If you have short logs to work with, consider learning to build a Piece en Piece log home. You will still need some longer logs for the top caps, but this method allows you to build that majority of the structure with short logs. Construction consists of scribing solid natural logs for your horizontal wall panels, these will be "sandwiched" between upright posts that are milled flat to accept the log panels.
A plywood spline or "keyway" is used to lock the log home panels to the log uprights, making a very rigid air tight joint.
Build your Piece en Piece log home jig. Each horizontal panel was scribed within a jig (seen below). Each log panel had to be removed from the jig for cutting the long grooves (laterals). Using a 4-5″ x 1″ long auger bit, drill your through bolt holes on each end of the panel about 6″ in from the ends. Drill down straight using a helper to aid in telling the driller to keep plumb and to spray WD40 on the drill bit as it plunges through each successive log. Remove the logs when you run out of drill bit, and repeat until you are all the way through the last log in the jig. After all the logs are placed in their stringer (cut two long logs and cut "bird beak" shallow and smooth notches so each log rests without rolling and yet can be rolled easily for cutting the top and bottom long grooves. Cut your long grooves and staple in your gasket. Each log is placed back into the same jig with a crane.
Next, the jig is plumbed on both ends, the top of the jig is ratchet strapped tight against the logs in a squeezing fashion to ensure the upright jig posts do not move. The ends of the panels were left long and should be extending unevenly out of each end of the jig (pictured below). Using a Sawzall, the ends are cut from top down with the blade riding along the outside edge of the jig. When finished, use a 9 1/2 inch grinder with an aggressive sanding disc to sand down any humps left behind, making the ends of each panel perfectly flat so they butt up nicely against the upright posts.
Scribe the logs as you would any other. We simply placed a 2×4x4" chunk in between each log and it worked just great for scribing.
If you would like more information on scribe fit log joinery, click learn to build a log home using the Log Construction Manual. The manual is essential to own both for general understanding of the concepts we cover, and for the calculations you’ll need for your engineer.
Piece en Piece Log Home Questions
Questions From Bent C.: Hi Eric, I have a few questions about building a piece en piece log home that I hope you can help me with.
First off, does the posts take the weight of the house like a post and beam, or do the log walls carry the weight, because I’ve heard both and I’m confused as hell. In either way, how do the wall’s connect to the roof? If it is a sort of post and beam then the posts will hold the weight while the log walls shrink, leaving a gap between the top log of the wall and the cap log which is resting on the post. If the weight is held on the log walls, then when the building settles then the posts are going to bring up in the cap log and there is going to be a gap…..or worse!! I’ve been searching the internet trying to find answers or some direction but I kept hearing both theories without any explanation on how to deal with the problems each way incurs. Any info or direction you could point me in to seek answers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.
It was after many sleepless nights that I came up with the solution to shrinking wall panels for the Piece en Piece log home. Maybe someone else out there uses a similar solution, but this is what I came up with and it works great and gives you great results.
For now, here’s the way we do it…
- This “loaded” upright post with full scribe prow notches.
The upright posts do not hold any weight at all unless in this case of a prow (above) where there’s a bank of windows instead of panels. Notice in the photo above that the “loaded” post’s neighboring posts are tenoned into the upper cap logs as is normal throughout the rest of the building. Under this single post there is a substantial screw jack that can be lowered at the same rate as the log panels shrink.
The upright posts in the remainder of the home only serve as a means to hold the wall panels in their upright position.
Above, the “cap logs” are the horizontal upper logs that accept and hold all the upright posts. A second round of logs goes on top of the cap logs in order to allow notches at each corner that hold it all in place.
- Super tight joints and no chinking.The upright post has no weight on it. It slides up into the cap log as the panels settle.
When we build the wall panels, we build them all at the same height. Then, we cut all the upright posts 1 inch taller than the panels. This allows all the uprights to get “locked” in like Legos after the mortices (holes) are cut to receive them.
