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Author Topic: Corner Post Log Construction  (Read 713 times)

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Offline Don P

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Corner Post Log Construction
« on: December 14, 2019, 08:56:00 AM »
I ran across this last night, it has a few good pics. I like this style, it solves settlement issues, hefting big logs. It also goes by the names Hudson Bay, Red River and Piece-en-piece.
Long link
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Offline 51cub

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2019, 10:34:43 AM »
That's pretty interesting. I haven't seen that before. Thanks for posting it
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2019, 10:39:56 AM »
Very interesting article, though I only read half. I looked at all the pictures though!  ;D

Thanks for sharing this.

Offline logman

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2019, 11:59:58 AM »
I've always thought about building a timber frame and using timbers slotted in between the posts.  
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Offline SPDM

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2019, 03:58:51 PM »
I happen to own a book on this very subject titled Short Log and Timber Building by James Mitchell. When I first became interested in pièce-sur-pièce method of building, I also found a number of old mother earth news articles on the topic.






Offline Don P

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2019, 05:53:20 PM »
I've got Mitchell's "The Craft of Modular Post and Beam" about this as well, its a good book. Tell us about that house, I prefer larger overhangs but that is nice.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2019, 10:44:36 PM »
Another article about the repair of one of these;
https://www.oldhouseonline.com/repairs-and-how-to/repairing-a-historic-log-cabin

And another, I've just scrolled through the pics so far but looks interesting, some really cool stuff, the pics start around page 50;
Log house thesis
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Offline barbender

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2019, 02:18:01 AM »
I have the James Mitchell book as well, it's a good one. I like this style of building.
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2019, 09:53:25 AM »
Interesting Don.  I am a bit confused that the comment related to the Maryland house concerning the chinking.  It stated the logs shrinking would tighten the chinking.  I would have thought the horizontal timbers, set in mortises of the vertical timbers,would shrink but not settle.  Instead the shrinking of the logs would pull the edges of the timbers in and loosen the chinking, unless the vertical logs had a continuous groove the horizontals were slid down in allowing them to freely move.  

Offline SPDM

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2019, 05:10:59 PM »
I've got Mitchell's "The Craft of Modular Post and Beam" about this as well, its a good book. Tell us about that house, I prefer larger overhangs but that is nice.
It's the Fraser house in Manitoba built in 1830 or thereabouts. Agree on the larger overhangs but I guess it's been standing for almost 200- years; can't argue with that.

This is one of the articles in Mother earth news that I mentioned earlier:

Offline Don P

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2019, 09:12:40 PM »
Interesting Don.  I am a bit confused that the comment related to the Maryland house concerning the chinking.  It stated the logs shrinking would tighten the chinking.  I would have thought the horizontal timbers, set in mortises of the vertical timbers,would shrink but not settle.  Instead the shrinking of the logs would pull the edges of the timbers in and loosen the chinking, unless the vertical logs had a continuous groove the horizontals were slid down in allowing them to freely move.  
You're quite right, I smiled when I saw that too. Usually when the "shrinks to fit" stuff starts make sure you have a good tin foil lining inside your ball cap :D.
Even with a continuous groove think about what spiral grain is going to do to tenons on either end of that log, movement will not be free. On the log barn I've posted pics of, the crib corners were notched but on the gable ends the logs continued on out 10 more feet and were tenoned into 12x12 white oak posts to form the shed. When we jacked and adjusted everything this year I had to wrap strapping and come-along that part to get the logs to slide down in the grooves. The log corner notches in the cribs settled but the tenons in the grooves hung up. It took about a week and some serious persuading on one of them. I'd count on touching up the chinking if its green. I've only done this on 2 log homes and I pinned the logs to the posts in the grooves. I found it time consuming to make the grooves and difficult to get the shoulders of the tenons to line up from face to face. I think it would be easier to timberlok 2x2's to the post and groove the ends of square cut logs. Part of it is just what is considered acceptable tolerance, it isn't structural just aesthetics. I had never contemplated individual mortise and tenons, interesting. TMEN's article, I kind of wonder about trying to tip logs down between posts like he shows, one of the posts has to move quite a bit for that to work unless the shoulder's fit is quite loose.
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Offline firefighter ontheside

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2019, 10:25:56 PM »
I have a Scandinavian scribed home from a company in MN, but they, at least at the time, also built piece-en-piece.  I’ve not seen one of theirs though.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2019, 10:55:40 PM »
I haven't either but that style is common in Senty's backyard so I'm sure he is well versed.
I've been reading that thesis link I posted above, quite interesting.
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Offline firefighter ontheside

