The Book: Your Log House
2. Why A Log House?
North American settlers did not expect
to live in their cabins very long. As soon as they could
get the sawmill working, the cabins became barns and
ultimately pigsties. Consequently, few North American
log cabins were built with any precision, unlike our
European and Russian counterparts, which built theirs
to stand for ten generations. My parents were born in
Siberia, so it has been interesting for me, once becoming
an adult, to notice log buildings in old family pictures.
Today, like the old European craftsmen, builders are
building houses that will stand and be liveable for
In writing a book essentially on self-help
housing, I make the assumption that the builders who
use this book will not be looking forward to the coming
of the sawmill and the purchase of manufactured building
materials. I am concerned about building with available
timber. Log building as an industry and a revived form
of home building has its pitfalls. There is much untrodden
ground. There are no text books or experts on estimating
costs, time schedules, or amounts of timber and other
manufactured materials required. Unlike the frame, trailer,
or aluminum and plastic house builder, the log builder
cannot pick up the telephone and order a specified number
of logs of particular lengths, species, diameters, and
so forth. It can take months in some circumstances to
simply accumulate the necessary wood for the building.
The home builder in the more remote parts of the country
is increasingly going to be left on his own with no
one to turn to.
The actual construction of the building
is a reasonably straightforward operation. Again, there
are unknown quantities and problems. In the summer,
on a flat, large building site, those 1,000-lb. logs
can be placed with ease using limited machinery. Let
the site be small, hilly, wet and boggy and that half-ton
piece of material cannot be carried onto the building
like a piece of framing lumber. Time drags; winter approaches.
With the specialized direction building has taken in
recent years, there can be difficulties for the log
builder. Tradesmen tend to only see their own little
corner of the project and thus contribute to one another’s
inefficiency. A solution to this problem is for the
log builder to do as many of the trades related to his
building as possible.
As will be shown in further chapters,
it is essential that he be somewhat knowledgeable in
related building trades since many of them occur concurrent
with the erection of the structure rather than when
it is almost finished.
Log building is a form of building,
as mentioned in the introduction, that allows the builder
to learn as he goes. It is a form of building that can
involve the whole family, friends, and anyone else foolish
enough to drop over to the job site on a sunny weekend.
Every builder will find that he makes discoveries in
techniques as he goes. Each builder becomes an inventor
and innovator in his own right, often rediscovering
techniques that have appeared in the craft throughout
My favorite architect-philosopher,
the Egyptian Hassan Fathey, author of Architecture
for The Poor, revived mud-brick construction in
his homeland, thereby breathing new life into a tradition
thousands of years old. Having established a building
tradition and getting it accepted, he felt it was the
individual artist/builder/craftsman’s duty to
keep the tradition going. Each contributor brings to
any building tradition his own inventions, insights,
and aesthetic discoveries. He thereby strengthens the
tradition and hopefully saves it from extinction. Equally
important, the true craftsman freely shares his discoveries
with others. When an artist hits upon a technique that
sells, and then jealously hoards the secret, he ceases
to be an artist and simply becomes a hack with a gimmick.
So it is with log building. As time goes on, refinements
and innovations find their way into the design of good
log buildings for the benefit of larger numbers of people.