RPSL’s installed

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Another small milestone. Just two more logs so far, but wow, it was not easy.

Background

RPSL’s are Ridge Pole Support Logs- their job is to hold up the Ridge Pole (RP)- the largest, longest, straightest, heaviest log in the entire build. They are very important logs, and must have no defects and be very straight. I estimate the Ridge Pole I’m going to use to be about 5 tons (for comparison, the heaviest wall log was around 3 tons). Vertical compression strength for a 12″ log averages around 650,000 lbs (about 325 tons), whereas the horizontal strength of a 12″ log averages around 20,000 lbs (about 10 tons) over a certain span. Sorry for all the math, but what this means is you can have very skinny looking RPSL’s, and they will still be strong enough for any RP.

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For a 40×40, the three RPSL’s are installed on three specially sized piers- 2 RPSL’s at the walls, and one in the middle. Before I poured the concrete, the inspector came out and he didn’t like the pier size specified in the plans. He wanted them one foot deeper in the ground (meaning one foot taller). He also wanted the RPSL to stand completely on the pier with no overhang. I did one better- I made them 5.5′ square on the base, and 5.5′ tall, and almost 20″ of support for the RPSL. They are about 2 feet in the ground. I estimate the roof at about 80,000 lbs. The piers on the plans should hold about 50,000 lbs each. I estimate my beefy upgraded piers at about 70,000 lbs each.

Getting ready

We looked at all the logs we had left and didn’t like what we saw. Julie wanted me to cut some new logs for RPSL’s. She found a reasonably straight tree, but when I cut it down, it had an awful (awful for an RPSL, but really good for a wall log) bend in it. After looking at it over and over, we decided to use it anyway. I found another tree for the second RPSL and cut it down as well. We will put the third RPSL up after the RP is installed. I was able to cut each RPSL and peel it in one night.

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It went well, except when I tried to turn one of them with my ‘can’ hook- stupid thing was so slippery from being freshly peeled that it slipped when I was turning it- it sprung back to its resting position, catching the arm of my can hook, and slammed it into my collar bone, instantly dropping me to the ground. I laid there in a daze for a few minutes before I was able to move. When I thought I could move, I felt my collarbone, thinking I broke it, but it didn’t appear to be broken. But the pain was so intense, I was light headed and thought I might lose my cookies. Luckily, I recovered enough to drive home, and was back to work the next day- but with an awful looking bruise.

 

 

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Installing the RPSL’s on a 40×40 is interesting- since we are building a two-story home, the top of the wall is 20′, and our roof pitch makes the final height of the RPSL about 30′. You can easily slide a 30′ RPSL under the house, and then stand it up on the inside. I hung a pulley from the wall at 20′, and proceeded to lift the RPSL into place. But the darn thing was top-heavy somehow, and I found I needed two additional pulleys to stop it from spinning like a propeller.

Another thing was the rebar coming up out of the pier that attaches to the RPSL was in the wrong place. It was a guessing game from the beginning: The 3 oversized piers have double duty- the two on the perimeter hold up the wall logs and also hold the RPSL’s. The one in the middle holds an RPSL and a girder support log (for the second floor support). Unless you use logs that are uniform in size (like telephone poles I guess), there’s no way you can know ahead of time where the center of the RPSL will be, and so you can’t know where to place the rebar into the pier when you pour the concrete.

The solution was:

  1. Cut the rebar off from the pier
  2. set the RPSL in place temporarily onto the pier
  3. measure where the RPSL will sit (you want it exactly perpendicular to the wall, plumb, and as close to the wall logs as you can get
  4. lifting the RPSL back up off the pier
  5. drilling a hole in the pier with a hammer drill
  6. squeeze the structural epoxy into the hole
  7. put a stick of rebar in the hole so that 12″ sticks out the top, wait  5 minutes for it to set up
  8. drill a hole in the bottom center of the RPSL where you marked it in step 3
  9. re-install RPSL onto the rebar
  10. re-check that RPSL is centered and plumb and lines up with the other RPSL
  11. check again just to be sure
  12. bolt RPSL to wall on every other wall log

 

 

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Since our wall logs are so tapered and crooked, the RPSL doesn’t butt up against the wall next to every log. So instead of settling for the ugly look of all-thread between the RPSL and the wall logs, another nice idea from the LHBA forum was to install black pipe in between the gaps, giving it a nice uniform look. It was not easy, but it was worth it. I may counter sink the nuts and washers and put nice plugs over the holes, but I can do that any time.

