Nov 112013

I would imagine that most of you guys probably won’t be wanting to building a massive cabin in Alaska or Northern Canada, but I really enjoyed watching this film all the way through.  It really shows you the amount of effort that goes into making one of these homes.  You can really see most of the steps that we have talked about throughout our website.  All of the cabin building procedures used here except for the first couple of steps (we assume they already had that part done).    I would like to think that one day we could all afford to have someone helps us build something like this, but for now, it’s really fun watching this video.  It takes you from the beginning stages of building all the way up to clearing the site when they are finished.  I would like to say now that there is no footage of the final look (does not include an landscaping done, just the finished house).  If you are one of the few people who can actually afford this sort of thing you will be pleased to know that the company who did this has a website.  The name of the company is Everlog Systems.  If you are looking for the log cabin look, this is the best of the best in my opinion.  They do not use actual wood, its actually concrete.  So the concrete is made to look like wood.  You will get the real cabin feel without the termites, mold, costly maintenance, etc.  I imagine it insulates a lot better also.  I think we will be doing a post later on that will specifically cover homes built with these and how to build homes with these.  I think you would agree that while this may not be the most traditional option, a home built using these types of logs will be in your family for generations.

Nov 052013

If you are moving to Alaska and building your own place, chances are you are going to be out in the bush.  This may not mean much to you now, but there is a lot of work that goes into building off the grid.  You can find land cheap (do not let anyone tell you that you can’t) and in fact so cheap that you may consider it in the near future.  The problem with the cheaper land in Alaska is that 9/10 its tens, if not hundreds of miles from any major road.  You can see how important building accessible roads on your land can be.  “Roads” in Alaska, for the most part would be considered trails/dirt roads down in the Lower 48.  The problem is the sheer size of the state.  Not only is Alaska ranked last (50th) in population density (it comes out to about 1.26 people per square mile which is 1/6th of next to least dense state) but half the population lives in one city (Anchorage, Alaska).  So what does this mean for the people who live in Alaska?  Well, basically it means that most people actually use planes and boats to get around.  There are 12 highways in Alaska which might sound like a lot but if you consider what they think a Highway is, Texas has over 654 thousand miles of highway (Alaska has 30,000 if total land roads and is nearly twice as large as Texas).  Alaska ranks 45th in total roads while also having the largest area out of any state in the United States.


Great movies to look at if you are interested in how the Alaska Highway was built (yes these are going to be similar to what you are going to want to build):




Problems you will run into if you don’t plan this out properly

  • Very Steep Grades (In Alaska, this will mean an inability to get up steeper inclines during the Winter.
  • Popped Tires from not moving all of the excess materials to the side
  • Slope support disappears by undercutting
  • Runoff gets concentrated and destroys the road all together
  • Water Quality gets degraded

Things that you want to take care of before you start construction

Before you start construction of your new there are a lot of items that you have to take a look at and make sure you have “dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.”  Firstly, probably the most important step of all is gathering as much information available about the land you are building on in advance.  Even if you are subcontracting out you need to do this for the contractor because they won’t normally just have that information.  Contour maps are probably going to be your greatest savior unless you are building on a plain and they are usually available at your local, county or state government offices.  You can also find them from the U.S. Geological Survey.  You will also need soil information which can be obtained from the United States Department of Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Once you have all of the information you need you need to map out the entire location.  You should have already put out markers to designate where your property starts and ends (marking your territory per say). 

Oct 292013

One of the most important steps to building a Log Cabin is clearing the land in order to build on it.  There are several tools that can be used in this process and we are going to go over each one in depth. We want you to be able to make the best possible decision for yourself:

  • Stump Cutter – Also known as a stump grinder, a stump cutter is designed to do exactly what its name says which is cut stumps.  If you are looking for stump cutters we have a few resources for you. First, here is a video we found that we feel contains the best information when looking for Stump Cutters/Stump Grinders:

  • Lopper – The word lopper may look foreign to you, but really they are just oversized pruning shears.  This guy is kind of crazy (end of the world type so maybe not) but he has a great demonstration as to what a lopper is, how to take care of it, and how its used.