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2019, 08:35:35 AM »
I see you’re familiar with Senty.  I take it he’s still active building homes.  I drove past his lot a few years ago and it looked empty, but maybe they were just not doing anything in the winter.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2019, 08:49:41 AM »
I don't know if he's still active, it's probably been 15 years. He must be 70 or so, which isn't seeming that old :D
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Offline firefighter ontheside

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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2019, 03:20:42 PM »
Yeah, I was trying to decide how old he must be.  He had young children when I was building my home 20 years ago.  He may have been 45 then, so 70 is not far off.
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Re: Corner Post Log Construction
« Reply #16 on: December 25, 2019, 08:25:54 PM »
This general technique is quite common in parts of Europe, particularly in the Western Alps including regions in Southeastern France, Switzerland, and Italy. You can find some quite old houses in this region using this technique (We're talking the oldest wooden houses in all of Europe as old as the 11th and 12th centuries)
In German we'd call it, "Blockständerbau" where "Blockbau" refers to true log construction, and "Ständerbau" refers to any sort of timber building where loads are carried by upright posts (Ständer) (modern stick framing is, in fact, classified under the term "ständerbau" as are older timber framing methods)

Usually it isn't thought of as log building, instead it's thought of as timber framing with a heavy wood infill. Functionally it is a timber frame, although without oblique bracing since the carefully fitted and interlocked infill also braces the structure.

As far as settling, here's how the Swiss do it (because I know this tradition, I reference it) The infill is set into grooves in the posts (or otherwise interlocked with the posts-we'll get to that in a bit), but NOT fastened to them in any way. So as the timbers settle and dry out the whole wall shrinks and contracts vertically. To account for this, there is typically some sort of expansion joint at the top of the wall. However, the Swiss also frame with well-seasoned timbers, and particularly the infill timbers will be thoroughly dried  and precisely manufactured so that movement is limited to the general seasonal variation, rather than settling due to the drying of timbers set up green. But the Central Europeans also do not use chinking of any sort, rather rely on precise planing and fitting along with splines between the horizontal courses. 

Regarding how the timbers join the uprights, there are 2 methods historically. One of course is to cut a groove in the upright and tenons on the end of the infill timbers, and this is what might be the most obvious. Or you can do the opposite, and cut a nut on the side of the upright and grooves into the ends of the timbers. The Swiss prefer the latter. The main reason they will tell you is, if you cut a groove down the length of the post you create a line of stress, and when you put timbers into it if they twist they act as a lever against the post, and can potentially split it down the middle. Or, even without force applied by the infill timbers, the groove cut into the post still makes the post weaker and more prone to splitting. They wouldn't approve of attaching a 2x2 to the side of the post, because butt joints like that can't be effectively sealed against the weather. 

In the Alps this is an evolution of log building, the reason for its development being it solves a lot of the issues you run into when you want to make large buildings. Anyone who has seen a Bernese farmhouse understands these structure are massive. 

Personally it is my favorite building technique, and I've studied it for a number of years. 

Just north of the Alps, especially in the Swiss Canton of Bern, variations of this method are the basis for nearly all of the vernacular architectural styles until the early modern era. I've got some pictures of houses built my my direct ancestors in the 1600's and 1700's using this technique. 

The North American variations of this technique to me look like rugged adaptations of the European method, certainly brought by French people from the Western Alps (just like the dovetail log cabins in America are rugged adaptations of the Central and Eastern Alpine log building traditions brought over by Austrian and Bavarian settlers). I don't mean this as an insult, but it is a very rough approach used by rugged frontiersmen who weren't master carpenters, and who didn't have the time to build better homes for themselves. A lot of what you see when looking at these structures really doesn't represent the best practices, and they weren't supposed to. They are remarkable for what they are. They were perfect for the job, at the time. However, if you're looking to make a nice comfortable modern home I recommend not trying to reinvent the wheel, that is trying to figure out how to make such a rugged style more suited to modern demands, and instead look back to the original traditions of Europe that they were adapted from. They solved all of these questions quite a long time ago.  

In a modern Swiss construction, most or all of the timbers would be engineered, including the infill. They'll be laminated from planks maybe 1/2 to 3/4" in thickness in order to make structures that are dimensionally stable. In some cases when renovating old structures, they may even take the original timber (or timbers from a demolished structure with similar patina) and saw the face off, then laminate it to a new core so that the structure retains its original appearance (They spend great effort restoring old structures in such a way that when they are done, you can't tell that anything has been done. 


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