How I built our log home in south central Kentucky

  1. Yvonne's hubby
    I was born in Oregon on a nice summer day, June the seventh 1951 according to the official paper work, although I don't really remember that much about it. After about three days the nice folks at the hospital said they had all of me they needed so my folks took me "home". Home was a smallish, by today's standards, log house out in the country that my Grampa and my daddy had built in 1946. It was a simple house made out of poles that grampa had hauled down from the nearby mountains on the back of his model T truck. I lived there for the next three years until we moved to eastern Oregon and never moved back to that house but always wanted one of my own. In 1977 I found myself living in central Kentucky with youngins of my own and set out to build us a place in out of the rain. Coming from the semi arid regions of eastern Oregon, Ky seemed like a rain forest to me!

    I stumbled onto an old timey log house for sale that had been taken down with each log numbered and pictures and drawings showing where where each one went. My lifelong dream was unfolding in front of me! I paid the man his asking price of $500, loaded them up on my old truck and tandem axle trailer and headed to a freinds barn to store them until I could find a chunk of land to put them back together again. We offloaded them in the nice dry barn and continued our search for the land. "The best layed plans of mice and men... " a few months later my freind found himself in a jam and needed to raise some quick cash.... Yep the rascal sold my logs! Didn't even bother to mention it to me till they and he were long gone. Back to square one.

    Fast forward till 1986. I found another old timey log house, this one still standing and just lucked into it. The owner had pulled all the siding and the roof off of it, was just fixin to cut the logs into firewood! After a brief conversation with him, in exchange for my $100 bill and a promise to clean up the mess I had myself another log cabin. This one I numbered, made charts and diagrams of, took a bunch of pictures myself. I shopped around and found myself a dandy spot for it on 2 1/2 acres overlooking a nice little stream. Lacking in funds I cut a deal with the owner of the land, he took a dollar as down payment and no monthly payment due for six months. In exchange for the "breathing room" I was to get the logs put up and a roof on them during that six months. It took me about four months to live up to my end but there it stood.... My very own log house was ready for doors, winderlights and a porch! Again, the misfortunes from the depths of all that is unholy struck. This time it was my ticker putting me on notice that my life was changing wheather I wanted it to or not. After the insurance paid their part I was still staring down the barrel of a double barrel medical bill, and nothing to pay it with. So I sold my cabin on the creek and vowed to try again. Yeah I'm stubborn like that.

    Well, it's getting late for old guys, I'll pick this up again maybe tomorrow. Nitey nite. :)

    Alrighty then, a new day has dawned, I've fixed my breakfast, had my morning meds, let the dog out, let the dog back in, and settled my self back in my recliner again.... Lemme see now... Oh yeah, it's now time to fast forward to the spring of 2000. I was single again and needing a roof over my head one more time. My ex wives were both excellent house keepers, funny how that works, but that's a whole nuther story. This time I had my land secured, all paid for and even had a little money tucked away. I started looking around for another old timey log house to purchase. They were becoming rather scarce, seems as though someone had figured out there was good money to be made taking them down.... Shipping them to places like Dollywood and other pricey tourist traps and reassembling them. After spending a couple months searching and coming up empty handed I devised a new plan. I headed up to a local saw mill and talked to the owner. After a nice conversation with him I came back home and waited for him to collect the logs I needed for my project as they came into his log yard.

    My order consisted of fifty eight logs. Four twenty foot long white oaks, minimum diameter of 14 inches at the little end. These would be the bottom sill logs supporting the floors of the cabin. I wanted white oak for that job as termites don't like their flavor very well for some reason and they are very stout. Then there were twenty four more twenty footers, also minimum of fourteen inches at small end. These are tulip poplar a good stout wood, but much lighter and easier to work with than the heavy oak. Those would make the long four walls, then I needed another twenty eight logs sixteen feet long for the other four walls. Lastly there were two twelve footers to span the gap between the two log pens at the very top.
    '
    My cabin is what is known as the eight wall, or "dog trot" design. It consists basically of two separate cabins situated ten feet apart with a common roof over the whole thing. The open space between them was where the dog could hang out. Me? That's too much wasted roof for just the dog so I framed those two ends in and used the space for an entryway, staircase to the upstairs, and a bathroom. This will all become a bit clearer once I get the pics installed.

