Obtaining Additional Reclaimed Materials
Log Home Diary Entry # 4
Never in my 19 years of authentic cabin hunting have I found a log cabin that was 100 percent complete—i.e., all the logs were intact and in great condition, the roof had no leaks, all the joists and flooring were without sag or rot—just sitting there waiting for the right person to come by and simply relocate this perfect cabin to its new site. Instead, it is quite the opposite.
Six to 10 years ago, you could find cabins that would grade out 80 percent of the logs or better. Today, there are less authentic log cabins, old barns and other wood structures available, so you take what you can get and be thankful.
For example, back in 2008 and 2009, we must have looked at 20-plus cabins and purchased three; one man gave us one that wasn’t worth hauling off. Finding a good cabin requires a lot more traveling, reclamation of more old structures and less yield per unit for your work. Count on discarding about 40 percent of the materials in any structure because of damage, decay or breakage during takedown.
This is what causes us to start the process of “finding the right additional materials” in order to make and build a complete authentic log cabin.
Just think about how many different pieces of reclaimed materials are needed to complete a cabin besides the logs: exposed beams and timbers, interior wall materials, flooring and ceilings (I like adding in various materials and different species of wood), brick and rock, and, of course, the inevitable replacement logs.
That word “make” in terms of an cabin material means exactly that: make the reclaimed wood fit into its location. Notch out and scribe a piece of wood until it fits right.
Trim and plane down more pieces of wood until the cabin looks like it’s been there 200 years. Nothing is “perfectly squared” when you use reclaimed materials. In fact, I don’t think much material is squared when you buy it new nowadays either.
Obtaining the proper materials is directly related to whom you are building an authentic log cabin for. How authentic does the person want his or her cabin? What is its purpose? Some folks may want their cabin to be as true to the original period built as possible, be it the exact hinges or wood used at that time.
Others, like me, simply enjoy creating an authentic-looking historical log cabin, such as having 20-inch-wide plank flooring with a mix of oak, wormy chestnut and heart pine. (Homesteaders simply used what was available as they were building.)
Be it reclaimed, resawn or even just old milled materials, it all has to be handcrafted and built to last another 200 years for folks to enjoy. Using too many logs is boring. Each board or log has its own character. Be creative. Look and observe the wood; each piece has its right place, its perfect fit.
Most of my family and friends enjoy the modern conveniences of electricity, indoor plumbing and heat and air conditioning. I don’t recall those luxuries back in 1808. However you want to think about it, authentic log cabins are like original oil paintings: They are one of a kind. No two will ever be alike.
Now, most of the materials that were taken down and purchased over the last two years from North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee have been transported to the building site and are stored in a dry area. The best part comes next: seeing the creation of all the various materials come together to create a log home of yesteryear. At the end of the day, it will all be worth every mile driven, every flat tire and every bee sting.