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Log cabin questions

 
Roman Campbell
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Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Right now I'm building a log cabin style barn. I had a few questions regarding building with logs. First off, I'm hewing my logs, I'm not doing a very good job, is there a trick to making the logs look nice and smooth? I bought a council tool broadaxe as I can't afford a $500 one. My barn is 13 x 22, does anyone know a way to join logs lengthwise? I cut the 22ft logs in half as I can't handle logs that long. And as far as foundation goes, my plan was to set the logs on 6" tall x 12" diameter oak logs, thoughts on that?
 
Glenn Herbert
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Unless the oak in LA is different from that in the northeast, I can't see oak piers as being a long-term solution. Can you get any stone where you are? With no frostline to worry about, you wouldn't need a lot to separate the wood from earth.

If you have cut all the long wall logs to half length, you will have a weak point in the middle of the wall. It will require a crosswall at that point to keep it from buckling over time. Alternatively, you could tenon the log ends at the center into a groove in a vertical log, but that would need to be braced in position at top and bottom, and you would need a continuous log at top and bottom to keep the structure from spreading. What kind of doors or windows are you planning?
 
Roman Campbell
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Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Well my "log" barn has a pole barn skeleton so my long wall has a beam in the middle. The plan was to pound pegs into that beam, and join the logs sorta like mortise and tenon style. Wasn't sure if that was a good idea. But my big problem now is getting logs into position. I guess I'll have to go retrieve my tractor. As far as hewing goes, not getting the smooth finish like I want. I was using a council tool broadaxe but from what I read its not exactly a broadax in the sense. I ordered a goosewing bearded broadaxe to see if that's any better.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Okay, entirely different situation! It sounded like you were building a structural log building, but if it has a pole barn frame, cutting the long logs sounds fine. Are the poles treated, or a naturally resistant wood? Do you have cypress available, and is that especially rot-resistant? If the poles are the structure, you don't really want to support the logs independent of them. I immediately thought of differential frost heave, but then remembered your location , but settling of differently supported elements is still an issue.

I don't know about modern broadaxes - I have a couple of antique hewing hatchets (junior broadaxes) which didn't cost me any significant amount... granted, I got them 30 years ago or so. I don't know as hewing technique is teachable without face to face guidance, if you can't pick it up on your own. What I know about it comes from Eric Sloan books.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Are you using a string line to locate your hewn surface, that helped me when I was starting. Also chop stop cuts to depth then remove the wood between, then use the broad axe as a skew chisel to get your final smooth surface........if you want details on these let me know, not sure you might already be doing them...

Hewing is the imperfections that are arrived at while striving for perfection. I know some old guys who border perfection!
 
Roman Campbell
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Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Well I was making scoring cuts with an axe but started getting discouraged at how long it was taking and got out the chainsaw and then used my broadaxe for "smoothing" maybe when I get in better shape I'll do all of it by hand. I am popping a line as a guide. I understand the whole hewing process I guess but I'd love to read how you do it. What kind of broadaxe do you have? Another problem I have is sharpening my axes. I have a file and stone, no grinder so if you have info on how to better sharpen that'd be great. Have you built a log cabin before? How did you move your logs into posotion? I'm doing this by myself so just trying to learn different tricks.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I highly suggest an old axe like say a Wedgeway or other high quality antique, I'll put a picture up of my backup Wedgeway, you can get them on eBay fairly often, just try to get a clean one that doesn't look like it was buried for years! Get one without a handle as the handle is junk and just costs more shipping, or ask them to cut the handle off. I got mine for $63 and my backup for 54 I think, I keep backups of old tools, because I am a tool addict and I don't want to not have one when I need it.

If new is the only option, Gransfors Bruks is the best out there, and biber Classic is right up there, traditional woodworker sells biber.

I quit the stone a while back and use a diamond stone instead, it moves the metal faster and stays flat so no lapping required. Still takes time.....

I move logs with a tractor to a staging area, then by can't hook from there, I peel as I roll the final feet to the supports, that way I roll the log less times.

Go to a v notch instead of scoring chops, this will reduce time, but hewing isn't the fastest way to arrive at a beam, it does take time, and a youthful back!

I use old axes and new, and different shaped ones, because they all do something good but not everything, I have some that like knotty wild grain, some that are trouble all day in that same log, but are sweet fir straight grain clear logs.

So here is a picture of my backup crew and my new framing slick, this is an old Wedgeway broad axe, and a plumb brand shipwrights adz both were eBay cheap buys just wait till one is going cheap and grab it. The slick I made...


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Chadwick Holmes
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Here is a quick top view sketch of the V notch I am talking about, the dotted line being your snapped line, you see the notches are progressively larger as the amount to be removed increases....then just use the normal axe to pop the blocks off and the v will keep you from ruining the finish, but you can waste the main part of the wood to be removed fast....
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Roman Campbell
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Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Man those are some nice tools, wish I hadn't of wasted money on the other axes, guess you can't have too many axes. How did you make the handles? What is the adze used for? And the other thing I guess you call it a slick, what's that for?
 
Chadwick Holmes
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A broad axe is for vertical hewing an adz is for horizontal hewing, the slick is a joint plane and all around workhorse that is like a huge chisel.