    So, after about six months go by I get the call that my logs are collected up and ready to be delivered. Yay! In the meantime I've been busy getting the site cleared and the foundation built. I had been collecting stone for a number of years so the foundation amounted to digging footers about four foot square at each corner of the two log pens, eight altogether, then laying up the stone pillars for the logs to rest on. Not much money involved but a fair amount of sweat and a mashed toe. Them suckers is heavy and land hard when dropped!
    The building site after the loggers raped that corner of our farm
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    It was a mess for sure but nothing a good freind with the proper equipment couldn't fix.
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    Then it was just a matter of digging through my rock collection and finding the ones that fit together the best and stacking them up. Easy peasy!
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    I had one of the loggers deliver my logs, took him three trips but finally had my logs about the same time I was finished getting the foundation finished. I called a freind of mine who had a portable band saw and made arrangements with him and another feller that also had a portable mill to come out and mill them up for me. Them portable sawmills is handy as pockets on a shirt! Now, the old timers didn't have them sawmills handy so the squared up their logs the hard way. They used what is known as a broad ax. I have hewed out a few logs that way while reconstructing log houses. Wasn't interested in tackling fifty eight of them for sure. It's not only a very close cousin to hard work, it's also very time consuming and wastes a tremendous amount of good lumber.
    Here's some of the logs, just the way the trucker left them, dumped in the field close to the building site.


