Monday, December 31, 2007

Foundation Pillars

Back in the summer my neighbor needed a big oak tree cut up and removed from her yard. It was about three and a half feet wide. I saw the opportunity for foundation pillars. At the time I quartered the big pieces to get them home. I've been working to turn these quarters into 12"x12" pillars for the temporary foundation on which we are going build the log shell. I'm treating the bottoms and sides with penetreat and a home made stain to protect against termites and rot. The tops will be trimmed later to 8"x8" to represent the permanent foundation wall thickness.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Lifting The Logs

I put a lot of thought into how to lift the logs onto the wall. Ideally I would like to have a boom truck, but at $400 per day to rent and around $15,000 to buy a good used one, a boom truck was not an option. I've seen a lot of ways in books, some are very elaborate lifting systems but most are stationary. I wanted something simple and movable. Something that would allow me to move the logs from the rack to the building with out having to drag it on the ground. Once I plane these logs I DO NOT want to drag them in the dirt.
My logs are on the small side at 12 inch butts and 7 inch tips and they have been drying for almost a year so figure they only weigh around 600 or 700 pounds (that's only a guess).
I thought about using an old boat trailer that I had and build a rigging on it that resembles a old home made wrecker or a crane. I could use my come along to lift with. The pictures below is what it turned out to look like.


Old Boat Trailer

It Works!

Up Date:

The original design that I was going to build used wood 6x6's to support the lifting beams. I decided instead to use some metal uprights that I have used on the trailer for another purpose. I canned the original idea to save weight on the trailer and not have to deal with cutting compound miters on both ends of the supports. (I'm not that smart:) ) After I finished the trailer I wished I had done it the way I had originally planned, so I went back and added the wood supports. Now I'm happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cleaning Up

I finally put another log onto what will eventually be a play house (practice), but its time I get started on our house. I would like to be finished with all the log work by next June. That gives me about 6 months to get it done. After Christmas I should be able to lay at least 2 logs per week. We will have 11 courses of logs which means we have 44 logs to lay for the walls plus the 2nd story floor joist. So its time to stop playing and get "Serious".
Last Thursday I was able to get everything cleaned up and the temporary building site is ready to go. Today I've been working on the trailer that will be used to lift the logs (IF IT WORKS!).I'll post more about that when its finished.

Another log on

A mess to clean up

Ready to get started

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scribing Logs

Scribers help to transfer the shape of one log onto the other. This allows for very accurate cuts and makes logs fit very tightly together. We are going to build a chinked handcrafted log home. Our logs will have places where they touch and don't touch for the length of the log. This is what I'm practicing here. Full scribed handcrafted log homes don't have chinking and the logs touch for the full length of the log.


Tight fit after cutting

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cutting a Round Notch

The first course of logs (sill logs) are notch with a round notch . I didn't take any pictures of the logs being scribed here so I'll show that later on another log. The log below has been turned upside down to be cut.


Relief kerfs are cut Breaking out the relief cuts

Brushing with the tip
Touching up
Final notch

Decent fit

Setting Sill Logs

Commercial handcrafted builders build there log shells on a temporary pillar foundation. Usually the pillars are nothing more than scrap cut offs from previous projects. The pillars can be easily leveled with a water level, marked, and cut off at the marked height with a chainsaw. After the shell is complete the shell is dismantled and delivered by truck to the owners building site.
1/2 sill logs are 1st

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cutting a 3/4 Sill Log

In a log structure the first course of logs are called sill logs. The first set of sill logs are called half logs. These logs are half of the average tip and butt diameter of all your logs. The next set are called whole logs or 3/4 logs. To put it simply a whole sill log is about 3/4 the thickness of your average tip and butt of your logs. There are a lot of things that you have to consider when laying whole logs out to be cut but, I won't go into it here. I'll refer you to the Log Construction Manual

Lay out
Cut above the lineBrushing (Planning)
Smooth after final sanding

Friday, November 23, 2007

Brushing with a Chainsaw

After the sill log is cut you have to smooth the cut surface. You can actually do this with a chainsaw the technique is called brushing.

Cutting a Sill Log

I've Been Playing

Over the past couple of weeks I've been playing around trying to refresh my memory with what I had learned at school. Here are some pictures of what I've been doing. I was doing this just for practice.

Sill log lay out (half log).