New tools

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world’s My longest drill bit

Drilling a 5/8″ hole through a 24″ log, and then onto another 20″ log presents another challenge- I needed a longer bit- like 48″ long at the minimum. I went to the orange box people – $75 for one of those! wow! I went down the regular drill bit aisle and found a short one for $12. Then I went over to the neighbor’s and welded a 4′ stick of rebar to the drill bit. I ground down the chuck end so it would fit in my 1/2″ drill. It worked very well- just had to back it out of the hole 20 times (flutes were too short to get the shavings all the way out). No matter, it wasn’t too bad, and went pretty quick- after I got my scaffolding in place.

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Yeah- scaffolding. Even though I don’t have temporary flooring in place and moving the scaffolding right now is a pain, the ladder is just dangerous for trying to drill horizontal holes – it’s usually too far away, or too close because of the angle of the ladder. The 13 amp drill I use can break your wrist if you don’t hold it right. Scaffolding will be invaluable when we get to chinking and a thousand other tasks coming up. And I got the scaffolding from California for about $600, including shipping. I love Craigslist.

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Next steps

I was going to go right onto getting the RP installed, but from what I’ve discovered, I should get my rafters ready before I call the crane. Yes, I’m calling in the big boys. I wanted to do this all myself, but a couple of realities have surfaced in my mind:

#1: I don’t want to die installing a 5 ton log 30′ in the air, balancing it on 2 RPSL’s. This is seriously heavy stuff. Yes, the wall logs were heavy, but not this heavy. Lots of things could go wrong.

#2: I would have to spend $260 on 2 chain hoists (I need some 5 ton hoists for the RP), plus $160 on 2 new 13,000 lb chains. That’s over $400. The crane guys say $130/hr, 4 hour minimum. That’s just over $500. I think my life is worth at least $100.

#3: I can probably get the RP and all 28 rafters installed with a crane in about 4 hours. If I do it myself, I figure a couple weeks getting the RP supports in place, and about a month to get the rafters up. Saves me a month of work, for just a little extra $$$.

We are nearly out of trees that are straight enough for rafters, so I talked to one of my neighbors- she’s letting me have probably a dozen more trees from her 5 acres for my rafters, if I bring her a plate of stuffed lasagna shells my wife made.  I think there are probably a dozen (trees, not stuffed lasagna shells- stay with me) on my property, and probably about half a dozen on the next door property. I just have to cut them, move them, rack them, and then mill them into 4×12’s (work= yes, but I don’t have to peel them – yay!).

Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be a video of a crane and a 5-ton log flying over my house in the near future….

 

 

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Cap Logs Installed!

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Our cap logs are installed- this means we are almost ready to enter a new phase of construction. It has been a long hard road. Some folks at LHBA claim we are moving at “one gear below breakneck speed” using our lifting poles, but it often doesn’t feel that way…

What are cap logs?

Cap logs are the final logs on the walls. In the photo above, they are the ones that stick way out on the front of the house. Paired with ‘double-butt logs’, they hold up the roof rafters, and give the roof enough overhang to protect the wall logs from rain. In a kit log home, they usually don’t stick out much, but for a butt & pass log home – with an expected lifespan of 350 – 450 years – they are a major part of that lifespan.

Notes on installation

Our plans are for a 40’x40′ cabin. The overhangs on the roof protrude out 7 feet past the walls on the gable ends, and about 4 feet out on the eave side. This means the cap logs have to be 7’+7’+40′ = 54′ long. Also, they need to hold up the roof rafters, so my goal was to make sure they were 12 inches minimum on both ends. With our tapered logs – this meant that the butt end would have to be absolutely huge to ensure at least 12 inches at the tip. This would also throw off our level layers (all 4 corners should be the same height).

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The solution I came up with was to take two normal sized logs, splice them together and put them up as one log together, and let the butts hang out over the ends.

Easier said than done. How do you lift half of a log when the lifting poles are in the corners? In other words, how do you hold up a log in the middle of the house where there are no lifting poles? Easy (not easy)- you chain both together and lift them at the same time.

Although I could have (maybe) installed a temporary center lifting pole- this would take a lot of energy and time- I would basically need a 30′ lifting pole (the size of an RPSL) installed. It would need to be chained to the wall, along with pulleys, etc. Lots of work for something I would use once. So I decided to try everything else before this idea.

