Your Log House
The On-Site Manual For The Do-It-Yourselfer
What's the book about?

Preface
Illustrated Glossary of Terms

  1. Introduction
  2. Why a Log House?
  3. House Design
  4. Traditional Principles & Contemporary Design
  5. Log Acquisition
  6. Getting Started on the Building
  7. Organizing the Site and Equipment
  8. Foundations
  9. Timber Layout
  10. First Logs & Floor Joists
  11. The Chainsaw
  12. Setting Wall Logs
  13. Openings
  14. Framing Walls
  15. Building the Roof
  16. Round Log Piece-en-piece
  17. Stair Planning
  18. Thermal Resistivity of Wood

• Includes 15 House Plans!

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The Book: Your Log House

12. Setting Wall Logs

Among log builders, you may hear statements like these, “I know an old Finnish log builder who uses the Norwegian notch,” “I understand that the Swedish saddle is the best notch,” or “My great uncle, one of the best log house builders in the country, swears by the Russian round notch.” How about the “Lithuanian lateral groove” or the “Polish profile projection”? The “Latvian goatherd’s gouge” might be a useful notching tool.

Through my reading, exploration, and experimentation, I have, like King Solomon, come to the conclusion that “nothing is new under the sun” – or at least, very little.

History reveals some interesting facts about the development of log building. First, forms used today actually existed in such places as Japan, Poland, the Ukraine, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and other places hundreds of years ago. Also interesting is that many builders arrive at, what they believe, are authentic innovations. Most of the time, these conclusions are arrived by past and contemporary builders faced with similar building situations.

Once, dropping in on a building site, I found a colleague employing a notch, arrived at totally on his own, that is almost identical to a saddle-type notch used in Sweden some several centuries ago. My friend’s notch was different from the old one only to the extent of missing one final top slice with the axe. He had moved from the round notch of his time to early experimentation with what would become the popular “shrink-fit” notch of today. So it goes. And really, all any log builder does is refine traditions. It should be tremendously gratifying to discover that he can, on his own, come to exactly the same conclusions as the experts did before him.

In his book, Notches of all Kinds, B. Allan Mackie avoids all the racial and mysterious overtones by simply identifying notches descriptively. Thus a round notch is simply called a “round notch” and if it has the profile of a sheep’s head buried in its cross-section, it can be identified as a “round sheep’s head notch.” Generally speaking, the racial and national prefixes are misleading and confusing. They also tend to confine log building expertise to particular nationalities.

The dovetail notch pictured on the previous page has a bit of the look of a dove’s tail. It existed in Scandinavian countries so that the corners could be cut flush to allow for covering with shingles or siding. The United Empire Loyalists carpenters, having no national tradition of log building, adapted what they knew of cabinetry corners. They were forced to hew homes out of the Canadian wilderness after 1783 and after their expulsion from Revolutionary America.

Having described foundations and general layout in the previous chapter, I can now describe the placement of the first logs.

The very first course (or round) of logs consists of half logs and somewhat flattened, full diameter logs. In order to arrive at the correct chalk lines, use the step-by-step layout procedures described in Chapter 9 (Timber Layout). Both types of logs illustrated in Figure 40 can then be sawn into shape.

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