How to Build a Log Cabin

Boy Scouts of America founder, D.C Beard, teaches how to build a log cabin in 19th century fashion.


| March 2014



Framing

Frame of two-by-fours milled lumber, with names of parts.

Illustration courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

D.C Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, teaches the 21st century homesteader to build likes it’s the 19th. Celebrate your independent spirit with Shelters, Shacks and Shanties (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011) as you pick up essential skills and advice to build a homestead. With a range of styles and detailed instructions for constructing, even the lay-carpenter can build everything from a tree house to a log cabin. In the following excerpt, from Chapter 36 "The American Log Cabin", Beard details how to build a log cabin that is quintessentially American.

Purchase this book from the GRIT store: Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties.

American Log Cabin

Now that we know how to make doors and door-latches, locks, bolts, and bars, we may busy ourselves with building an American log cabin. It is all well enough to build our shacks and shanties and camps of logs with the bark on them, but, when one wishes to build a log cabin, one wants a house that will last. Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin is still in existence, but it was built of logs with no bark on them. There is a two-story log house still standing in Dayton, O.; it is said to have been built before the town was there; but there is no bark on the logs. Bark holds moisture and moisture creates decay by inviting fibrous and threadlike cousins of the toadstool to grow up on the damp wood and work their way into its substance. The bark also shelters all sorts of boring insects and the boring insects make holes through the logs which admit the rain and in the end cause decay, so that the first thing to remember is to peel the logs of which you propose to build the cabin. There is now, or was lately, a log cabin on Hempstead Plains, L.I.; near the road leading from Mineols to Manhassett; it is supposed to have been built when the first white settlers began to arrive on Long Island, but this was what was known as a ‘Blockhouse,” a small fort. In 1906 Mr. I. P. Sapington said: “I think that I am the only man now living who helped build General Grant’s log cabin.” Grant’s house was what is popularly known in the South as a “saddle-bag” log house, or, as the Southwestern settlers called it, a “two-pen,” the pens being two enclosures with a wide passageway or galley between them, one roof extending over both pens and the gallery.

General Grant was not afraid of work, and, like a good scout, was always willing to help a neighbor. He had a team of big horses, a gray and a bay, and the loads of cord-wood he hauled to St. Louis were so big that they are still talked about by the old settlers. In the summer of 1854 Grant started his log cabin, and all his neighbors turned in to help him build his house.

American Log Cabin Style

The American log house differs from the Canadian log house principally in the shape of the roof. Our old settlers made steep gambrel roofs to shed the rain.

“Gambrel! Gambrel? Let me beg
You’ll look at a horse’s hinder leg;
You great angle above the hoof,
That’s the gambrel, hence the gambrel roof.”





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