used the grub bit of my double bit felling ax mostly. The 36 inch handle allowed me to swing almost upright, saving my back. Removing this excess wood can be the most dangerous part of the whole hewing process. A forceful swing is needed to knock off the protruding joggles. Be aware of where your legs and feet are before swinging.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I hewed several logs with my double bit only.

My most comfortable stance was to straddle the log with my right foot well to the right of the log. A slight bend at the waist and knees adds insurance that the ax will strike the ground and not my boot. The grub bit will strike the ground as it passes through the wood from time to time. Wood chips create a barrier between the bit and ground as the process continues.

A safer way to remove joggles is to rotate the log on the cribbing about 30 degrees (captured two photos above). A lateral swing (out of the frontal zone) is used with the log between you and the moving ax. You’ll need to re-plumb the log before hewing to the line.

Hewing

With a thin layer of wood (1/2 inch or less) proud of the chalkline, hewing begins. I used my broad ax on some, and the double bit felling ax on others. I’ve become fond of using the longer double bit even for hewing. It dealt with lighter’d knot better. I found that once the joists were rough-hewn with the double bit, I could set them in the sill log notches and comfortable hew high spots by swing horizontally with my broad ax. And it could be done while I sat on the adjacent joist.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hewing to the line with the double bit ax. This log was almost too short to use. Notice the ax-cut end almost makes a nice tenon.

The angle in which the double bit struck the wood had to be adjusted. It’s not a vertical swing like the broad ax. Once the angle is dialed in, the wood begins to slice off. I actually obtained smoother finishes using the double bit over the broad ax. I got closer to the chalkline as well. Keep in mind, this is rough-hewn lumber.

Mortise and Tenon

Before joists could be set, a level line was needed on the inside of the sill logs. Using a water level, I penciled in marks on all four corners. A chalkline was snapped to give me a level line on the two sill logs where the top of the joists would rest.

I marked the sill logs at 2 foot intervals for joist positions along the 12 foot walls. Mortise joints (pockets) were cut into the sill log with a 2 inch chisel and dogwood maul. The mortise pockets measured about 2″x4″. Each joist measurement, from pocket to pocket, was different. Working with round logs of differing diameter is entirely different from building with dimensional lumber.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The faint blue chalkline is still visible. This joist needed to be lowered. I switched to red chalk as it seemed to last longer.

Tenons were cut on the ends of each joist to match the mortise pockets. Joists were set and raised or lowered to meet the level line on the sill logs. A simple wedge of wood underneath or trim of the tenon did the trick.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mortises chiseled to 2″x4″ dimensions.

Leveling Joists

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The four-foot level on top of the aluminum bar extended my reach to four joists at once.

Though each joist tenon met the level line on the sill logs, rough-hewn logs will have high spots… at least from a hewer like me. I used a long piece of rectangular aluminum as a straightedge coupled with a 4′ level to ride atop four of the five joists. I moved the level from sill to sill checking for high spots and dips in the joists.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Close enough!

Taking a comfortable sitting position on an adjacent joist, I planed the high spots down with the broad ax. This was a great change of pace on how I typically swing this heavy hewing ax. Recheck level, plane, recheck, plane… until my OCD subsided. It’s close enough for an off-grid log cabin in the woods!

After shimming and shaving to level joists, I carved and drove wooden wedges into the mortise pockets to take away any wiggle that might be present in the joints. I’m following the same process for the front porch log joists. I’m running 3 long joists perpendicular to the living area joists with a girder underneath at the halfway point. The 6’x12′ front porch will provide hours of relaxing ambiance as creek water tumbles over rocks.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One more porch joist to add…

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, Log Cabin, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 7 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

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

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