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Using a cradle (suggested by Plumb Level), we were able to “safely” hold the logs in place while we pinned them. I won’t go into the details (unless someone is dying to know), but there were a lot of scary moments- like once I got the chained logs in place, I had to remove the unused portion of each log- this involves cutting the excess of the log, and hoping the desired portion just falls into place, with no way to chain it or support it until it was in place. The cradle helped a lot, but there were no guarantees.

Some unlucky (and funny) events from Course 13

First there was the “pinned boot” incident:

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There was a gap in the log I was working on. I was perched up on top pinning it into place, and my boot happened to be placed right where the pin was coming through. Once they go in, they don’t come out. It didn’t pinch my foot- just the edge of the boot- and tight enough that I couldn’t get my foot out. I was stuck. I called for Julie’s help. Now she is not normally one to climb ladders of any size, but she courageously started to climb. She was clinging to the ladder like she was a thousand feet off the ground. I kept encouraging her and she finally climbed up high enough to hand me my crowbar, and I was able to loosen the pin just enough to free my boot. LHBA folks suggested I just leave it there and chink around it, ha ha! ……No.

We had this log that was the right dimensions, but had a nasty hook in it at the tip. No matter how we rotated it, it wouldn’t lay flat. We decided to pin it anyway, and just deal with it later. It ended up being flat most of the way, until about 6′ from the end where it had this big bow in it. Since that corner (NE) has been historically low, we decided having the extra height in the corner would help get the height back up to where it needed to be. But since you can’t accurately measure the height on an odd row, we’d have to wait until layer 14 to find out if it was helping or not. And it is: before the cap logs, our heights worked out great- starting at the NE corner and going clockwise, we have 17’8″, 17’8″, 17’7″, 17’7″. For non-builder types- this means the East and West sides match each other exactly for height, while between the two sides, we are off by 1 inch. Remember- this is all using tapered crooked logs with knots and bends- a real testament to the Butt & Pass method.

And the burned out motor on the drill incident: It is a Black & Decker 1/2″ drill that didn’t really want to drill 300 holes, but it held up for the most part, and then just gave up with the drill bit lodged 12″ down in a log.  So I left it stuck up there; “sword in the stone”-like, for the weekend. I figured more power to the idiot who decides to try and steal it. There were no takers.

And five minutes later, the “what the heck happened to the jack hammer” problem: it just lost power in between pounding rebar. I took it home- I guess all the vibration and the weight on the cord from being up so high pulled its guts loose from the switch. I put a new clamp on the wire, taped it in place, and then put the handle back on. Then I taped the cord to the handle on the outside to alleviate some of the stress.

What’s next

The final height of our cap logs determines the final headroom height at the top of the stairs, since they are on the eave side of the house up against the wall. It works out to be (starting at the NE corner and going clockwise): 18′ 4 1/2″, 18’6″, 18′ 5 1/2″, 18′ 4 1/2″. Pretty good.

Now we finish with double-butt logs – these are not logs with 2 butts on them- they are logs that, instead of being normal “butt and pass” logs, are just logs that butt up against their neighbor logs on both ends. In this case, the logs they butt up against are the cap logs.

After that, we begin the next phase: installing the RPSL’s (Ridge Pole Support Logs). Two of these get bolted to the walls. Along with one in the middle. They are 30′ tall, and they hold up the Ridge Pole – which holds up the rafters and the roof.

The Ridge Pole is a monster sweet gum tree from our woods. It is by far the biggest heaviest longest and straightest log I’ve ever cut down. So far, it has evaded me being able to move it. But it won’t for long.

We also need to commit to a height for our girder log. This log spans the width of the house and holds up the 2nd floor. It also ties the East and West wall together so the rafters don’t push the house apart. It provides the “rigidness” that keeps the house tight. At least a little.

I don’t want to think too far, but I’m hoping we can get the roof on this summer.

We had a lovely visit from some LHBA members- Gary (Mosseyme) from East Tennessee came and looked one day in the rain and gave me a lot of good tips, and encouragement. Also, ‘Sdart’ on the LHBA forum- Sara and Rene were very nice and came out to see our progress. They are building in extreme Northern Idaho in an off grid location. They have been to many LHBA homes over the years all over the country and Sara told me, “even after looking at pictures, these homes are always impressive in person.”

I’m back on WordPress…

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Just finished peeling the very last wall log! Yay!

