A log cabin is a small house built from logs. It is a simple type of log house. A distinction should be drawn between the traditional meanings of "log cabin" and "log house." "Log cabin" generally denotes a simple one, or one-and-one-half story structure, somewhat impermanent, and less finished or less architecturally sophisticated. A "log cabin" was usually constructed with round rather than hewn, or hand-worked, logs, and often it was the first generation home building erected quickly for frontier shelter.
After procuring land suitable to build a cabin, one must be careful in choosing an elevated spot. Do not locate your camp at the base of a hill or near marshy and boggy ground. Be sure that good drinking water can be had near at hand. After selecting a place for your cabin, you must decide upon the style and size to build it. These must be determined largely by the size and amount of timber you can procure. The picture is of a plan for a cabin simple in design and structure.
Building a Log Cab
Most of the material for the cabin can be secured in the woods; but for a good roof, floor, and the finishing of the door and window openings, some boards should be taken along. There is no rule for the diameter of the timber to be used, but logs of small diameter are to be preferred for a small cabin. Cut all the logs about two feet longer than the inside dimensions of the building. If the plan here given is followed, the logs should be twelve and fourteen feet long. Leave the bark on the logs.
To start the cabin, stake out its length and breadth upon the ground; clear the space of all trees and brush, and make the ground as nearly level as possible. It will be unnecessary to have a foundation for a cabin of this size. Select two fourteen-foot logs for sills and lay them upon the ground, parallel to each other and ten feet apart.
There are several ways of joining the logs together. Probably the most simple scheme is what is known as the lock-joint. A notch is cut in the logs one foot from each end. After cutting the notches in two twelve-foot logs, fit them over the sills one foot from the ends.
If you intend to have a wooden floor, you must lay the floor joints at this point. Cut straight poles for these and gain and tenon them into the sills, placing them about two feet apart.
After fastening the joists in place, continue laying the logs, placing a fourteen-foot log on each side and then a twelve-foot log on each end, until the height of the doors and windows has been reached. This should be about six feet eight inches from the floor. Cut out the openings and finish them with jambs.
Building the Roof
When the desired height of the walls has been attained, you are ready to construct the roof. There are several ways of framing this. Continue laying the end logs as before, but set each pair of side logs a little farther in than the preceding pair, until they finally meet at the peak of the roof.
The roof may be thatched or covered with bark, shingles, or boards. The thatched roof is the most artistic, and when well made will last from ten to fifteen years; but unless the straw is put on very thickly and woven closely, it is likely to leak. If you intend to use shingles you will require about four quarter-thousand bunches for a roof of this size. Boards will be found the most simple and inexpensive covering. First nail a layer of boards across the roof, leaving a space of four inches between each board, and then nail boards over the spaces. Fasten a ridgepole at the peak to protect the edges of the boards. This pole may be made out of a small log with a V-shaped piece cut out of it to make it fit over the boards.
If you cannot obtain glass for the windows, the openings may be covered with paper, or wooden shutters may be made to close the openings at night and during storms.
It is not advisable to build a log chimney and fireplace with the intention of making fires in it. Unless built very carefully and kept in good repair there is always danger of setting the cabin on fire. But whether the fireplace is used or not, it belongs to a log cabin and should be built. Nothing is more artistic than the stick chimney
First cut an opening about three feet high and five feet wide in the end of the cabin for the fireplace. Then build up the chimney in the same manner as you did the cabin walls, until it extends two feet above the top of the fireplace. Use large logs for this portion of the chimney and fit the ends against the logs of the main structure. When this has been done, make a stone hearth, filling in the stones with clay, and packing them down until they are level with the floor joists. Make the clay linings of the sides of the fireplace from ten to twelve inches thick, beating the clay until it becomes hard. Smaller sticks may be used for the upper part of the chimney. Lay these up in clay mortar and line the inside with clay as the work proceeds. Fasten a shelf above the fireplace on wooden brackets.
When the carpenter work of the cabin has been completed, caulk all the spaces between the logs with clay and moss. In doing this use a pointed stick.