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How do you get a natural round post straight?

 
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When you have a round post (e.g. tree you just cut to length) and one end is more narrow than the other. How do you go about making it vertically straight?

How do you make the cut straight so it doesn't lean when set on a flat foundation? And even if you are burying one end in the ground, how do you make it straight? With squared off posts, I would use a level. The difference in size on either end means the level would lean even if it was straight. Do you just eyeball it? Am I missing something simple?

I have a decent amount of experience building with squared off dimensional lumber, but I have never built with round wood. With wood prices high (and some ideas from permies.com), and 3 or 4 acres of woods, I'd like to save some money on some projects by building with round wood, but I'm stuck on this. Any help would be appreciated.
 
pollinator
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It depends...

As a fence post, usually just eyeball it. As a post in a building, I'd slab the side you want to attach siding/wall cladding to and make sure all of them are plumb and true. Same for floor sleepers or joists.

 
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Howdy,

from this book,

https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?cm_sp=plpafe-_-all-_-hard&an=mitchell%20james&bi=h&sortby=17&tn=short%20log%20timber%20building


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Matt McSpadden wrote: The difference in size on either end means the level would lean even if it was straight. Do you just eyeball it? Am I missing something simple?



I grew up in log cabin building country and I was often the minion on the other end of the log.  The phrase "half a bubble off, OK" was often heard.  Which is to say, working with roundwood gets a lot easier if you learn to embrace the natural charm of imperfection.  Is the project built strong and sound and weatherproof? Then it may not matter if it's perfectly straight and true.  A level on four different "sides" of the vertical log may never show the bubble square within the lines, but if it's off to a similar extent on opposite "sides" then you know it's pointing pretty much at the sky.  Likewise, if the wall is square ENOUGH to nail the siding on, it's good, and there's no sin if a few shims got used to square things up.

A great cabin builder is a craftsman, not an engineer. Sometimes that includes the ability to do great work even when everything is half a bubble off.

Example: I've seen people spend weeks with saws and drawknives or the traditional adzes, squaring two sides of logs so they will stack evenly. And I've also seen the guy who can eyeball a pile of logs and then stack them up in the round, butts pointing in alternating directions in alternating rows so that the top of his wall is close enough to level without ever shaving a single log.  It's that latter skill I strive to emulate when working with roundwood: figuring out how to work with the materials at hand, not trying to force them to be a sort of inferior dimensional lumber that they can't ever manage to be.
 
pollinator
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Dan Boone wrote:

Matt McSpadden wrote: The difference in size on either end means the level would lean even if it was straight. Do you just eyeball it? Am I missing something simple?



I grew up in log cabin building country and I was often the minion on the other end of the log.  The phrase "half a bubble off, OK" was often heard.  Which is to say, working with roundwood gets a lot easier if you learn to embrace the natural charm of imperfection.  Is the project built strong and sound and weatherproof? Then it may not matter if it's perfectly straight and true.  A level on four different "sides" of the vertical log may never show the bubble square within the lines, but if it's off to a similar extent on opposite "sides" then you know it's pointing pretty much at the sky.  Likewise, if the wall is square ENOUGH to nail the siding on, it's good, and there's no sin if a few shims got used to square things up.

A great cabin builder is a craftsman, not an engineer. Sometimes that includes the ability to do great work even when everything is half a bubble off.

Example: I've seen people spend weeks with saws and drawknives or the traditional adzes, squaring two sides of logs so they will stack evenly. And I've also seen the guy who can eyeball a pile of logs and then stack them up in the round, butts pointing in alternating directions in alternating rows so that the top of his wall is close enough to level without ever shaving a single log.  It's that latter skill I strive to emulate when working with roundwood: figuring out how to work with the materials at hand, not trying to force them to be a sort of inferior dimensional lumber that they can't ever manage to be.



Your post reminds me of a story I heard many, many years ago.  I wish I could remember more details, but it goes something like this:  Two men from Scandinavia had come to visit the US, and were watching men put up a building made of dimensional lumber.  They asked workers, "Do trees grow square here?".  "No, they grow round just like everywhere else." the workers replied.  With a slight smirk, the visitor asked "If they did grow square, would you round them to build things?".
 
pollinator
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As mentioned, there needs to be a change of mindset when changing from square to round timber building.
After time you will love the curves and shapes.
 
pollinator
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If you are doing mortice & tennon joinery, you are probably going to find the center of that end of the log, and put your tennon there.

If you find the center of both ends with the log lying down, you can bring a vertical line up to the top, and snap a straight chalk line that indicates a straight line down the center of the theoretical ideal timber hidden inside your gnarly log.

And then, you can use a square to set a cut line at that particular point. If you did this on two 'sides' 90 degrees apart, you'll have a pretty decent cut line.

You can use a level plus the full length chalk lines, to check that the post is vertical, in the direction that the taper does not matter; ie, with the line facing you, you are checking left/right tilt, not forward/backward.




Or, you can figure that you'd like the post to taper evenly, and use the level to check that it is off by the same amount on both sides.. amend any error via successive approximation, and trim the other end of the post to the desired length once you're happy...
 
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I made it a little picture hopefully it's understandable.
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Matt McSpadden
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Thank you all for these good ideas. I understand the concept of building with nature and using the shape of the trees, and I may get to that point, but right now, I just want to make sure it is straight enough that the pressure from above won't push the post sideways. I will say some of the posts have inspired me (along with the high prices) to try my hand at round wood building.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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You overcome the odd shapes by linking or anchoring each post to the foundation or two other posts.
 
pollinator
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At the energy fair they did a demo on how to build with round wood.
One of the things I took away from it was them setting the 3 pieces on the ground.
2 posts and a beam.
They put nails in the center tops and center bottoms and ran a string around the nails.
Moved things until the string was square.
 
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