After the panels and posts are all made, we assemble the panels and the upright posts in the building yard on a temporary stump foundation with 4 inch slabs going from stump to stump. All must be perfectly level using a laser level for the stumps (this is the style we use). We cut the slabs on the sawmill. You’ll want to brace up the walls during this process. We used the cants cut from all the uprights and such.
Next, we cut the cap logs flat on the bottom side on the mill. You want the ends on the corner cap logs left round on the flyways, so finish the ends with your chainsaw, do this by cutting a section out with chainsaw on both ends so the band saw mill can do the majority of the flat cuts.
Once the cap logs are flattened and sanded, we lay each cap log in place directly on top of the upright posts to so they can be marked for the mortices to accept the posts -which are themselves, tenons. Using a sharp Sharpie marker, we trace around each upright post onto the bottom of the cap logs. We will cut out these mortices in the cap logs on the ground.
Remove the cap logs and place upside down in a log chalk.
As we know, the panels will shrink over time. So we must allow for the cap logs that are resting on the tenon upright posts to slide down over the upright posts as the panels settle.
We cut the mortices with a chainsaw. We must consider the amount of settling and make sure the mortices are deep enough to accommodate the post tenons to slide up into the mortices with no interruption. We figure 3/4 of an inch per foot of the height of the panels themselves. So, if the panel itself is 8 feet tall, multiply 8x.75 giving you 6 inches of settling space. Add the 1 inch because of the post being an inch taller already. So 7 inches would be the minimum depth for the mortices in this case. Go a bit more for security.
Mark your chainsaw bar at this depth so it’s fast to make your cuts.
Using the chainsaw, cut out the mortices. First carefully cut across the grain to avoid chipping away and as wood does. Then cut the interior and exterior mortice sides. Plunge cut carefully and keep to your lines perfectly as these cuts show and will show off your skills. Ensure to keep your chainsaw bar plumb as you want to error on the side of having the deepest part of the mortices slightly bigger than smaller. Go a little deeper in the corners making sure not to blow out the sides.
Next, bread slice cut three or four cuts across the leftover chunk to the same depth.
Using a thick round or hex shaped handled pry bar, and a mallet, slide the pry bar down inside and against the edge of the chunk and give it a whack. Do the same from the other end and the chunks will pop out. Using the pry bar, (I sharpen the nail puller end) and pop out any remaining wood chunks using the mallet.
Place the cap log on the wall and it should fit perfectly.
Be sure to use Sashco Backer Rod Gasket between the cap log and the panels and in between each log in the panels themselves. You will want to order large 100 foot rolls and hang them between two folding lawn chars so they unroll easily. You want the more soft gasket. You'll find that the more stiff kind is difficult to staple without it cracking. You’ll staple this between every log in the wall panels as well so order enough to run along the interior and exterior long grooves or laterals. The larger diameter softer kind works best as it really compresses nicely and is easier to staple and not split. We also use a power stapler as it is much easier and faster.
- The Piece en Piece jig.
When it comes time to build, you’ll want my plans for the jig. The jig makes building the panels a very fast process and it ensures each panel is perfectly square and the walls perfectly plumb. You’ll need to have a welder built if for you if you aren’t one yourself.
I thought of the ultimate way to lift each log with the crane and RAPIDLY swing the logs into the jig making this a two person process. Look for the spreader bar in the background of this image to the left. Not seen is the loop of nylon rope hanging from each hook that is used to guide each log and later the panels into place. This allows for very fast and safe placement of each log in and out of the jig.
You can count on building one panel per day doing it just like we did.Get a copy of the Log Construction Manual that you will need for each project because it covers many of the calculations your engineer needs. You’ll also have the same information you need each time you build a truss or lay out a ridge beam, that also should be provided to your engineer. Good stuff that you will use.
Importantly, you’ll want to know the tools we used. Below is my list of needed tools.
