Building a Log Cabin Filled with the Scent of Pine

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on April 17, 2017 in Rightsizing, Tiny Houses

Cindy B. Sternberg writing on log cabins…

Our 28-year-old son, Jesse, came to us recently with the idea of building a log cabin. My husband, Ben, and I were a bit doubtful. It was a large project…but we did have the land and resources needed.

Jesse has always been artistic and industrious. He would build little wood forts in the forest as a young teen. I still happen across the odd one in my own travels in the woods. On his own, he learned to make mortice and tenon joints, without even knowing what they were, and the forts became increasingly complicated as he grew up.

Considering all he’d done in the forest, we agreed, and Jesse started making plans.

He wanted to build something that would stand the test of time. Log cabins do have the gnarly habit of twisting out of shape after a year, unless you follow the proper procedure.

The logs would need to be shaved, saddle notches cut in with a sharp two-inch chisel. A rasp to clean up the rough edges, and drilling corner holes at each level to keep everything in place. The logs had to be arranged carefully, to reduce the gap.

Jesse and Ben discussed it for hours…fleshing out the plan. It was exciting for them both, and when our 18-year-old son, David, heard the talk, he was into the fold, too.

Jesse arrived, armed with enthusiasm, and his sights on his father’s axe and hand-saw. He planned to build the cabin with hand tools only, and wood from the 25-acre woodlot – in a place called Lake of the Woods – that we call home. The only bought item would be the roofing, as the project was dependent on the length of the season and there wouldn’t be time to make the roof. To complete the project before the cold weather, he had to make this one concession.

The first day, Jesse cut down two trees with the axe, and carried them to the site. He had been living in town, so it took a few days to get into the swing of things. After that, Jesse, David, and Ben brought three or four trees each day.

Over the summer, Ben and I watched as Jesse began to put some shape to the idea. David, helped with the big, heavy logs. He is strong, and was more than happy to flex his muscles on a huge length of wood.

Jesse scraped away bark with a drawknife, drilled corner holes with a circa 1876 Russell Jennings spur auger, and hand-cut wood dowels to put through the logs. He cut and formed a solid wood door rivaling anything found in Lake of the Woods.

Jesse used his ingenuity to take care of the spaces between logs; stuffing small slats tightly into the walls and respecting the natural shape of the logs.

With encouragement along the way, he completed a 10ft x 20ft log cabin.

It is rustic, and the scent of the pine logs freshens up the area.

The cabin was perfect for woodworking, and Jesse helped Ben move his tools into it. They were delighted with the large space inside, since it allowed for larger projects. With a bit of help from his dad and brother, Jesse had recreated a structure that housed and protected the pioneers of old.

One day we might turn it into our retirement home.

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