Folk Architecture - Variations in Log Construction

"In southern Indiana logs were nearly always hewn on two surfaces to a reasonably uniform thickness of about seven inches. Hardwoods were invariably used because throughout most of this area conifers of a size sui table for building purposes did not grow. The tulip tree, or yellow poplar, was most commonly used, because, among other reasons, the wood is relatively light in weight, easily worked, and resistant to decay. Oak, beech, and other woods Here sometimes used, probably because long straight logs of these species were readily available. The tool used to hew the logs was primarily the  broadaxe. Hewing with the broadaxe is mostly a process of splitting away pieces of wood of various size. It is a process well adapted to hardwoods while the Norwegian drawknife technique, wherein wood is always cut away is best used with softwoods. The hewing technique which produces a usable timber from the log is also basically the same as that used in hewing the heavy timbers for sills, corner posts, and the like, used in buildings of frame construction. While the sides of the timbers in southern Indiana were hewn, the tops and bottoms were left with the natural curvature of the log… Most frequently the bark was not even removed from the top and bottom surfaces. This fact insured that when the logs were placed in the wall the natural curvature of the logs plus the taper from the butt end to the top left gaps or intercises of varying widths between the logs. These intercises were filled or chinked. First, pieces of wood or flat stones were laid between the 1ogs and then clay was plastered on, both from the inside and the outside. This technique is reminiscent of some forms of half timber construction wherein a frame of heavy timbers is constructed. Between the timbers sticks are inserted which are then plastered with clay. An even closer resemblance is found in a type of frame construction occurring in New England and, perhaps, elsewhere in the United States. After the frame of heavy timbers is constructed, vertical planks are used to fill in between the timbers of the frame and the Halls are then covered with clapboards…

In southern Indiana the so-called single dovetail joint was used most commonly to lock the timbers together at the corners . I have found only one building using the full dovetail joint, and that is a house built in New Harmony by the Rappites, religious group from Germany who spent ten years in Pennsylvania before coming to Indiana in 1814. The V-notch was also used, though far less commonly. Whichever type of joint was used, the joint was always fitted very carefully. With joints of this type, too, the ends of the logs do not protrude past the corners."

Warren Roberts, "Some Comments on Log Construction in Scandinavia and the United States," Folklore Students Association Preprint Series, vol. 1, no. 3, July 1, 1972. 2.