Saddle Notches

Unhewn logs are most simply joined with saddle notches. Rough and ready, these are simply hollows chopped to cup over the ends of the round logs below. Each hollow, however is a scribed, custom fit, its depth determining the closeness of the logs.

Roll a log into place on the wall and there will be a gap between this log and the one directly beneath it. Notching will drop the upper log to close this gap, as well as locking the corners together. The question is, how much of the gap do you want to close?

When the notches are deep enough to fully close the gaps, they take away half of the end of each log. Upscale European log building closes these gaps completely—but that is not the cowboy way. American log building usually leaves some of the gap and makes abundant use of chinking and daubing to seal it—chinking of wood and stone and daubing of clay and mortar.

So, looking at the gap between the logs, set a stout pair of dividers to the distance you want the upper log to drop. Hold this setting on the dividers as you ride them over the tops of the lower logs, transferring the drop distance up onto the upper log. Throughout the scribing, you need to hold the dividers vertically. You're not trying to enlarge the profile of the lower log, just to transfer it directly upward.

When the contours are transferred, roll the upper log back and secure it for chopping. You can shape the hollow entirely with an axe, but a saw cut across the grain to the bottom of the hollow will make the chopping go faster. The hollowing is bevel-down work, and a side hatchet will give you more clearance on tighter curves. You'll have to climb over to the other side of the log to cut the opposite contour.

If cut flush, saddle notches become too fragile, so the logs need to extend beyond the joints in the rustic, log cabin manner. Saddle notches work with round, unhewn logs, but if you want your building to last more than a year, you need to deal with the bark. Nature has spent millions of years perfecting its recycling system, and unless you take deliberate steps, it will treat your building just like a pile of fallen logs in the forest. When you fell the tree, it loses its active defenses against insects and fungi. Bugs smell the fallen tree and bore through the bark to lay eggs and feed. They carry in fungal spores that begin to grow—and the rest is humus.

Bark is the issue. Bark is waterproof. If it weren't, the tree would dry out and die. Nature's recycling system assumes that a fallen tree is going to retain its bark and stay moist inside. Peeling or hewing a log removes the waterproof bark, allowing the wood to dry before the bugs and fungi can go to work.

In the most funky circumstances, such as winter quarters for behind-the-lines partisans, you can lay up a cabin with the bark on the logs, wait until the bugs loosen the bark and then pull it off — stopping the natural process. Tobacco barns were commonly laid up from small pine logs with the bark still on them. Once the walls were up, the builders took a felling axe and chopped a three-inch-wide strip down both sides of each log. This allowed the wood to dry—and as long as wood stays dry and free from bugs, it can last forever.

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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