  • Mattock/Pickaxe – If you have ever played MineCraft than you know what a pickaxe does. Same concept applies here. Take a look at this video if you have never used a pickaxe:

  • Heavy-Duty Rake – When you think heavy duty rake I am sure you are thinking something along the lines of a really thick rake…and your assumptions would do what they always do. These are huge machines that I would recommend renting at some point if you have a lot of semi-open land to clear. Here are a couple of videos that show them hard at work:

Sep 252013

The more important piece of equipment when building a dredge is going to be the engine/motor that you use to power it.  You can skimp on almost all parts but this one.  This is the one part you really cannot create on your own.  With 3d printers getting more popular, at some point it may be possible, but for now its just a pipe dream.  In order to figure out which one best suits your needs I will show you some of the best:

One of the most important specs to think about is what is buying a motor that will match the pump that you are using.  These two have to be in sync with each other or nothing will go right.  The easiest way to figure this out honestly is to look on the manufacturers websites.  You are going to want to figure out how much suction you are going to need which will decide what kind of pump you will need.  Make sure that whatever pump you get matches up with whatever size hose you are going to be using.  I have to say that this is the one mistake that almost every person who has ever dredged for gold will openly tell you they have made at least once before.  You must also remember never to dredge without some sort of air filter because otherwise it will eventually ruin your engine.  You will probably want to change the oil out every 20-25 hours after the first 5 hours (this is because you usually want to change the oil out of an engine after 5 hours because this is just starting oil).

As an innovator myself, I consider pretty much any engine that doesn’t have a whole lot of horsepower an option.  As long as you can make it work with your pump its all golden.  

Nov 192012

For this weeks How To series I have chosen to reach out to all those “Gold Miners” out there.  I am not really talking about true miners here, more the type of person who has some extra cash and would not mind trying to dredge for gold on a larger scale than someone who goes into a stream with a pan.  This article is not going to cover everything about getting gold out of the ground.  This one is mainly about building the sluice box for the dredge.  With a gold dredge, there is still not as much equipment that you have to pack into wherever you are going, but you are still going to be able to move a lot of dirt and get a decent amount of concentrate at the end of a long day.  If you get a large enough consistent water stream going (usually assisted by some sort of pump) then you can funnel material (dirt, gold, rocks, etc) through a sluice box which will naturally have slower spots (where gold being heavier than most other materials found in streams will fall into the ripples while the rest of the material shoots on out the back via the water.  

You might thing that the Sluice Box has to best set up perfectly and mathematically.  This really is not the case as really the flow of water is what is key.  The general rule of thumb when building a sluice box is that there be a one inch drop for every one foot of length.  A four foot sluice box is going to also need 4 inches of drop.  Heavier rocks can destroy a sluice box so its best to build a wind dam or something to keep the bigger rocks from going into the sluice box.  A hint that I might add is that the longer the sluice box, the more potential you have for picking up material and gold.  Obviously once they get to a certain length it starts to become difficult to carry them around, but if you can somehow figure out a way to build one that folds, you might be able to keep it long and still backpack it somewhere if need be.  

Here are three different dudes letting you know how they built their sluice boxes.

Nov 172012

For this series we have been showing you cabins that have either been designed or built by regular people like you or me.  The difference is that these people spent very little money making their cabin complete.  Think of this as a how-to build inexpensively.  Remember that one of the best things you can do as far as making your build inexpensive is by using the land that you have around you as much as possible.  If you are building a cabin in the woods, this is perfect because you can mostly use trees (depending on what kind of trees are around you) to build the house.  All that is needed from there is a bit of equipment for cutting, shaping and moving them around.  

Here is a sketchup of how the cabin is going to look once finished. This is a really cool way of making sure you that you get everything that you need correct for your build. You can take use some programs to take your sketch and put it into plan form. This makes the first part of building a cabin pretty easy. The user disabled embedding of the video so here is a link to the video: Here is another one: And another one: I promise that this is the last one I will show you. Its a sketchup of the staircase in the cabin:

Nov 162012

Once you have bought your land, you are going to need to set up property boundaries and in some cases map out your property. You have to understand that outside of that boundary you have no say what happens. When you buy your land you will have a property deed. You will need this deed in order to figure out exactly where your boundaries are. This is honestly the first and most important step to the process as you should always have all of your paperwork in order.