Hi everyone- I thought I had made my last post and was moving over to my other blog on google-owned Blogger. But with all the censorship over gun videos on YouTube (owned by Google, and they also own Blogger- where my new blog was going to be)  –  I’ve changed my mind again. I’ll explain…

The problem is that I have principles that I support – like freedom of speech- that are being attacked by the sites that host my videos and the other blog. They are now refusing to allow videos that show how guns are made and how to reload ammo. You may think guns are evil. That’s ok. But should they censor that content? Be careful- something you believe in may be censored eventually. I understand censoring child sex trafficking videos. I don’t understand infringing on the right to keep and bear arms by an American company.  Remember, they didn’t become so fabulously wealthy by opening their doors for business in some other country — they became fabulously wealthy here, in the U.S.A.. They live, do business in, and benefit from a country that protects their right to free speech and association.  And now they want to pay back the citizens of this great nation by censoring law-abiding individuals they disagree with? It’s like they are fighting against their own mother.  It’s un-American. Who does that?

The question for me is: should I allow YouTube, who is busily engaged in censoring “speech” that it doesn’t agree with, to make money off of my videos? They aren’t coming after me, so why should I care? Maybe they will. Maybe staying out of debt will eventually become hate speech.  I made a mistake, I think, in going over there to the dark side of blogging. I apologize. I didn’t think it had gotten this bad.

So I’m back to WordPress. If you like what you see, sign up to receive emails every time I post.

Progress of the build

 

Last weekend, I got the tractor stuck in the mud trying to move the 8,500 lb ridgepole, followed by getting the Landcruiser stuck in the mud to pull the tractor out. I called the neighbor who brought his loader over and pulled both of them out. Later the same day, Julie got some great video of me spinning my wheels again while we put up log #47. In the video, the log got stuck between two logs after it broke the 2×4 that was supposed to prevent it- a very frustrating situation.

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Today, I got my Honda Civic running again. My theory on what broke it: the crank position sensor got fried, causing the injectors to flood the engine with gas, washing the oil out of the cylinders, and causing complete compression loss. After replacing parts and letting two tablespoons of oil soak in the engine overnight, it sputtered back to life. Later, we went to an Easter Egg hunt in Hartselle:

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After the Easter Egg hunt, we decided to take the long way home and drove by the cabin. I finished pinning some logs, and then we decided to go ahead and put #48 up there, but didn’t pin it. We need to rotate it and pin it.  Julie counted the logs we have left and did some measurements- We are pretty sure we need 56 logs to complete the walls- fourteen layers. With #48 up, we have two layers or eight logs left.

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New blog location

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First tree

This will be the final progress post on loghomejourney.wordpress.com. New blog posts will appear on https://bawh-blog.blogspot.com/

Two years ago, I attended a class in Las Vegas, Nevada, taught by Ellsworth, son of Skip Ellsworth, founder of the Log Home Builders Association.

Soon after taking the 2 day class, my wife and I bought some land, and started cutting trees in preparation for building our log home.  Yes, they really can teach you everything you need to know to build a log home in 2 days, and they’ve taught thousands of people over the past 50 years how to get out of debt, gain more financial independence, and pursue their own version of freedom. Most people know the method Ellsworth taught by its common name, the “Butt and Pass” method.

untitledWe spent about a year cutting trees, drawing up plans, burning brush piles, and breaking lots of equipment along the way. I learned how to use an AutoCad program to modify my plans. I took the stock plans, and, using the computer, deleted all the interior walls, but left the structure intact, and after 30 or so iterations of the plan on paper, I re-drew and submitted our plan to the city and utilities for approval. Once the plans were approved, I applied for utilities, and we began digging a foundation.

20170412_182827_zpstlj2py88I learned how to survey a building site from my neighbor, a retired surveyor (and retired from a lot of other professions as well). I built plywood forms to hold the concrete. My wife and kids all came to help the day we poured concrete.

Using the traditional method as taught by Skip, and with a lot of help from the guys at church, we installed lifting poles and block and tackle, and laid our first log on June 15, 2017.

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More logs followed, and we are now about 4 courses (16 logs) away from reaching the finished wall height of 20 feet. At that height, we’ll be ready to install the Ridge Pole Support Logs (RPSL’s), and Girder log (GSL), and finally, the Ridge Pole itself- the largest, heaviest log, and also the highest log- at the peak of the roof line, 30 feet high.

While I like the format of WordPress, I’ve noticed a lot of formatting and code restrictions that are somewhat frustrating. As my blog grows and we finish building our log home, we will move into other areas of interest- gardening, building the garage, bees, chickens, woodworking- and I want to get into discussing old fashioned methods and tools. My wife has also posted some beautiful instructional videos regarding her passion- sewing- on our Youtube channel. Once we move into the log home, I’m sure we’ll continue the journey of independence. I am also slowly moving the original posts on this blog over to the new one.

