7 Essential Log Cabin Tools Required to Build a Log Cabin

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When it comes to building a log cabin, the tools you select are as important as the construction techniques you chose for your log home.

In this blog article, we will discuss the log cabin tools required to construct a log home, why we use these tools, how to use these tools and substitute tools.

Log cabin building tools can either be hand tools or power tools.

Using hand tools will make your build slower, however it’s easily achievable to build a log home with just hand tools.

Typically, building a log cabin without power tools is done because of the beautiful craftsmanship and finish it provides.

From log cleats and log dogs to a peavey and cant hook; there are hundreds of hand tools you can use to build a log cabin. Some will be specialized log cabin tools (e.g. a peavey) and some will be general purpose carpentry tools (e.g. chisels).

Yes, you can build a log cabin without a few of these log building tools, however, this post will share the 7 most important log cabin tools that you won’t be able to go without.

Purchasing good quality tools will be a great investment, you will be able to re-use them for future builds and the maintenance of your log cabin.

So, keep reading to discover all the tools you will need to build a log cabin…

Log Cabin Tools Infographic

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Adze (or Adz) – For Hewing Logs

Adze for Log Cabins

An adze is a specialized hand tool used for hewing logs from the stone age.

An adze is similar to an axe but has the cutting blade perpendicular with the handle at the base.

It traditionally looks like a “gardening hoe” with a long wooden shaft and a flat blade at a right angle at the shaft’s base.

Primarily, we use them for hewing logs once they have been felled. Hewing is the process of straightening a round edge of a log, once the bark has been removed.

Whilst an adze can be used as a substitute for a drawknife to peel and debark logs, it’s best use is for hewing.

Using an adze is very simple.

You will use it to hew the topside of a log flat. Standing next to, or on-top of, a log, swing the adze between your log hewing the log.

You will want a 3lbs, long handled (30-42”), adze from either Barr Tools or Gransfors Bruk.

An alternative to an adze is a broad axe, they are both used for finer detail smoothing and hewing of logs.

Axe – For Felling and Notching Logs

Axe felling trees

Where would a traditional log cabin builder be without their axe?!

An axe is a hand tool use for felling and harvesting logs. The axe is older than an adze, but, it also from the same era (i.e. the stone age).

An axe can be used for hundreds of jobs when building a log home; from felling to notching and harvesting to preparing lumber.

An axe is traditionally used for felling (i.e. cutting) logs.

An axe can also be used to notch your logs when hewing or scribing them, however, sometimes it is better to use a chainsaw for precision and speed.

How-to
When harvesting your logs, take an axe, and standing next to a tree cut a v-notch (i.e. kerf) at waist height to around ½ the diameter of the tree. Cut an identical kerf on the opposite side of the tree, around 1 foot above the original kerf. Finish felling the tree by using your axe to notch a final kerf 1 foot above the original kerf.

You will want a 4lbs, long handled (36-42”), axe from either Hickory or Husqvarna.

When felling, a substitute tool to an axe is a chainsaw. You will want to use a chainsaw for logs over 12” in diameter.

Chainsaw – For Cutting Logs

Chainsaw on a log

Building a log cabin from scratch can be a very cheap route to housing… chainsaws are not!

Unlike some of the other hand tools introduced in this blog post (e.g. Log Dogs) a chainsaw doesn’t require an introduction.

The only hand power tool included in this list, has been so for good reason.

A chainsaw is a universal tool which can be used to cut, round and notch your logs.

The sooner you invest in a good quality chainsaw the sooner your life will become much easier when building a log cabin.

Ideally look for Husqvarna, Makita or Stihl.

A particularly good one is a Husqvarna 359.

Drawknife – For Peeling and Debarking Logs

Two drawknives
The drawknife (i.e. drawing knife or drawshave).

A modern tool dating from around the 1950s. Originally coined a “drawing knife” because the knife was drawn towards you as you peeled lumber.