What are Property Deeds?

The next step will be to gather as much information about your property as possible. There are a couple of places you can go to find the information you need. These places include City Hall and the County Courthouse. One of those places 9 times out of 10 will have the information you are looking for. Each City/County keeps records of every inch of the area it covers. You might also check the Tax Appraisal District Office. A lot of times they will actually have a database of information online.

Information that you are looking for:

  • Description of Your Property
  • Surveyor’s Notes
  • Road Descriptions

Determine Your Surveying Method

Metes and Bounds Method

Gathering All of Your Supplies

This is one of those obvious steps that need to be taken.  There really is not much to say about this step other than here are some things you might not think to grab that you will probably at some point need:

  • Property Deed
  • Public Records
  • GPS Unit
  • Compass
  • Plum Bob
  • Red Ribbon/Tape
  • Spikes/Nails (8 inches +)
  • Another Person

Search For Boundary Markers

Complete the Survey

Determine the Size of the Property

This can either be really easy or the exact opposite.  If you have a simple shaped property like a square or rectangle it will be a lot easier.  The more sides you have to a property, the more complicated the calculation is going to be. Here is a link to a TLC site that tells you how to determine the square footage of something:

Here are some more videos that could help you with your study of surveying. Remember that practice makes perfect and that goes for surveying too.

Nov 102012

This little cabin is hidden deep in the forests of northern Minnesota. Built in the 1920′s and still being inhabited during the 1950 census has now become a special place for a lot of people. Jack L. brought his bride back here in the early 1950′s for their honeymoon year. He then sold it to Everett B. and his fellow farmer/deer hunters. While out exploring on skis Martin happened upon it in 1986 and was able to purchase it with some friends. Many great memories have happened since then.

Nov 092012

We have started yet another series. This one will include how-to videos and websites that will help you on your travels, jobs, and building a sustainable homestead.  One of my goals when creating this website was to be able to help people create the best homestead of their own for the cheapest possible price.  I went into this with just skills I had picked up through the Boy Scouts as a young man.  I have no construction experience and most of my research takes place either in a library or online.   If I can do it, so can you.  It all starts with doing your research and understanding what it takes to set up a goal and reach it.  Once you have figured that out it always helps to have people around you (two heads are better than one kind of thing).  Out in the Bush, people are friendly but if you are really out there, you could be completely on your own.

Without any further interruption, I would like to introduce you to our first article in the “How To Series.”  This is a set of Youtube videos which show the various ways to debark/peel a log.  

How to peel a Log Home log with a draw knife, also how to skip peel a log after debarking has taken place.

Barking some split logs of black locust with an old broad axe.

How to peel a Log Home log with a draw knife, also how to skip peel a log after debarking has taken place.

Sort of like a Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, except in Maine.

Nov 032012

For our second week (I know you have been anticipating this for a while now) we are focusing on a small cabin. This one is off the grid and no where near any main roads. Its near Glennallen, Alaska. I love the look of this one and this could be how I design my personal one in a couple of years. Some of the videos included are pictures while others are short videos of how it was created along with the finished product.

Stay tuned for next week when we start looking at some pretty interesting cabins.

Oct 282012

I feel like the website is lacking in posts about the actual process of building the cabin.  I thought I would start sharing as much knowledge as possible for people.  I will start this series off with some information on how to build the flooring and foundation for a normal cabin.  I should also note that this is how I will be building the foundation for my future cabin.  He does have a lot of questions in this video but if you check out his channel you will see that he is far more confident and experienced at this point.

Here is a video of the land they ended up buying in Alaska. They ended up getting it on the Kenai Peninsula.

Oct 272012

So I thought to kick off the Cabin Building part of our website, I would start by showcasing a different cabin every week. Some of them will be video series and some will be short clips of cabins. If you enjoy Alaska and log cabins as much as I do, I am pretty sure you will enjoy this series. I will start the series off with a beautiful cabin near Denali National Preserve.

Day 1 – Clearing Land, Laying Foundation

Day 2 – “Gary and I take the van full of supplies and tools up to the site. The logs we purchased from Northern Log and Lumber are delivered, the log wizard is sharpened and ready for some plaining. We find a surprise in the van just before we hit the sack. Overall a good day, and the deck is about ready for some logs.”