Please sign up to be notified of our progress on https://bawh-blog.blogspot.com/

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Shipping Container

I thought the process of getting a shipping container would be straightforward, but like everything else, it was quite a stressful adventure.

How to store your stuff

From the beginning, we’ve worried about our stuff getting stolen. So far, I’ve lost a critter cam that was aimed at my tractor, some gas cans, some tow chains and two chain binders. I think it’s a theft of convenience. Our property backs up to some woods, and the woods back up to someone’s backyard, and beyond that is a trailer park. Our neighbor says that people have been walking from the trailer park through our property and on over to another neighborhood. I think some of them are thieves looking for easy pickings, but I can’t imagine the use of two chain binders, unless you’re a trucker or building a log home.

Many folks build a garage as their first project. Then they store their tools while they build their house. I wanted to build faster so we could move there ASAP. I considered building a shed, but that would require a permit and a foundation. A fence would only stop people who can’t climb. I needed something I can lock. We are at the point where we have some expensive stuff about to be left overnight- like a sawmill, and building materials.

I’ve seen ads for shipping containers for years, but they can be a little pricey in my estimation:

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All the ones I’ve seen for under $2,000 are also 20′ long or less. My plans call for 26′ rafters, so I needed at least a 40′ shipping container if I was going to use it for storing rafters.

I need 32 rafters, 4″x12″, and 26′ long. The shipping container is 8.5′ tall and 8.5′ wide. I can get 12 in a row in a space only 3′ wide, and then stack them 3 levels high, and still only be in a space 3′ high. Plenty of room for spacers to help them dry a little.

I’m starting to find some deals on rigid foam roof insulation, but I need somewhere dry to store 3 trailers-full of the stuff. I need stacks of plywood and car decking for the roof.  I expect to store hardware like joists, nails, screws, wiring, plumbing, and on and on in there as well. I can also put the sawmill in there, as well as the tractor, and all my tools. Currently, I store them in the neighbor’s garage. It would be nice to have everything on site.

I also like the idea that it can be locked tight, and that it weighs 8400 lbs empty, and takes specialized equipment to move.

Finding a shipping container

I’ve been watching craigslist for a while. Then this ad for a 40′ container popped up:

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I went to look at it. It was a 2 hour drive south of here. It looked nice and solid. The day I looked at it we received 4″ of rain. Inside was nearly dry- just a tiny pinhole leak near the door. I believe I can seal it with some silicone patch. I offered him $800 for it, and he accepted.

Dealing with shady individuals

That’s when the fun started. He wanted to drive up to Huntsville to meet me late one night while my wife was at the movies with the kids. At night. I was thinking, “wait, I give him my money, but who’s to say I can pick up the shipping container?” Maybe he found it while he was out driving, and knowing that it had been there a while, he just snaps a few pics, and tries to sell it. Maybe he sells it to me today, sells it to another guy tomorrow, then another guy on Friday, and whoever picks it up first wins? I discussed with my wife. She felt very uncomfortable with the whole thing. I started having a bad feeling about it too. But the price was very good.

I called a dozen wreckers and moving companies- no one could move it for a reasonable price. The container dealers don’t like moving containers they don’t sell. No one else had anything big enough to pick it up. One guy said call another company, who said to call a container company in Decatur, who said to call a wrecker company in Hartselle. The Hartselle company said they could do it for about $650. I thought that sounded reasonable.

But how to coordinate with the seller? I didn’t want to give him my money without getting the container. He seemed ok with me getting the container first and paying for it later- but was too relaxed about it- more suspicious behavior.

He agreed that I could pay him when I came to pick up the container on Tuesday. Then he called on Friday, and he was saying someone else was interested who would pay full price, but if I wanted it, he would give it to me for the price I offered, but I had to buy it now. I had to decide if it was a scam or not. Julie was livid. She thought it was a total scam, and said to call his bluff. I was so wrapped up in the idea that “this is the one”, that I couldn’t think straight. If this worked out, we would be saving $1000 over the other containers I’d found. Julie said there were some conditions he had to meet if I was going to buy it- I had to see his drivers license, and also go inside his house or business and see that it was a real place. I agreed and drove an hour to meet him at his “office.”

Stress for the holidays

He said he had a business license, and if I wanted to see it, I could (so Julie would feel more comfortable with the deal).