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    I set the sawyers to their tasks and watched those logs turn into all sorts of building materials. They worked two sides of each log cutting a few inches off one side then turning the log over and cutting some off that side. They worked them down that way until the logs were six inches thick. Nice straight logs ready to be notched and stacked into walls. The lumber they milled off the sides was all stacked with inch thick scraps between layers to air dry. There was 2x6s, 3x8s, 2x4s, and a whole mess of 1 inch planks. There was enough lumber to frame up the roof, floor joists for the upstairs floor, and 20 foot planks to use as upstairs subfloor. Those three by eights are left open and so the upstairs floor is also the downstairs ceiling. Having full length lumber looks quite nice with a little polyurethane. I ran a bit short on one inch lumber to finish the upstairs walls and ceilings so had to get more logs and have them milled up later, but that will be covered later in my story.
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    With the site cleared and the stone columns ready to set the logs on, I began the the task of setting them up. I set the four white oaks first, and anchored them together with the floor joists (2x12 store bought) that I had acquired previously. I got enough of them to do my downstairs floors in this cabin, another cabin, fifty sheets of 3/4 tongue and groove plywood, a mountain of other store bought two by heavies, a couple brand new skylights, tar paper etc for $400, Sometimes it's a good thing to be at right place at right time with cash in yer pocket. :) any how, I began notching logs and setting them up.
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    Up to this point in my life I had very little experience with notching logs. I had quite a bit of experience with reconstructing some of the old ones, but there is a lot more to it than meets eye at first glance. I was dealing with logs that were somewhere between 14 and 20 inches wide on the small end and anywhere from 18 to 28 inches on the big end. I wanted to end up at close to the same height when I got to the top so had to be somewhat careful, swapping ends, trying to balance things as I went. Cutting the notch is easy enough, once you've figured out how deep to cut it and at what angles. My method involved a chalk line, framing square, and an adjustable angle "square", tape measure, level, and a well sharpened chainsaw. Wish I had pics of the process in all its detail but sadly I don't. First step was to select the log to be notched, get it pulled to the cabin, laying on blocks just below where it was to be placed. Next step was to measure from what wil be the bottom edge of the log when in place and mark it at each end. I used six inches but most any measure is ok as long as it's the same at both ends. Now snap yer line, you have established a reference to lay out your angles for your notch. Next is to figure out where the notch needs to begin. I was dealing with sixteen and twenty footers in theory, fortunately the loggers cut them about 4 or 5 inches longer than that to make sure there is a full measure. I new that a sixteen and twenty foot log would give me 15 feet by 19 feet inside measurement with a couple inches left over on each end. So what I did was to measure in from one end 8 inches and Mark it. Then measure down the length of the log exactly 15 ft or 19 ft and Mark it there too.. Don't hurt to measure to insure you have eight inches of log left at that end too. Next step... Lay yer framing square on the log at the point your marks intersect the chalk line. Make yerself a straight line all the way across yer log dead square to that chalk line. You should now have two lines across yer log 15 or 19 feet apart. Next step is to determine the depth of yer notch, (from bottom of log up to high point of notch). The way I did this was to measure up from the log directly under where the one yer working on to the very top of the log running across it. (Sure wish I had pitchers) you need to subtract about 2 inches from that measurement in order to have a couple inch chinking gap. That's not carved in stone but it worked fairly well for me. If your corner has been gaining overall height this is a perfect place to adjust the problem by increasing the chinking gap a bit. At any rate whatever measurement you come up with measure from the bottom of your log up and Mark that point on yer crosswise line. Now take yer adjustable angle thing set to your choice of angle and set it next to yer crossways line at the proper height and Mark yer notch. With a small square make a line over the end and side of your log so you have a guide when you cut the notch out of the log. You want those cuts to be square to the log once it's set in place. Next... Put that saw down.... Recheck all measurements! Twice! Them logs is pricey and hard to come by! You ain't got no extries and you caint run down to lowes and grab anothern. Ok, now that you've satisfied yerself that everything is correct, cut yer notches, hoist yer log up, set it in place. Nuttin to it. :)
    Now that you have that log up, cut the top half of the notches for the next log to set on. Go to next log, rinse repeat.
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    When ya get to the top, move over to the other side and do it again. image.jpg
    You should now have something that looks like this.
    I just noticed something that's kind of important if yer wanting the exposed beam affect that I did. If you look closely about three feet down from that bright colored top sill log in the middle you can see a beam running crosswise of the "dog trot". That is a ceiling/floor joist depending on if yer downstairs lookin up or upstairs standin on the floor. The thing is that those 3x8s need to be put in place before the logs above them are put on. That way the logs they rest in can be notched to accommodated them, drop them in place then go on up with the rest of yer logs. Another thing I didn't mention is that those very top sill logs are 12x12s. They are supporting the roof so need to be fairly stout.
    Befor I get too far ahead of myself here I reckon I should give you a brief on cutting those top halves of the half dovetail notch system. The way I did it was to run a bubble stick (some carpineters refer to it as a level) up the inside wall against the log to be notched, then get it plum with the logs below it and draw my line right on up to the top. Then with my framing square continue the line across the top of the log, next with the bubble stick on the outside of the corner run another line down the other side. Now it's gets tricky. You need to figure out how deep this notch needs to be. That's going to depend on several factors. What size is the log going to be that goes on top, how much extra or less chinking gap you need to keep things level etc. once you have sorted that out run your bubble stick lengthwise and Mark your line lengthwise from the inside corner out to the end of the log, next use yer adjustable angle tool, and Mark yer angle across the end of the log. Once again with the bubble stick draw a line from the end of the log back to the up and down line matching the inside corner. That's it, make sure it looks right, makes sense to you then cut along your lines. The first few logs going up I used my regular logging firewood cutting saw, when I got up about the forth log I opted to go buy a small electric cheapy. Much lighter and handier to use, plus no problem starting it sitting on a log up in the air.

