Ways to debark & skin logs for a cabin

Written by jessica kolifrath
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Ways to debark & skin logs for a cabin
Skinned logs must be used to build a cabin. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Log cabins must be built out of logs that have had their outer and inner layers of bark removed. Leaving the bark on the logs can lead to insect infestations, mould growth from trapped moisture and instability of the structure when the bark becomes loose. There are a variety of ways to remove the bark from a log using hand tools or large, commercial machines.

Mechanical Ring Debarker

Logs at a lumber mill are most commonly debarked using this large, efficient machine, according to Oklahoma State University. Many lumber mills use a mechanical ring debarker to skin logs that are sent in for hewing or shaping. Sharpened cutting blades are rotated along the surface of the log as it passes through the machine, pulling off any bark all the way to the innermost layer. However, homeowners cannot use one of these machines to skin logs on their land, and having logs finished at a sawmill can be expensive. Mechanical debarking is usually the best choice if speed is an issue in building a cabin.

Crow Bar

Peeling the bark off of a log by hand requires a sharp, strong tool that separates the layers of a log without chipping away at the timber too much. A crow bar is a great tool for taking off large chunks of bark and won't catch on the wood inside the log like other tools. Peeling a log with a crow bar is best done in the spring because the sap and water in the inner layers of the bark will make it softer and easier to remove. The curve of the bar will help give you extra leverage for pulling up large sections of bark, and the tapered end of the tool will slip between the bark and the timber easily.

Draw Blade

Scraping a thin-barked tree requires a sharp, smaller tool for a more precise cut. A draw blade works well for removing soft barks on trees like birch, or carefully trimming off stubborn pieces of thicker bark. Two handles and a slightly curved blade let the user pull the tool towards him instead of pushing away. Cutting two score marks in the log is usually required before skinning that particular section, as the thin blade can have trouble cutting into harder types of bark. The timber is smooth and ready for hewing after being skinned with a draw blade, but it takes much longer to debark a tree with this tool.


A spud is a thin, sharp blade on the end of a sturdy pole, much like a sharpened and straight shovel. Homeowners debarking their own logs can put all of their weight behind the spud when pushing it under the bark. Gouges and nicks in the timber are more likely to occur with a spud because the blade may catch on the wood, but it doesn't take as long to finish the job as it does with smaller hand tools.

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