Monday, December 8, 2008

Cabin Building Volume Two

In June 1995, we began to put logs up on the floor deck we had created on top of the piers and joist. Of course the major problem was the weight of the logs and how to get them from the log pile on the ground to where they would begin to form walls. Most log cabin builders in a suburban subdivision do this with a crane. Old timers did it with horses and sometimes oxen. They rolled the logs up poles forming inclined planes. I couldn’t afford a crane, even if one could get up the road to the cabin site. At that time the road was strictly four wheel drive all the way from the end of the county road. It has since been widened and straightened. The topography didn’t allow inclined planes, so the secondary method was not available to us. I had to invent a system and I had no clue whatsoever if it would actually work.

Here’s the outline of the idea. I bought the biggest hand cranked boat winch that I could find. I needed to have a steel bracket made in Livingston so I could attach it to a large tree. (See the drawing.) On the same tree that I attached the winch, I attached a pulley as high as I could with a wooden ladder I had built out of 16 foot 2x4's. Over on the other side of the cabin site I tied a couple of trees together with aircraft cable. Then I ran cable from the winch up to the pulley, over the cabin site to the other trees. On the line I put a pair of log tongs riding on a pulley. The idea was, I would crank on the winch, make the cable taut, and the log would be lifted. In reality, it never lifted the logs entirely off the ground. But it would take most of the weight off the log, and therefore we could position the log on the deck. It required a come-along to control the logs and keep them from running downhill and smashing into the foundation.
Nancy and I spent hours cranking on the winch, hooking up the come-along, muscling the logs into position. Nancy would crank on the winch until it became too difficult, and then I would run back and forth from the tree to the cabin doing both jobs, meanwhile yelling orders at poor Nancy. But, one by one, we got the logs onto the deck.

As you might imagine, there are hundreds of steps I am leaving out because this is not an instruction booklet on how to build a cabin. But as you can see, the logs began to form a wall. Notching the logs was a time-consuming process, among others. To prepare a notch, I would have to position the log in place, scribe the notch with a handmade tool that looked like a big compass, and then cut the notch. Not a problem at first, but as the walls grew higher it became more of a problem. My balance was better then. I could not perch atop the wall and cut those notches with a chainsaw today.

The task was made easier by a tool we had found at the chain saw dealer. It was basically a planer that mounted on the end of the chain saw tip. You can see it in use here in some of the pictures. It attaches to the bar with a couple of bolts and is driven by a slightly longer saw chain. For a while we took the notch cutter off the bar after every notch we cut so we could use the saw for other purposes. Fairly quickly, we got tired of that time consuming task and so we bought another chain saw, a $99 "disposable" Homelite.

Eventually, the walls became too high for the winch system to get the logs into place, and I had to invent/construct another machine. Using 2x6's (that later became rafters) we made a hoist. We called it the rocket launcher, for obvious reasons. It required another boat winch, another pulley, another 30 feet of cable and a hook. I spent a lot of time sitting on the rocket launcher positioning the logs and it was really quite easy, except that it required a lot of running back and forth between winching systems. Note that the stump on the rocket launcher is a counterweight, and the two log hoist systems shared the weight of the log.

Every grade school kid learns about simple machines in class. Levers, inclined planes, screws, pulleys, wheels, fulcrums. Believe me. We used them all.

Unfortunately, the rocket launcher had to be moved from wall to wall........constantly. You can see me in this picture moving the rocket launcher one more time.

During the summer we put up most of the walls working only on weekends. O’Malley would spend the day chasing chipmunks and squirrels, sleeping under the deck where it was shady and cool, and gnawing on log chips. I remember being totally exhausted at the end of every day. Nancy, O’Malley and I would trudge up the hill to our camp and turn on NPR news (like the BBC, only better) which came on at 4:45 each afternoon. I’d open a beer and drain it in two or three gulps. Nancy would cook dinner, we’d have a few more drinks, do the dishes, and look at an old newspaper or read the cabin building "bible". Sometimes we’d build a campfire and watch it for a few hours. Sometimes we crawled into our sleeping bags before it was even dark.


Anonymous said...

It is so neat to see this all recorded. We can't wait to see pictures of when we helped! I wish Mom and Dad could have seen this, they surely would have been proud of you both... Leslie

Linda said...

Wow, this is amazing. I have been reading your log building books trying to figure out if I want to build a log extension for the bathhouse. Your "machines" are ingenious, but I don't think I want to try it, after all. By the way, several people we have had here to help with the water project have complemented us on how well built the cabin is. And these are people who see many log cabins. We always sing your praises. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have ever wanted anything in my life badly enough to go through the hard work you endured to build your log cabin! You are remarkable people with a lot of smarts and wills of IRON!

I am in awe of your efforts.

Merry Christmas!