Wednesday, April 28, 2010


In the early 1980's I was introduced to log building when I was an apprentice to Paul Smith in Cooper Landing. I soon became a purist of scribe fit log building; looking down my nose at factory turned logs and conventional stick framed homes.
Now, a quarter century later, I realize there is room enough in this world for all types of homes and one type isn't necessarily better than the other depending on what location on earth it is located.
Here in Alaska and in other northern climes we value homes that are energy efficient and easy to maintain. Perhaps the most efficient homes are the sod houses that the Eskimos lived in for thousands of years. They are weather tight, easy to heat, built with local materials at low cost and are very low maintenance. Naturally, we have become accustom to our modern conveniences and most of us aren't willing to give them up to live in a truly green home.
Since we aren't willing to live in sod houses, we are left with wood as our primary material for residential housing. We do see some concrete homes and even some steel frame construction, but wood is still king in homebuilding.
I am often presented with the question; which is better, log homes or conventional frame construction. I love this question because it gives me an opportunity to display my vast knowledge and make people think I'm really smart. The answer is easily answered with a question. 'Which one do you like best?' or 'How much money have you got?'
The title for this blog is Log vs. Frame as if it is a title fight or a court battle. Believe it or not, people frequently do plot one against the other like one is better than the other.
In the words of the infamous Rodney King. "Can't we all just get along?"

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Framing Nailer for All

Everyone who has ever built anything with a hammer and nails can appreciate the ease and speed of a framing nailer. Up until twenty years or so ago; you had to purchase a compressor, hose, fittings and a nailer to get set up for air nailing.
If you are building one of our Kits, I recommend you purchase a Paslode Cordless Framing Nailer. Everything you need comes in the handy carrying case. You don't need a compressor, hose or anything else.
The framing nailer is powered by a battery to activate the firing mechanism and a butane cartridge to provide the power to drive the nail. We have been using them since the early nineties and have had great success.
True, they aren't quite as fast as pneumatic nailers and you have to pull the trigger for each nail but it is literally ten times as fast as the fastest hand nailer.
The downside is that the battery and the gas cartridge need to be kept warm during winter work. Our solution is to keep an extra battery and cartridge in an inside pocket close to the body.
The nailers are under $400 and can be had at AIH, Home Depot, SBS, Lowes.........
The time you will save will amaze you and there are many nail sizes etc. to choose from..

"Oh, wouldn't the world seem dull and flat with nothing whatever to grumble at?" W.S. Gilbert

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'Glu - Lam Humor'

We were building a cabin on Nancy Lake in the late 90's. The site wasn't road accessible so we had to take all of our material by boat to the shoreline and haul it up a steep hill to the building site.
I had hired two young fellows to carry the materials up the hill which was quite a task. When I got to the site to start building, I noticed two 5 1/8" x 12" Glue Laminated beams still at the waters edge. Instantly I new what had happend. The boys found the beams to be too heavy. True, they were 18' long and they were heavy, but I figured they could have carried them with a little effort. OK, a lot of effort.
I called them on the cell phone to ask why they hadn't taken the beams up the hill, I got the answer I had anticipated. " Those beams were just too heavy". I wasn't thrilled about it but I knew I was going to have to take the beams myself if they were going to get up there.
I hoisted the first beam on my shoulder and slowly started trudging up the hill. Wow, this beam was even heavier than I thought. By the time I got to the top of the hill I was breathing harder than if I had attempted a four minute mile. It seemed like my mouth wasn't quite big enough to take large enough breaths. One down and one to go.
On the second beam I went a little slower but the same problem arose at the top of the hill: I just couldn't catch my breath. Finally, both of the beams were at the top of the hill and I was quite proud of myself and I called the boys and told them that I took the beams myself just to rub it in a little.
Later that night when I got home, Gwen, my wife wanted me to hear a message she received on her cell phone. "You want to explain this?" she asked. The message started out with extremely heavy breathing and continued with heavy breathing for a minute or two which seemed a little long for an obscene phone call. Then it hit me.
I had accidentally hit the cell phone recall button in my pocket while hauling the beams and had called her phone and left a message. She looked at me after I explained and said one word sardonically. "Sure"

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.
- Oscar Wilde

Friday, April 16, 2010

Porcupines Like Trex?

We have been hearing reports about Porcupines and trex. We would really appreciate any feedback.
It is pretty well known that porcupines like to chew on anything that contains salt or glue. They really like unpainted T1-11, mainly because it contains glue. Canoe paddles and wood hand tools are also favorites as they contain salt from the users sweaty palms.
There have been reports of porkys chewing on plastic culverts and trex decking. Since these products cannot be painted, other measures have to be taken if the problem persists.
If you have pictures of porcupine damage, particularly damage to trex decking and other synthetic products; we would like to post them for our readers.

Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker. - Zig Ziglar

Monday, April 12, 2010

More Cabin Tales

We had contracted to build a Uyak bay on the west side of Kodiak Island. A landing craft had been hired to haul the material which amounted to almost 50,000 pounds. My crew was on board and the boat was on the water for eight or nine hours when I got a phone call from Kenai Supply in Homer.
Kenai Supply was our supplier at the time in the mid nineties and we had always experienced excellent service from them. "Jay, I hate to tell you this, but we forgot the glu-lams on the Kodiak order." My heart quickened as I immediatly got on the phone to a friend in Kodiak to see if he knew anyone who could take the glu lams from Kodiak city. He didn't. I then called around to see if I could find anyone to take the beams. I finally settled on All West Freight in Sterling. 'Wild Bill' owned the company and he came by his name honestly. Bill agreed to take the beams in his Sky Van but since they were 20' long he wouldn't be able to close the back door.
I took the beams from Palmer to Sterling and loaded them on Bill's plane and we headed for Larsen Bay. When we got there I had to hire a truck to take the beams down to the bay, hire a boat to haul the beams across the bay, and pay the crew to haul them up to the building site. By the time we got the beams delivered they cost
2000.00 each compared to 300.00 at the lumber yard.
I guess it is true that you learn more from your losses than your wins. You would think that after a few projects like this I would want to give up. Well I thought about it a few times but couldn't bring myself to give up the exitement. Or, more likely, I don't know how to do anything else. In any event, we've learned a few things about building cabins over the years but we still get a surprise once and a while and that keeps it exiting.

No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.
- Aesop, Greek fabulist

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Building Season 2010

The 2010 building season has taken us a little by surprise. We have committed much of the summer and some of the fall of 2010 and the winter of 2011 looks like it will be busy with off road projects.
We still have some open dates for this season so don't hesitate to call.
Pricing has been very level for the past year until the past few weeks. We have seen metal roofing products shoot up 15% and lumber prices are very likely to follow. This means we may have to raise prices for the first time in almost four years. I am not sure when this will happen and we will hold it off as long as we can.
Financing institutions have lightened up a little since last year which helps when you're trying to get a construction loan.
All in all, 2010 is shaping up to be a good year for building so let us know what we can do for you!

There are no classes in life for beginners: right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.Rainer Maria Rilke