He met me in a gas station parking lot in Albertville, then had me follow him on a winding road where I lost cell signal for a little while. I was on the phone with Julie giving her a physical description and his van’s tag. If you think I’m over-reacting, just google how many people get killed answering a craigslist ad. Suspicious behavior checklist: meeting at night? check. meeting out on the end of some winding lonely road? check. Giving money to someone but not receiving the item you paid for immediately? check. Seller has a sad story? check. Seller forgot to bring his drivers license with him like he agreed to do? check. Can’t see the business license because the business is closed unexpectedly? Check. Meeting in the parking lot of the supposed business instead of going into the business? Check.

I took a breath and paid him. Then stressed out for the holiday weekend. With Christmas on Monday, the tow company couldn’t get it until Tuesday, they said, so call them on Christmas Day to arrange delivery for the next business day. I did that, but the driver who picks up containers had Tuesday off, and it wouldn’t be until Wednesday.

I didn’t want to drive 2 hours to find out the container was gone, and then still have to pay the towing company, so Julie suggested I go out 3 hours ahead of the towing company and make sure it was there before I dispatched them to come get it.

There was a Days Inn next door to where the container was parked. I called them on my way and asked if they could look out the window and tell me if a big orange container was still there. The lady answered and said, “No, there is nothing next door.” I freaked out. I still had an hour to go before I could see for myself.

Things work out ok

I finally rounded the last corner- and there it was- still there. Whew. I knitted while I waited for the tow company. The guy showed up and we had no problems getting it loaded. He said he didn’t have to use log books because federal law doesn’t require them for trips less than 100 miles. He said he was 95 miles from home. He was doing this move, and going home afterwards.

He followed me to the property, and we got it unloaded. I had previously measured the driveway- 20′. The road was also 20′. He said he could make it. It worked out ok.

Now to get some heavy duty locks, and start storing stuff in anticipation of getting the roof on.

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It’s been a weird month

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I cut 6 more trees

I measure trees by their diameter (straight across the butt of the log), while Julie measures the circumference (with a tape all the way around the butt of the log).  Either way is fine, but since she’s picking the logs, we’re going with her measurement. The idea in the beginning was to stack logs from biggest circumference to smallest circumference. We got started on the second level, and were at a point where the circumference was about to drop below five feet. And then get skinny dramatically. There were still some big ones here and there that we could cut on our property and next door. Julie identified four that were at least five feet around and asked me to cut them. It was now or never. I cut a couple more that are also pretty big.

That was about a week or so before Thanksgiving. I cut them down, and then started moving them over to my racks for peeling. One happened to be back in a swampy area, so I ran into some problems moving it- couldn’t get close enough with the tractor- even with my 60′ cable. So I took down a pulley off one of my lifting poles and used that for mechanical advantage. It worked, but I broke my rope.

I also bent the forks on the tractor again, and re-welded them, and then bent them again. I have some new 5,000 lb forks from a forklift, but need the ok from my neighbor before I weld them onto his frame that I’m borrowing.

I got all of the logs racked, but it took about three weeks to peel just 4 of them- too cold for the bugs to help, and the sap is like glue. I have some huge calluses on my hands now, because manly. Yeah.

fixed the other truck

Meanwhile, my 1979 Ford F150 was having problems starting. I fought with it all of Thanksgiving weekend- I replaced the starter, the alternator, the ignition switch, and the spark plugs and wires. The only thing left is the cap, but I found out through a great shock (literally), that it is working fine. Only mechanics will laugh….

I needed it running reliably because I’m about to replace the motor in my Toyota pickup. But now it purrs like a kitten, and starts every time.

ordered a new motor

I bit the bullet and ordered a new motor (professionally rebuilt long block). Had to put it on the credit card, but don’t worry, selling the truck will pay off the credit card as well. I’ve been putting this off for almost a year. Last year, you’ll remember I had a valve crack in it, and replaced the head gasket. I guess it also messed up the crank. I’m motivated by the idea that it’s still worth a few thousand $$$, so fixing it will help us fund the roof of our home, which is probably the single most expensive part of this project.

 why we hate “daylight savings” or “not daylight savings”

My boss lets me work 6:30 – 3:30. In the winter, this means I have about 1.5 hours of daylight after work. It might seem like a waste to go out there, only to be able to work for an hour, but every little bit of work I can do is  progress. Other LHBA members have to stop work altogether because of snow, so I don’t really want to complain. In the summer, I have almost 6 hours of daylight. If we wouldn’t “fall back”, I’d still have 2.5 hours of daylight in the winter. I realize that in the winter we are actually on standard time, but I’d give up an hour of daylight in the summer for an extra hour in the winter; who’s with me?