This is how I sharpen, I didn't have enough hands to do it so I clamped the axe in my legs....but I sight down the blade from above and run the stone back to front and circular return stroke, it can take time, especially to get it there the first time, this back up axe will take 4 hours to sharpen because it is super dull.

Drawknife for making handles, or buy them if possible, I have seen guys whittle handles and sand them smooth.

 
Chadwick Holmes
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Oops pictures!
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Chadwick Holmes
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This is the motion of the adz...
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Chadwick Holmes
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All my broad axes have about twelve inches of edge, in my experience the longer edge makes it easier to keep the heel from digging into the cut....
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Looked at that council axe....is it sharpened on both sides? If so, that's your problem for sure, one side should be perfectly flat even where the eye the handle fits in is....that's a requirement, in fact you can buy new ones as left or right side axes, with the flat on opposite sides.
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Roman Campbell
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Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Yea its sharp on both sides and the blade is maybe 4" long. Found vintage Kelley broadaxe head looks just like yours I'll probably go ahead and get it http://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-VINTAGE-KELLEY-TRADE-MARK-HICKORY-EMBOSSED-LOGO-BROAD-AXE-HEAD-/262247910311 that's the link let me know what you think. Really appreciate all the info.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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You will be amazed at the difference in the ease of work.....not a bad price either, I realized I bought my backups 5 yrs ago.....prices might be off.

Get that council axe nice and sharp and use it for your V notches and stop cuts, it has a flat face so it will leave really nice tool marks
 
Todd Parr
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The easiest way to make logs lie well on top of each other is to lay the logs that will be touching each other across sawhorses, use clamps on the outsides to keep them from moving (big L shelf brackets work well) and run your chainsaw between the logs all the way from one end to the other. Push the logs together so they are touching again, and run the saw between them again. Do this until the flat surface is whatever width you want it. The logs will fit together perfectly.

As far as doing this work with hand tools, I have no idea, but I have great respect for those that can do it.
 
Roman Campbell
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Ok well when it comes to sharpening, all I should use is the stone or both that and file. I dont have a diamond file just a stone with rough and smooth side. And do youmake your handles or could I jyst buy one
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I make handles, even if you find one it will be one you need to adjust for the flat side, buy buying one will make it easier for sure. Do what you are comfortable with, there is no one way is right.

File if you have a ton to remove for sure, start with the stone after it is sharp from the file, and get it sharper, then flip the stone and get it sharper, then get 400 grit sandpaper and wrap it around a flat chunk of wood and do it all again. That's probably good but you can go 600 grit and beyond too.

The diamond stuff you can get later to make it easier, what you have will do fine.

Oh sharpen the flat side too, so it is polished flat, perfect sharpness is two perfect planes meeting if the back is rough you will never get sharp, because one of your planes is ruining it.... If you look at the thin edge and it reflects back at you on its edge it is dull, it should be a black line because there is no flat spot to reflect...
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Ok, I told you I'd post pictures of the handle then made you wait sorry!

I make a handle that works with my body movement, but they can be much much simpler and still be perfectly good handles...
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Roman Campbell
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That's a nice handle, did you make that from scratch or just modify a bought handle? Not sure I know how to make an angle like that, might have to start with a straight handle. My axe head did come it, looks great, just needs some sharpening?
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Yeah, you axe head looked great to me, it's in better condition than mine!

I made that handle from a branch that followed the shape I wanted so the grain runs true to the bends.

Stat with a Maddox handle and see if a straight handle suits you, start to inform your decision of what is comfortable.
 
Roman Campbell
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Well got my broadaxe sharpened up, made my first axe handle and ready for work. Took me over 4 hours to make that handle and still really not done. Did it take you that long to build yours? Does my handle look somewhat decent, honestly?
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Chadwick Holmes
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Yes, handle making is very time consuming! I get in a wierd place where it's never good enough and spend a day fooling with it!

I would cut the bottom sharp points off with a saw and give her a try! Did you wedge it at the top?

I usually start with a handle, use it, change it, use it, change it, each time refining it to fit me and the work......yours looks like a great start! It will serve you well! The one thing I would do is cut behind the beard so you can get fingers in there, that way you can choke up for small cleanup jobs.

Be observant to what the tool and your body is saying as you work, that's the best teacher.
 
Roman Campbell
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I appreciate it. I should say it took me 8-10 hours cause I started on one and guess I got mesmerized by watching the wood curl as I was carving and ended up taking way too much out. And yes I did in fact wedge it at the top. Sucker is hard though, made of oak. Guess that's what I need to switch to in tool making. I made a big wood mallet out of pine but it keeps breaking.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Yes, hardwoods for tools for sure! Even better for mallets are diffuse porous hardwoods, like maple cherry hickory ironwood etc....

Oak will be much better than pine!

I will admit to ruining many projects by zoning out with the drawknife! It's a relaxing tool and will trick you into over reduction!
 