Day 3 – “We continue work the next day, focused on finishing the sub-floor and framing.”

Day 4 – “We start the day out with a cup of espresso from the lodge, finish off the flooring and lay our first log.”

Day 5 and 6 – “Gary heads back to Seattle, so Kimberly’s father Greg volunteers to join in the adventure. Together we continue work on scribing the logs for the nook, plaining and screwing log after log.”

Day 7 – “Day 6 of the build, and it is so neat watching my wife Kimberly and her father working together. The cabin is starting to come together, to the point where you can imagine the layout.”

Day 8 – “Greg flew back to Hawaii, so my Nephew JT volunteered to help. It was good timing because of his height, and long arms. We continued working up the project, finishing off the nook up to the upper window frames.”

Day 9 – “My friend John flew in from Tennessee to help with the project, and drink some good/great Alaskan beer (Midnight Sun Brewery). He also gets a class on Camper Van etiquette from Kimberly.”

Day 10 – “Day 10 we continue working towards a roof, end the night with a meal by the campfire as we dry off and have a cold beer. And John continues to pick on Riley with his Iphone app.”

Day 11 – “It starts with a little work and rain, followed by a trip to the lodge for a hot cup of espresso and a moment to warm up. I continue peeling logs with the Log Wizard which turns out to be some back-breaking work. John continues cutting logs for the window frames.”

Day 12 – “Finally a break from the rain, and more folks join in on the adventure. We finished the inside walls and start working on the roof-line. But also made some time to enjoy the sun and an Alaskan amber — Ahhh! Butch and JT join John, Kimberly and I and continue towards getting a roof on this sucker.”

Day 13 – “Day 13 we keep working towards having a roof on the cabin. Unfortunately, the project has taken its toll on the chainsaws and getting duller with each nail they hit. After a frustrating couple of hours we are ready to lift the main roof beam.”

Day 14 – “This is the last day of the project for 2011. We worked as fast as we could before leaving Alaska for Europe. JT and I work into the night to tighten the cabin up for the winter. See you next summer.”

I hope you enjoyed this series and hope you look forward to future entries.

Jan 212012

So I would like to first state that I in no way consider myself an expert on building log cabins, homes, or anything for that matter. I am just a regular guy who is hoping to find a project worth taking on. I am very good at doing research which is why I have decided to start blogging about it. I figure if anything I may help someone out there who is thinking about doing something similar. Anyways, choosing the right kind of tree to is not as easy so I have created a guide for you which pretty much has everything you need. I have done a lot of the research for you only because I had to do it at one time for myself.

Evergreens are going to be the best wood (pines, cedars, spruces, and larches) when building a log cabin. There really is no “best” kind of wood for you to use as different woods are best for different situations. Most of the time its the most abundant wood available in your area. The most commonly used wood is the Eastern White Pine because of how much is available throughout the lower 48, it’s super easy to work with, and it looks good on a cabin. This is not as true for Alaska though. Other types of wood to consider (if available in your area):

  • Oak – Strong and heavy, has a very tight grain
  • Douglas Fir – Very strong and has a tendency to repel things such as fungal and mildew problems. Its great for structural beams/legs.
  • Sitka Spruce
  • White Spruce
  • Black Spruce

Once you have figured out what kind of wood you are going to use, you need to find trees that are about the same age, height, and thickness. I would worry most about the thickness because you can always cut the wood shorter and its not as easy to make them skinnier. You want them the same thickness because they are going to have to fit right on top of each other. You want to avoid trees with low laying limbs. The range of the size of logs that you want to be using is 8inches – 14 inches. You really do not want to go skinnier than 8 inches because not only will you have to be using twice as many logs to get the job done, you are also risking structural damage in the future buy using a small log. Once you have made your selection, you need to keep the logs about the same width as discussed previously. Allow at least 4 feet extra length so that the logs hang off the sides of the notches. You are going to want to shave the logs before using them because they will dry faster that way. What I will end up doing is probably cutting as many as possible at the very end of the summer and just leave them to dry out over winter. This way I am not as worried about the possibility of mold or mildew. Just make sure you have your wood secured pretty good.