That’s sounds like a crazy question doesn’t it? But, I think it’s worthy of exploring.
We can all easily visualize what a log cabin looks like, a mental picture immediately comes to mind of a home in the mountains, complete with smoke curling out the top of the chimney… but, I think it’s an important exercise to seek out a clear definition of exactly what is… a log cabin.
Over the years I’ve seen far too many homes claim to be log cabins, but they simply are not what they claim to be. Imposters they are, structures which don’t even meet the most basic of requirements to earn that label.
First let me say that I’m not one of those people who are fixated on whether there is a difference between a log home and a log cabin… they mean the same thing to me. I find that arguing over this point is the same as correcting someone over how they pronounce “wainscoting”… we all know what we are talking about.
Now back on topic, if I look up the definition of “log cabin” I find this…
“A log cabin is a house built from logs.”
Now that is a pretty straight forward answer, isn’t it? And I couldn’t agree with it any more than I do. Perhaps, I would expand the definition a bit and come up with…
“A log cabin is a house built from logs, in which the logs are laid horizontally and notched in the corners.“
I feel that if a home is built with logs that run vertically that the structure is either a fort, or a timber-frame. And even more strongly, I feel that a log cabin without notches in the corners to hold the cabin together, it’s just a pile of poles, even if the logs are spiked together. I look to historic precedence… I challenge anyone to find me just one log cabin that was assembled without some kind of notch in the corners… from the beginning of time up until the late 20th century when cabins started to be “manufactured”.
So, we know what a log cabin is… it’s made up of logs… and what is a log?
The definition I find of a log is…
“A length of a tree trunk ready for sawing and over six feet long” .
Again, a simple straight forward definition that I agree with. It’s hard to argue with a dictionary, isn’t it?
So, if you want a log you simply cut down a tree and cut off the branches (if there are any) and presto!… you have a log. You are now ready to build a log cabin.
The method is different by region… if you live west of the Mississippi River likely you will make your log cabin out of these round logs just like they come out of the forest (many will go ahead and remove the bark). If you live east of the Mississippi River then you will likely hew the log with an axe on two sides, the inside and outside faces.
But if instead, you send the log to a sawmill you will either get timbers out of it, or dimensional lumber. You will not get your log back. The log is gone. You cannot make a log out of lumber any more than you can make an apple out of an apple pie.
I don’t care if it’s a 2”by4” or a 10”by20” timber, if it is a sawn piece of wood it is no longer a log. If it is then shaped round it does not magically become a log again. If someone runs a roto-tiller over it does not become a hewn log (I’ve seen it done).
So, if someone builds a cabin out of stacked sawn timbers, whether rounded, milled, or heaven forbid, roto-tilled, they do not have a log cabin. I don’t know what it should be called… maybe “a cabin”? Or, a “timbered cabin”? Or, a maybe…“wood cabin”? And that’s not a bad thing… it’s just not a log cabin, or a log home.
Historians, log cabin artisans, and people knowledgeable in log cabin construction, all cringe at the sawn products of manufactures when they claim they produce log cabins. Don’t be fooled by their propaganda. Know what you are buying.
I like vintage cabins the best, but there are plenty of fine new cabins out there too… just be careful and don’t be fooled by an imposter.
Heck, even Log Cabin syrup no longer contains real maple syrup… it’s now flavored corn syrup. Yuck. I’ll take the real thing, thank you.
Originally posted 2015-02-18 21:58:45.