Cut between the lines.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Becoming Debt Free

The purpose of this blog is to document our journey as we build our log home. I'm reluctant to discuss personal views as it pertains to everyday life. Debt is one of these areas, although it does impact the way we will approach the way we build our home. This post will be more of a testimony of sorts. Please don't look at this post as if we're bragging, what we have been able to do is made possible through Gods blessing and we give him the praise. Maybe our story will help others.

Our Testimony: Kim and I are high school sweethearts. We started our adult lives off by graduating high school, getting a job, and getting married at age 19. To say the lest we were going to struggle financially through our early years together. When I graduated from high school, I got a job working for my paw-paw as a construction laborer and about a month later I was working for Yamaha Music inc. for about 7 dollars an hour. Since I was making some "good" money I went out a bought a new Ranger pick up (big mistake). A year later Kim graduated from high school and 6 months later we were married. We bought our first home which was a new single wide trailer (big mistake). Eight months into our marriage Kim was pregnant with our son (a blessing). Six months later Kim lost her job as a receptionist at a dialysis center, the company she worked for was bought out. At almost the same time I was transferring into another department which would give me a better opportunity to move up in hourly pay, but I would not be able to get the overtime I was accustom to which would turned out to be an overall pay cut.That's when our financial struggles began.

Kim, being six months pregnant couldn't find another job and I couldn't leave the one I was at because we needed the insurance. We were paying out more than we were bringing home .We couldn't sell the truck or the trailer because we were way up side down (owing more than they were worth) and Kim's car wasn't worth much and we had to have two cars. Like so many people do in this situation , we started borrowing money from anywhere we could get it credit card, signature loans, and loans from family members. Our mess only got worse from there. I remember saying if I could only double my pay everything would be OK.

Four months after our son was born I was hired at Frito Lay as a loader and was able to work all the over time I wanted. Slowly we caught every thing up. With in a year of making that statement about doubling my pay, I was able to almost do that. We were not struggling to make the payment but that is about all we could do, "just make the payments". Over the next three years as I became a truck driver I increased my pay about $10,000 per year. We were still just making the payments. You see my thinking was if I could only make more money it would take care of the problem, but the more money we made the more we spent. Trading our cars in for nicer ones, going out to eat more, nicer clothes, vacations, and the list goes on. I like so many others believed that having payments was just a part of life. After all "you won't never have nothing if you don't have payments" right!

About five years ago I was riding down the road in the truck and I came across this radio show called the Dave Ramsey Show. This guy made a lot of sense in his approach to how we should handle our money. Unfortunately I was only able to listen to him for 30 min. before I lost the station. Then about three years ago he was starting to be on more and more stations so I was able to listen to him more and more. I was telling Kim about some of the things he was saying, but at first she was kinda reluctant to try his approach to handling money until we bought his book The Total Money Make Over. Then she was fully on board.

His approach is quite simple, "don't buy it unless you can pay for it with cash", but its more than that. If you have a pay as you go mind set then you free up your income from making payments. You can start making interest rather than paying interest. Its a common since approach to how we deal with money. As Dave says "its God's and Grandma's way of dealing with money".

In January 2006 we started our "Get Out of Debt" plan. As of two weeks ago we payed off my truck which brings our total debt reduction to more than $30,000.00 . We still have around $9,000 to go but we should be there around April 2008.
Now because we are not paying out so much of our income in monthly payments I can start working less at Frito Lay and start working more at home. This week I'm going to start working three and half days a week at work so that I can devote more time to my family and working on our home. Instead of working to pay payments and interest, I'll be working to "Build" equity in our home. I'll take that trade!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Over the past couple of months I have really been putting a lot of thought in to the design and lay out of our home. You would think we would already know what we wanted by now, and we do, but trying to decide weather to compromise what we really want verses what's out there in a stock plan. We had decided to have our plans custom drawn and had contacted a couple of companies to give us estimates. BUT, as I sat down and started thinking about what we wanted and drawing sketches I remembered something I once read. It was in some news article about computer technology, It read something like "Engineers Becoming Obsolete". It went on to tell how computer software was replacing the need for engineers.
So I've decided to try and design our plans myself, using one of these programs of course. I started doing the research on what software other log home companies were using. Few will tell on there web sites what programs they use, but I found a few using Archicad . Archicad seems out of my league. I did find a lot of owner builders using Punch Software and Chief Architec. I really liked the Chief Architec's demo on there web site it seems very user friendly.
I found some discussion forms comparing the Punch Architectural Series and Chief Architec. It seems that people think that they are very similar, but Punch is a better buy.
We decided to try Punch and bought a used program on eBay, it should be here the first of next week. After I come up with workable plans I would like to get with Bill Lasko to see what I need to change. I'm looking forward to learning something new.
As I go through this learning process I learn as I go and I'm learning that ultimately some things will have to be engineered in order to pass inspection.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Log and Timber Home Show