    Speaking of working up in the air brings us to our next step in this process. The roof. Now I knew full well how to build a roof, not a problem there, I had built lots of them over the years. The problem I had with it was being a short guy at a measly 5' 16" and somewhat clumsy to boot, I don't like working in high places. It's not that I'm skeered of high places so much as it is that I'm skeered of falling off of high places. A feller can get hisself hurt that way! I opted to find a feller that wasn't worried about his pain receptacles and made a deal with him. I had all the lumber on hand for the job, (it was all air dried and ready to be used by now) but needed the metal roofing and someone to get up there in the middle of the sky and bring it all together so as to fix me a dry spot to hang my hat. I was running low on cash but he had spotted my little jd40 crawler with a loader bucket attached to the front of it sitting there by the cabin. We sit in the shade ridding the world of some of the Devils spirits, one sip at a time, (every lil bit helps) and flapped our gums a while, finally came up with a solution to my problems, both of my problems but he didn't know that at the time. I agreed to get the lil crawler to make noise and move under its own power for him, and he would not only furnish the metal for the roof and put it together.... He would also get that worn out needing thousands of dollars worth of repairs crawler with its air cooled track off my farm and I would never have to spend another minute or dollar fixin it! For those not familiar with the term air cooled track... They have a bushing about an inch and a half in diameter pressed into one section of track and a pin about an inch in diameter that slips though that bushing like a hinge pin and presses into the next section of track and that is what connects each section to the next. Those bushings also run on the drive sprockets similar to a bicycle chain only a whole lot bigger and made out of some really tough (and expensive) steel. Expensive enough to be well over a grand to rework one track. On my crawler those bushings had worn plum though and even the pins were worn halfway through! Long story not quite as long... The boy came over with his brothers and cousins, I got my dry spot built, and the scrap iron off my farm... Didn't cost me a dime! Yeah... I am frugal that way. :)
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    At this point I had spent right close to $5,000 but I had eight walls, two floors and a roof to show for it, so I called some freinds over to celebrate, we had just the bestest time... Disposed of some of the evil Devils brew, ate some mighty fine vittles, some of the folks brought out ther fiddles, banjos, guitars and other such noise makers and played pretty music for the others to dance to until the wee hours of the mornin. Yes. Life was workin like it should!

    Alrighty then, my next step was to get some doors and winder lights sorted out. About a year prior to getting the roof on the place a tornader had come ripping across our county and damaged a bunch of houses. One fellers disaster can become the next fellers good fortune sometimes, and in this case it had worked to my advantage. One of my co-workers had some serious damage to their house and since their insurance company was helping them out they opted to upgrade their windows. The old ones were not fancy schmancy enough for those folks but suited me just fine. Good solid wood frames, double glass thermo panes? Yep and fer $20 bucks a pair I went all in. Bought four sets. Those would become our winders, into the storage bin they went.

    Doors were a different story, I really did not want the spiffy modern style doors they sell at lowes, I wanted something a bit more durable and rustic. I decided to build my own. After all I had stacks and more stacks of good clear lumber on hand and more time than money. I picked out enough white oak boards to make two layers the width of the doorway. (36") cut them to length then layed one layer out flat on the floor. Then I took a sheet of that 3/4" plywood and cut a peice four inches smaller than the door, layed it out on my planks leaving a two inch gap all around. Around the edges went a peice of one by two, ripped off the sides of a couple of those oak planks. I carefully glued those two layers together and used a bunch of inch and a quarter drywall screws to clamp it all together.the next day I cut several layers of thick tar paper to fill up the 1/4" gap between the plywood and where the top layer of planks would be going. A good bead of glue around those one by twos, fit the top layer of oak planks and run a row of drywall screws around the edge to hold things together until the glue set.