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Still progressing

Last weekend, we burned some brush, and put up a log on Saturday. It was bitter cold in the morning, and windy all day. My lips are still chapped from exposure. This was the first log of the 10th course. We are about 12 feet off the foundation, and about 15 feet off the ground. It was pretty straight but had a long bow in it. While I was lifting it, one of the ropes broke right up near where it was tied to the tractor. It just snapped right off the front of the tractor. I saw a poof of dust, and the log falling. Nobody got hurt, and the house and log are fine. I pinned half the log, then hooked up a chain to the tip and had Julie pull it with the car to get the bow out. But it was still up about a foot off the one below. I went to grab my chain binders to bind it down, and I guess they got stolen. Kinda upset at that, and that we couldn’t finish that log. Went over to Harbor Freight that night for two new chain binders and a chain. This week, I finished binding it and added some more pins.

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where do we go from here?

I have a bunch of vacation I have to use at work before the end of the year. Had a big project over the summer/fall that I needed to help out with that prevented me from taking vacation days, but it is winding down. I only have to come to work for 3 days for the rest of the year. And I still have more time from this year, but they let us carry over 40 hours from year to year.

We keep going. The new motor comes in this week. I want to get that job done, and get on with stacking. I ordered new rope, since the existing rope is getting pretty frayed. However, we are getting closer. I may have to hire a trac hoe to come pull my ridge pole out of the woods. The RPSL’s and the ridge pole are the next big items we have to install when the walls are done. After that- I took some measurements on my sawmill- I’m about to turn my 12′ of track into 28′ of track, and will then cut some rafters out of some “still growing” logs.

That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for all the likes on my wife’s video! Comments here are appreciated as well.

 

More Cabin Motivation

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I’ve written a bunch about how we are building this cabin, but not much lately on why we are building this thing. Since we are at a point between the first and second floors, and I’m back to peeling logs (more on that later), now seemed like a good time to review. Not only do people use widely varying methods of building a log cabin, but they have widely varying reasons for building a log cabin. Talking to other LHBA members and other builders on facebook, I’ve discovered that not everyone is going to live there full time. The reasons for building also vary.  You could slice the reasons and the types of people who build into a crazy number of categories, but I’ll try to keep it simple.

I did an informal poll on one of the cabin groups I’m on to see why people build log cabins.

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It breaks down this way:

  • Total responders: 40
  • don’t have one but will: 50%
  • live there full time: 18%
  • get away: 15%
  • live there eventually: 13%
  • building one now: 2%

The allure of a log cabin

Half of the people on the survey don’t have a log cabin, but say they will someday. I believe that is probably true of the general population of the United States, as well. I found this article from the National Park Service stating that originally, log cabins in America were meant to be temporary dwellings, and they may have lost popularity completely, except that in the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (part of a “make work” project during the Great Depression) built many cabins in the National Parks. The most famous example of log architecture is, of course, the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I’ve been there many times, enjoyed sitting in one of the mission style chairs in the lobby, and climbing the log staircases. It is truly an inspiring structure. A photo that captures all of the essence of this world-famous structure is hard to find, but I found a few:

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But what is the allure of a log cabin? The National Park Service article states:

Had it not been for these [the log cabins built by the CCC in the 1930’s] the log cabin might have disappeared, but because people saw the log structures and liked what they saw, many began to build modern log cabins and log houses. These homes seemed to represent all that a family could want: a sturdy shelter from the elements and a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle. The log cabin remains a popular building style.

Popular, but yet rare. There are no statistics on how many log cabins are out there, but they remain a very popular (at least in the imagination) and an iconic building style. I think the answer to “why are they so alluring” is simply because they call us back to simpler times when quality mattered.

For most folks, the cost of building one is the limiting factor. Whereas a normal frame home costs about $120 per square foot, a log home can cost $150-$175 per square foot. But that’s really not that much difference for a dream. Hard to get a loan? Maybe a little. Cabins are considered unconventional building styles by many lenders- meaning they are hard to find “comparables” (other property in the area used to determine if the asking price is valid). Maybe permits and city inspections are more complicated? Yeah. But not by much, depending on where you live. Of course, this doesn’t cover our build. Our “per square foot” cost is much, much cheaper- about $20 per square foot. In our case, a log cabin was cheaper than a framed or a brick home.  One reason is that the building materials can be cheaper than 2×4’s. As in free. Or, the cabin can be extremely expensive if you hire out the actual construction and contracting. But I guess you could also argue it’s only cheap because I’m pouring 30 years worth of work into building it in about 2 years. Maybe 3….