12 Amp Sawzall For cutting the ends of the panels. We used these type aggressive Sawzall blades. Spray WD40 on the blade several times during the panel end-cutting process. Ride the blade against the outside edge of the panel jig as not to cut into the jig.
Dead Blow Mallet For general chiseling, especially for notching and for electrical boxes.
Ratchet Straps used with the Piece en Piece jig (see how we used them in photo above).
Sledge Hammer for “persuading” the post to panel joinery. Be sure to use blocks of wood to prevent scarring up your logs.
2 ” Forstner bit (with screw!) For counter sinking the very bottom log (sill log) and the very top panel log for the through bolt nut-tightening. (your ratchet needs to fit down into the counter sunk hole so a 2 inch hole works great.
The through bolts extend up out of the panels by more than a foot, so how do you get a socket to reach down around the long through bolt? We took a piece of 2 inch gas pipe, cut it to about 16 inches long. Next, we cut the 1 1/8 socket in half and welded the halves onto each end of the pipe. Viola, a very long socket! Works great. Have your welder do this while you’re having the jig made. We used both regular 1/2 inch ratcheting socket wrenches as well as a pneumatic hammer (here’s an affordable one, no need to buy a $300 one) to tighten the through bolts in the panels. Of course, you’ll need an air compressor (this is the style we use). You’ll need a shallow 1 1/8" socket and wrench to hold the nut at the bottom while the top one is tightened by the person on top.
We also use two kinds of grinders. The 4-1/2-Inch smaller grinder and the discs we use to quickly sand the lateral groove scribe lines to the pen line. The large grinder and the discs we use for sanding panel ends just after sawzalling the ends off as well as sanding the post sides and tenons. We use a heavy grit on the panel ends so as to quickly sand any humps left behind and a lighter grit for the post tenons and post sides.
Note on grinder safety. Grinder discs are dangerous. Especially the large grinders that carry a real punch. I found out the hard way. Make sure your backer pad on your grinders are the right size. If your backer pad (black rubber part) is a smaller diameter than the sanding disc itself, the disc edge extends out too much. This causes a “free” portion of the discs to crack away into a saw tooth shape that grabs aggressively into the wood. At over 3o0o rpm, the entire tool can be throw toward the operator at light speed! This gave me 15 stitches and an almost severed pinky tendon. And it was like getting hit with a baseball bat at full speed. Wear heavy gloves and a face shield as well. I gave one of my workers a stern warning to wear his face shield. He said,”but I can’t see good enough.” I told him that I I insist he wear it. He put it on. 2 minutes into grinding (this time on a trailer) his grinder disc exploded and lodged right into his face shield. He was glad I insisted! Besides, the face shield keeps the dust out of your face and the noise reflected as well. Be sure to wear yours!
More REQUIRED safety gear we always wear:
Chainsaw Chaps. Don’t chainsaw without them.
Safety Glasses. Always wear them, even behind your face shield.
Super grippy log building friendly Steel Toed Shoes.
Anti-Vibe Chainsaw Gloves, great for chainsawing, drilling, sanding, and most everything.
Chainsaw Helmet / Face Shields These may look cumbersome, however, they are light weight, keep the sun/rain off your head, block glare, reflect chainsaw heat and noise and make chainsawing all day an enjoyable experience.
Hearing Protection doesn't mean the music and entertainment has to stop! I wear these awesome Bluetooth Skull Candy ear buds inside my over-the-ear protection. This way, you can answer calls, listen to music or your favorite radio show while working away and they also block out that much more noise while you are working on or around other loud equipment.
For information on how we installed the windows and doors, go to this page…
I hope to get the plans for the Piece en Piece jig posted here shortly. If you can’t wait, just contact me and I’ll try to get a rough drawing up for you to use.
For the best Log Home Guide, Look no further than the Log Construction Manual by Robert W Chambers. This is the Guide used to train professional crews the world over.
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Happy safe, and prosperous building!