A drawknife is used for peeling and debarking logs, it can also be used for hewing your logs, however, that’s much easier with an adze.

A drawknife has a flat chisel-shaped blade, typically 22” wide and 8” high, and tapering tangs which are held by two wooden handles.

A drawknife’s primary purpose is to remove excess wood, in this instance, that’s the bark on your log cabin’s logs.

To use a drawknife, simply straddle a log, grip both handles of the drawknife, so that the knife will shave with the grain and not against it, and pull the blade perpendicular to the wood backwards toward you.

The sooner you use a drawknife to peel logs, once they have been felled, the easier it will be. Ideally, fell your logs in the spring and peel within 48 hours.

You will want a large draw knife around 22” with a 12” cutting blade from either Lie Nielsen or Barr Tools.

When debarking your logs, there are alternative tools available; a debarking spud. Typically, a debarking spud is used for tough logs where the bark is tacky. This can happen if you fell a tree and don’t debark it immediately.

Log Dog – For Holding Logs

What is a log dog?!

A Log Dog is a very specialized iron tool used when building a log cabin.

Its sole purpose is to hold logs in a fixed position when notching them.

A Log Dog holds two logs together ensuring that they don’t move when being scribed and notched.

It is the simplest tool you will use.

Simply insert one end of the log dog into a single log and the other into an alternate log which you want to fix in place.

You can then scribe, notch or cut the log.

You should look for a heavy-duty log dog between 20” and 30” and 4lb to 6lbs with a good taper on the tip. A good example is Lee Valley.

Log cleats are an alternative tool to hold logs in place are, they come in small and large sizes.

Mallet – For Hitting Logs

Rubber Mallet
Who hasn’t used a mallet before?

A mallet is a specific type of hammer with a large rubber head. Traditionally used in woodworking, to prevent spoiling and splitting of timer during manipulation, a mallet can be found in most museums in the world.

Mallets are used to position logs in place and to drive log cabins’ corners together.

They can also be used to support you when using other tools. For example, hitting adzes, chisels and log dogs!

Ideally, you should look for a white rubber mallet, weighing 2lb or 3lbs.

When positioning logs, you can also use a sledgehammer as opposed to a mallet. If you opt for a sledgehammer make sure to not mark or split the logs.

Peavey – For Moving Logs

A peavey is a logging tool.

Invented in 1850 by Peavey, as an alternative to a cant hook, it’s used to move, position and roll logs.

Moving and rolling logs into position, once felled, is exhausting… especially up hill.

That’s where a peavey comes in, especially for logs greater than 12” in diameter.

A peavey is used to roll logs into position when building a log cabin. A Peavey is especially useful when rolling logs that are uneven, or moving lots of logs, over a short distance, without a vehicle.

A Peavey only has one purpose so it’s an expensive tool to purchase for just this task, but, you will thank yourself if you purchase one!

To use a peavey, push the peavey’s spike into a log, and then use the hook and arm of the peavey to roll the log. Once fixed, a peavey provides great leverage to reposition or move a log.

An alternative to a peavey can be either a cant hook or a heavy duty flat pry bar. Essentially, any tool that provides the durability and strength to move a log can be used as a substitute.

Summary

In addition to these super seven hand tools, when it comes to building your log cabin, you will also need some smaller accessory tools:

  • Carpentry Squares
  • Chisels
  • Log Scribe
  • Measuring Tape
  • Plumb Bob
  • Spirit Level (40″)

That is it!

Once you have purchased these tools you will be ready to build a log cabin.

If you are running a tight budget then you can always look at craigslist and eBay for second hand tools. For new tools, you will be looking to spend around between $2,500 and $3,500.

This blog post has focused on hand tools required to build your log home from scratch. If you have purchased a kit to assemble, or have purchased, or felled, logs then you won’t require a peavey or adze.

If you have used alternative hand tools to build your log home with, or have any questions about the tools required, then we would love to hear from you in the comment sections below.

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