    The straps really help hold things together, they are made of quarter inch steel salvaged from some other project. I cut them out with a torch, smoothed up the edges with an angle grinder, predrilled a series of quarter inch holes down the center then applied that nice flat black finish. Nope, wasn't buying expensive paint for that job either. I wanted something a bit longer lastin and much less costly. Well, that and maybe I was trying to impress a pretty young lady I had recently met with one more of my many talents.:) I opted for doing it the old way. Made myself a long narrow pan out of a scrap peice of flashing, filled it with some used motor oil, added a couple of beeswax toilet sealing rings, (is amazing what most plumbers will throw away just coz it's been used once!) placed over a small campfire added my straps, carriage bolts and nuts and proceeded to sit back, tell this beautiful lady funny stories for and hour or so. When I came back the next day, the fire was long out, everything nice and cool so I fished out my now nicely coated hardware, wiped the oil off of everything and proceeded to finish my door.

    The next step was to attach those two wrought iron straps across the door. Pretty simple task, I just layed one where I wanted it to be, using a 1/4" bit I drilled a hole all the way through the door, I stuck a bolt in the hole so it couldn't slide around on me, went over to the other end and did the same thing. Then it was just a matter of drilling out each hole using the strap as a guide. Once I had the holes all drilled I pull the strap back off, stood the door up, poked a bunch of 1/4" carriage bolts through from the other side, fit the strap over the bolts on the inside, tightened the nuts down securely an repeat for other strap and..... Bingo Bango.... ya got a door. :)
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    This is how our entry door appears today.

    For the interior doors I again opted to make them instead of buying ready mades down at the big box store. They were lots handier to make than the main entry door. I just used one layer of one inch planks cut to length, layed side by side. One board cross wise about ten inched from the top, one like it across the lower part, then a diagonal between those two, all glued and a bunch of drywall screws holding things together till the clue drys. They came out nice I think.

    (Photos here)

    Alrighty then. Let's get to them winder lights. I had those tucked away until I was ready to put them in. They were solid wood frames in pairs, uppers and lowers. Huge holes would have to be cut in my pretty log walls and casings built to put them in. I started in the living room and wanted two sets in the wall that has the best view overlooking our farm. I got out my trusty antique Sears and roebucks table saw, router and a few other goodies and went to it. First thing was to build the casing that would fit the winders so they could slide up and down. Once I had the casing built it was time to cut the hole in the wall. I grabbed up my bubble siick and drew two ventricle lines from floor to ceiling, one on either side of the hole I was fixin to cut. Then carefully measuring up from the floor (which was already level) I marked out where the bottom and top of the hole needed to be, next was nailing a nice straight two by four just to the outside of my two ventricle lines. Ya wanna leave a little bit of nail sticking out so you can pull them back out when yer finished with them. Now that everything is secured and ready, fire up yer chainsaw a cut along the lines. Bear in mind that when ya cut both ends of a log, that middle section is going to fall, do not have toes, tools or anything else you want to keep under it when it falls. No need to ask how I know this. :eek:

    Now that the smoke has cleared its time to install a couple two by sixes up and down along the ends of the opening. I used twenty penny nails, about six in each log. That keeps yer logs from wiggling around, twisting or turning between the window and corner of the wall. Once you have both sides of the opening secured, pull the nails out of the two by four uprights and put them back in yer lumber stash. Yer now ready to install the casing, get your window weights installed, set yer winders in place, add the trim boards around everything... Zip Zop... Wham bam..... Ya got a view, fresh air when ya want it and can close it when ya don't. :)

    (Photo here)

    Once again it's getting late... Time fer me to get some sleep, my story ain't done... Just takin a break. Nitey nite

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  1. Dutchie
    Love this
  2. COSunflower
    Awesome story!!! You are a real inspiration.
  3. no really
    Thanks for writing your story!! Enjoying it.
      MoBookworm1957, Mickie3 and melli like this.
    1. Yvonne's hubby
      Thanks, just getting started on it. Will have photoes too that I took during the actual construction. Pretty much from start to finish.
      MoBookworm1957, Chris and no really like this.