Roman Campbell
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Just sorta looking for a better opinion than mine. Does this look somewhat like what a hewn log is supposed to look like? It looks better than what I had been doing but still not getting that real smooth finish but I guess that's the idea behind hewing, nothing is perfect.
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Roman Campbell
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I also meant to ask, as I'm building my log barn against these poles I already had set in, my plan was to drill holes in each log into the poles and drive pegs into them. Would that be fine or would that hurt the integrity of the pole barn skeleton?
 
Chadwick Holmes
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That looks nice for just getting to know your axe! Like anything practice, I would get that log about 12-15 inches higher....makes a difference.

Remember that the guys who did this for a living...did this for a living! They had more practice than needed to put out the results!


Size of posts, size of hole/peg, number of pegs? These all affect the answer.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Just thought of something are you making your finish cuts from the base of the tree towards the top of the tree? And your stopping cuts in the opposite direction?

Basically your finish cuts should always be "going downhill" in the grain, it is the one unavoidable rule with wood and hand tools......nothing teaches this rule better than the lathe...
 
Roman Campbell
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Well I was going uphill and tried downhill on the last log I did, worked better but the log was already small in diameter and I ended up taking out more in some spots than I intended. Still haven't done any stop cuts, guess I'm not grasping it very well, just don't quite understand what and how to do a stop cut correctly. And the whole popping a line, what I've been doing is marking a line down the center or the tree where the heartwood is and if say I want a 6" diameter log just put the I go 3" to the right and left of the center and go to the other end of the log and do the same thing.

What do you mean start the cut 12" higher?
 
Roman Campbell
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Oh and the posts I was going to drill into are 6 x 6 posts and was going to drill 1 1/2 holes on each end of the log all the way to the top.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I'll see if I can find a log to do some videos on, shouldn't be too hard on a 101 acre camp!

I mean lift the log higher off the ground by 12-15 inches,getting your hands eyes and back closer improves finish greatly, the older you are the more being close to your eyes makes a difference....
 
Roman Campbell
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This is the main issue I'm going to run into while building this. These logs meeting in the middle. What should I do here? Just cut them flush, butt their ends and spike into the post or some sort of mortise and tenon joint? And the way I'm looking at it, looks like depending on the diameter of logs I set in place one side will be taller than the other. I just did it this way cause 30ft long logs would be a bear to handle, if not impossible.
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Roman Campbell
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Pondering about it, someone earlier mentioned a cross wall, well this is my sketch of what I had in mind. Have a log going vertically against that pole, resting on the oak below (and later brick, haven't decided on what to use to close the gap between ground and logs) and bolt it all the way up. Does that sounds like a viable plan?
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Glenn Herbert
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The cross wall suggestion was before I knew you had a pole barn frame to fasten the logs to.

I wouldn't try tenoning the logs into the sides of the posts; you can't do it on both ends when the frame is up already, and lapping one end while tenoning the other end will give uneven alignment of logs relative to frame.

What I would do is lap each log all the way over the center post, cutting the outer face of one to say 2" thick, cutting the inner face of the other to fit over the first, and drilling one peg hole through both logs into the post. Keep the size of the logs coordinated so left and right logs of a layer have their top edges about the same height.
 
Roman Campbell
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I'm liking that idea I appreciate, as you can tell I have no experience so any advice I'm greatly appreciative. Only problem with your idea is the batch of logs I have are not long enough for that, fortunately I only got enough logs to make 2 rows to work out the kinks, so guess I'll just spike them into the pole and crib them so their level until I go get a new batch. As far as notching goes, what do you recommend? I've been trying saddle notching with decent results, they actually look more like one log is just a square notch laid on the other.

As far as flooring, what is normally done? I was just going to have m door at the front and step over the bottom long onto the ground. Are they normally raised?

Wish I had thought more on the design of this barn before I tried out several different styles and having to work around a previous design ha-ha.
 
Roman Campbell
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Thanks for the pm, since drilling 1 1/2 holes into the poles won't hurt the integrity of the 6x6 poles, I believe I'll use pegs to fasten them to the poles and also at the joints to give extra stability because at 0.50 cents a pop, those spikes get pretty darn expensive, and I have all the peg making material I can handle. As far as stones, in my neck of the woods in NW LA, all we have is clay. So I'll either need to buy some stones, brick or I had thought about using that cord wood cob method but it being on the ground, pretty sure thatd melt pretty quick. I did get my first bottom row of logs completed, took all of 5 days, was pretty tired today so didn't get much done other than setting the last log. It did take quite a bit of figuring trying to figure out what I was doing, I'd work an hour research an hour but now that I'm rolling, maybe on my next set of days off will see more workin and less figurin. I am using the saddle notch method although they aren't fitted just perfectly but I only have a week of experience. Ole Dan proenneke and them Finnish log builders sure make it look easy.
 
Roman Campbell
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I think I finally understood what you meant by relief cut. I decided to try this technique out and it was extremely easier to use the broadaxe like this. Is this what you meant by relief cuts?
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Chadwick Holmes
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Yes exactly! It's hard to vocalize but you got it! That cut will save hours and if angled against the direction of hewing cuts will keep the work clean too.....NICE WORK! Don't be afraid to leave the last 1/8-1/4 inch of those cuts too, that's the cuts you see traditionally.
 
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