How to notch logs for a log home

Written by margaret mills
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How to notch logs for a log home
Log homes are still considered practical and attractive. (log cabin corner image by Chris Bibbo from Fotolia.com)

Log homes were introduced to America by Scandinavian settlers in the early 1600s. Valued for appearance, energy efficiency and economy, log homes are still being built. Logs are squared off to make flat walls in the hand-hewn style, and the corners are joined with a dovetail notch. Rounded logs, on the other hand, are stacked together and joined at the corners with a saddle notch, creating the traditional log cabin look. As the logs dry, they shrink and tighten, creating a tight seam. This is the simplest form of log house building.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Chalk (optional)
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Hatchet
  • Wooden maul
  • Hand-held adze (optional)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Determine the order in which your logs will fit. The size of the notch will be determined by the diameter of the log over which it will fit. Each notched log will fit over the rounded portion of the log beneath it. The next log will be notched and placed at right angles over the previous log.

  2. 2

    Measure both logs over which the notched log will be placed, one at either end. Find the width at the widest point and the diameter half-point. This will be roughly the dimensions of your notch. Bear in mind that a log cabin is not exact and the logs do not have to fit perfectly. Chinking will be used to fill in the gaps.

  3. 3

    Set the log to be notched on the two lower logs. Place the level on the top log and adjust the depth of the proposed notches to create as level a connection as possible. Mark the placement and depth of the notches on the upper log with chalk or a carpenter's pencil.

  4. 4

    Remove the log and place it in a secure location. You can work with it flat on the ground or with it secured in an X-shaped sawbuck. Mark the centre of the notch with chalk or simply notch it with a hatchet stroke.

  5. 5

    Cut at an angle with the hatchet from the outer edge of the notch, chipping away the wood to the depth marked earlier at the centre point of the notch. When half of the notch is complete, do the same for the other side. You should have a V-shaped opening in the log roughly the shape of the log over which it will be placed.

  6. 6

    Smooth the sides of the notch and round the bottom using your hatchet and a wooden maul, or use a hand-held adze and maul. Check the fit against the lower logs and continue to smooth the notch until you have as tight a fit as possible.

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