It’s always seemed strange to me that everyone loves the idea of a cabin in the woods, but not many people have them, even though price, hassle, etc. isn’t much different from a regular home, not to mention how much more environmentally friendly they can be than other styles of homes. I just haven’t been able to square why there aren’t more of them.

Why have a log cabin?

According to my poll, people have different uses for their cabin. Some live in them full time, others use them as a get away. Why have one?

The get-away

The first cabin I had was definitely a get away- we drew a circle on a map with our full-time residence as the center. The edge of the circle was how far we were wiling to drive to “get away”: which was a two hour drive. Then, every weekend, we would take a different route until we were 2 hours away from home, looking for property or a cabin for sale along the way. The one we bought was built by an old farrier in his 70’s- as a get away on 20 acres. No power, no running water, too far away from cell coverage, and an outhouse. It was a simple one room cabin with a loft. And it was awesome- I could sit out on the porch some days and actually hear the nothing. At night, we were at least 60 miles from the nearest city, so the stars were extremely bright. But at 6,000 ft+ elevation, it wasn’t a place you could stay in the winter, as the county would close the road when the snow got too deep. We had a few family parties there, but eventually found that keeping up with two houses was some work. After the divorce, I had to sell it. That was painful, and I realized that I really liked cabin living better than city living. I wanted to get another one, and this time, live in it full-time.

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20 acres, a cabin, and a 1973 Ford HighBoy- what’s not to like?

The homestead

This is where I’m headed. But when I remarried and moved to the South, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. My wife wasn’t that interested at first. A brick home was what she wanted. I was ok with that, I thought, so when I finally got through school and started making a little more money, we started looking at homes. We needed a big one- 6 kids between the two of us, and we both have lots of hobbies- sewing, knitting, art, music, woodworking- we needed plenty of space. Of course, I wanted as much property as we could afford. Which meant very few homes made it on the list, and the ones that did were usually in need of major renovations, and many of them had plenty of smells to go along with them. You can read more about the beginning of our log home journey here.

Now they do have cabins here in the South- but not like the ones out West. Here we have dove tailed square oak beam cabins. Out West, it’s more solid log coped cabins. They are ALL pretty in my book.

The eventual plan is to have a small hobby farm, and of course I want my garage for woodworking and building rustic furniture. The idea is to become more self-sufficient. We are building this cabin without a loan, paying as we go. There’s no mortgage on the house- when we’re done, we’ll own it. We’ll try gardening, and raising chickens and bees. Maybe some of that will provide some income. When you’re peeling logs, it’s easier and more fun to think about this kind of stuff than how sore and tired you are from all the work.

Back to Basics (like peeling logs)

Which brings me back to peeling logs, which I did almost all of last week. See, when we started stacking, we decided that we were going to stack logs in this manner: the biggest logs would go on the bottom, and decrease in size as we worked our way to the top. That way, even though our logs have more taper than anyone else’s home on LHBA, at least we would have control over the size of the logs. We also decided to stack so that the butts of the logs faced the front of the home- this gives the home a “massive” feel to it, and also provides extra support for the roof – which hangs about 6 feet out from the corners.

 

There were still some trees on our property that needed to come down, and as we got higher with the stacking, I noticed that  few were too close for comfort to the house (in case of a tornado). So I cut a few down. Julie measured them, and what do you know- they were the same size (about 5 feet around) as the ones we were using on layer #6- which meant we needed to use them now, or risk stacking big logs on top of little logs. I cut down about 8 more of that size.

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sweet gum tree. 55 feet long. Log arch to lift it onto the trailer (on right, almost out of frame).

I also cut down a sweet gum tree that is about 55 feet long, has a 29″ diameter base, and a 15″ tip, and is almost perfectly straight with no large branches. In other words, the perfect size for a ridge pole – the longest, straightest, biggest, “most righteous” log. But I’ve heard from folks that they twist as they dry. I can’t even budge it with my tractor. If I don’t use it for a ridge pole, it would make an awesome dining table, along with some end tables, and maybe a door.

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The other choice for my ridge pole is a giant oak further back in the forest- it’s about 26″ at the base, with minimal taper. I don’t know the tip diameter, but it is even longer- almost 65 feet by my estimation. And according to woodweb (they have a weight calculator), it probably weighs about 7,000 lbs.  I’ll need help moving it. Did I mention it’s an oak tree? How awesome would that be for a ridgepole?

That’s it for now, back to work. Leave a comment if it suits you.