The Log and Timber Home Show was this weekend in Atlanta. I had to work Friday and Saturday, so I had to go today after church. To be honest, I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong there was plenty of log home companies there for those who may want someone to build them a log home. I was hoping to see companies like Schroeder Log Home Supply, Eagle Panel Systems, Perma-Chink Systems, Andersen Windows, and maybe a local Drafting Company. I have been to two of these shows in the past and some of these companies were there.
I was able to talk briefly with the Perma-Chink rep. They gave me their brochures and told me I needed to come to Tennessee to attend their seminars to learn how to use their products.
All in all it was a good day, Cody rode with me up there. He's starting to get excited about the idea of building our own log home.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Is it Fall YET?

Is it Fall yet? Today the high temp here in middle Georgia was "ONLY" 92 degrees. After hitting triple digits the last couple of weeks, 92 seemed like cold a front. The relatively mild heat afforded me a chance to cut up one of my neighbor trees for fire wood (with her permission of course).
I'm so ready for fall to be here so we can get started on our house. Today didn't help my longing to be working on it. The muffled sound of a chainsaw buzzing, the smell of 2cycle engine oil burning, the smell of fresh cut red oak, the feel of the chainsaw in my hands "Oh" Sorry about that, I was getting a little carried away. :) My wife often says one day she's going to come in smelling like saw dust to get my attention.
On a serious note, I'm looking forward to the Log and Timber Home Show coming to Atlanta Sept. 21-23. This will give me a chance to talk to some of the company rep. face to face, like prema-chink and others.
Within the next month I hope to send our plan ideas to Dirkson Design Services or R.C.M. Cad Design Drafting Ltd. In about a month or so it should start cooling down enough. Then I can start planing and treating logs. Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Video Tour

I found this video tour of a house that was for sell. The floor plan is almost exactly like ours. This house is a log kit. Ours will be handcrafted, so the logs will look a lot different. Main Floor, 2ND Floor

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Plan Design

I have scoured the web trying to find that perfect plan that I have in my head. Needless to say I have not found that "perfect stock plan". I've come close, but it's not a log home plan. It's a conventional stick built plan.
There is a lot I have to consider in my plan. The most obvious is, it's a log home! Almost every aspect of the build will be different. From the shier weight on the foundation to the complexity of the roof system. The wiring, plumbing, and a/c ducts do not have hollow walls to be hidden in. I also have to consider the length of the logs I have to work with. Which will determine the max. size I can build.
The plan that I found is offered by Home There will be a lot of minor changes made to 1st floor such as window and door placements etc. The 2nd floor will be greatly altered with a full length shed dormer on the back side of the house and a master bath. The exterior will have a wrap-a-round porch.
Most Architects are not knowledgeable in log construction, therefore I will have to use someone that is. There are several such designers in Canada that are not affiliated with a log home company.
Dirkson Design Services Inc. and RCM CAD Design Drafting Ltd are a couple that I came across in my research that I really like. I have not contacted either company as of yet, but I hope to sometime in August.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Going To School

In the late 90's I was looking through a copy of Backwoods Home Magazine, when I came across an advertisement for Lasko School of Log Building. Up until then I did not know such a school existed. Imagine that, a school that could teach you how to build with logs. I looked up the site on the Internet and became very excited about the possibility of one day attending this school of log building. This past April I finally got the chance to attend.
Bill "Mr. Lasko" offers 2, 4, 8, and 12 week courses. I was only able to attend a 2 week class, being somewhat restricted by my job. Bill made the most of the time I was there. I was in the practice wood pile the first day cutting practice scarfs, notches, and lateral groves. By the third day I was working on a cabin for one of his clients, cutting tenons on floor joists . By the end of the two weeks we had covered and had "hands on" all the basics of Scandinavian full scribe log wall and floor construction. Bill had three different projects going on in various stages of completion. Which allowed me to work on actual cabins and homes. I was very pleased with what I learned.
As a side note: To get the most out of my experience there, I spent months before hand reading and studying various books on log construction, I was already proficient with a chainsaw, and I have a background in rustic furniture making.

Rough Notched and Final Scribed.

Floor Joist Tenon
Lateral Grove

Look at the size of these logs!