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Exploring Handcrafted Log and Timber Homes

By Mike and Sue Lemmon, Cowboy Log Homes

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by a member of the Log Home Directory. This is a great overview of the differences between log and heavy timber homes. Their contact info. is below.

In the world of log and timber homes, manufactured log homes are the most common. But also among wood homes is the whole realm of the handcrafts. Handcrafted homes include the handcrafted log homes, round post and beam homes, heavy timber frame, and wide diameter Swedish Cope homes.

Of these four types, to main categories emerge: stacked log and post and beam construction. The wide diameter Swedish Cope and the handcrafted stacked log homes. The round post and beam and the heavy timber frame belong to the post and beam home collection.

Stacked logs are just that, stacked up to form exterior, and sometimes even interior walls. Post and beam homes utilize logs or timbers for the superstructure of the home and then standard framing material between the posts and beams.

Handcrafted Log Homes

Handcrafted log homes are ones with logs of various sizes built into the solid log walls. Many times logs will range from 12 to 15 inches in diameter. This is the best size. Some log homes are constructed from larger logs, but for the best walls, the 12” to 15” range is ideal. Handcrafted logs have wider butts and narrower tops.  These logs have a mean diameter of 13” half way up the logs.

Larger logs, in the neighborhood of 18 inches or larger are appropriate for roof systems and ridge beams.

Typically handcrafted log homes have all of the logs hand peeled with the tool of antiquity: the drawknife. Stroke after stroke removes the outermost layers of bark and prepares the logs for the next step, the handcrafting.

Slowly, the shadow of the cranes, logs are slowly chosen, grooved on the under side and stacked. The Scandinavian Full Scribe method is where a half circle channel is cut into the bottom of each log. Butt and of logs and narrower tops work together to make the sleeping log giant take form. As logs are extended to the corners, micrometers are used to measure exactly how much must be crafted into the log to make the corner work out correctly and in balance with the intersecting log walls. The full scribe, or over scribe, in able the logs to cleave even more tightly together as the home experiences settling.

After the log wall are stacked, then the floor joists and roof system are installed. Some log homes simply use standard trusses over the home. Others choose log or timber roof systems. Timber suggests that the logs are squared on all sides. Log implies that the round log is utilized. Roof systems can be made of ridge pole and rafters or trusses and purloins. Truss styles can include king or queen trusses, hammer trusses, scissors trusses, and combinations of these main four. As the logs are erected, pitch cuts are applied to each roof beam to make it ready for the roofing material. With the shell being fully erected, numbered, and then dissembled for shipment, the home owner can save up to 3 to 4 months of construction time on site.

Wide diameter Swedish Cope logs are also handcrafted log homes. The consistent diameter though out the length of the log give them distinction from their handcrafted log home cousins, but the same process is applied to fashion them into log shells. The logs typically have a diameter of 10 or 12 inches. The consistent diameter is achieved by placing the logs in a log lave. Being turned around and around, the logs emerge a uniform size. Due to the use of the lave, some times these homes are called “Turned Log Homes”.

To remove the circular marks left from the lave, the logs are hand peeled with the draw knife. Logs are grooved with the half moon Swedish Cope style and inserted into the log walls.

Corners for both styles are made from either full saddle notch or diamond cut pattern. The diamond cut pattern is where the top and bottom of the logs are cut form the corner. The saddle notch, on the other hand, only have the bottom of the logs scribed. The logs tell their story of type and style whenever you look at the corners. If the end of every log is visible, then it is a saddle notch or diamond cut pattern. When every other log is visible then the butt and pass method is being used.

Tuck cuts and ledge cuts are used to recess the structure to make it ready to receive framing material. Doors, windows, and trim are readily installed without any further preparation on the job site.

The roof system of a wide diameter Swedish Cope is very similar to the handcrafted except once again all the logs are the same diameter. Log trusses made from turned logs are all uniform.

Post and Beam Homes

Round post and beam and heavy timber frame both belong to the post and beam family. Both of these types of home are handcrafted in construction and utilize the classic joinery of mortise and tenon, but the round log post and beam utilize round logs and the heavy timber form uses squared logs.

For the round post and beam the logs are all hand peeled, just as the handcrafted log homes. Then the logs are chosen for placement in the log superstructure. No two logs are interchangeable, they are all individually placed in the superstructure. As the logs climb higher, sometimes some times a double row of logs are used for the second floor, floor system. As a huge erector set, the logs stretch up to form the first floor, upper floors, and roof system.

Heavy timber framing is also called “Heavy Timber Post and Beam”. Through the use of posts for support instead of solid walls, the open airy feel is found in these dwellings. Heavy timbers are simply square logs. Heavy timber denotes that the beams are 10 or 12 inches square instead of the lighter timber frame which is common today. Heavy timber frame home uses mortise and tenon and dovetails instead of metal plating. Heavy post and beam homes are also entirely handcrafted. There are no machine cuts to make the timbers come out identical. Lighter timber frames use CNC machines to produce square beams that are interchangeable throughout the timber superstructure. Handcrafted timber frame has individual pieces that are not interchangeable.

Timber porches, knee braces, and timber roof systems are also used in these homes to accent their uniqueness and beauty.

Standard framing material is used for both style homes to finish between the logs. Logs and timbers are both visible on the inside and outside of the home. Exterior framing material can be installed on the outside of the home, especially on the heavy timber frame, so that none of the timbers are visible on the outside. It is up to the homeowner. Most commonly all of the timbers remain displayed on the interior and exterior.

For both the round and square post and beam, all log surfaces are full erected in the yard, then all surfaces hand sanded, numbered, dissembled, and packaged for shipment.

So when your turn comes to build your log dream, don’t just stop with the first log home company you find. Take the time and educate your self on both the log homes, post and beam homes, and heavy timber frame home styles; and also on the various log home companies. Each one has something slightly different to offer.

Building Log Home Dreams,
Mike and Sue Lemmon
Cowboy Log Homes
Belgrade, Montana

Authorized Representatives for Lake Country Log Homes

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