You have two choices when deciding on the type of log cabin you build. If you are a purist or just love a totally rustic log cabin appearance, then using handcrafted logs is the way to go. However, appreciate that due to the manual labor involved, the handcrafted method comes at a higher cost than milling. I have decided to use milled logs for my cabin, preferring their uniform look and tight fit. I made my decision after studying all log cabin options.
As the name suggests, handcrafted logs are hewn or peeled by hand. Milled logs are both shaped and connections produced by machine. The most common handcrafted wood types are Douglas Fir, Pine or Spruce. Typically, the logs are larger than ones used in the milling process. Milled logs are usually cut to between six and eight inches in diameter while handcrafted will range between twelve to twenty inches and average around fifteen. The handcrafted logs will have different diameters while milled logs will be uniform.
How are handcrafted logs fit together? Some log cabins are built purposely with space between the logs. The space is filled with chinking, a mortal like substance. A second option is to make a simple straight cut across the top and bottom of each log. When stacked, they will still leave gaps. The gaps must be caulked or chinked. A third method is to scribe each log to fit the top surface of the log beneath, making the log connections more weather tight. A high degree of craftsmanship is required to accomplish this.
A timber roof system can also be made from hand peeled logs. The logs are scribed, fitted and cut to match the desired roof pitch. The roof can be structured with scissor trusses, ridge beam and purloins or log truss with rafters.
Maintenance of handcrafted logs is the same as the milled logs. The wood needs to be sealed on an ongoing basis.
Settling is always a concern with log cabins. Know how your handcrafter compensates for it. As I have emphasized before, research is key to achieving your dream home. If you can, find several handcrafters that have log cabins in your area and analyze their results. Find out what other local customers have experienced in terms of settling, drafts and leaks. There is no substitute for experience. I wouldn’t dare select someone until I had seen his work. Take advantage of those who have gone before you.