There are 15 essential tools you need to build a log cabin from scratch.
You will need specific tools for log preparation, construction, notching and chinking, as well as some general ones that you probably already have at home.
We’ll go through each log cabin tool in detail and explain why they are important in the building process.
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Can you build a log cabin without power tools?
Although using power tools will make a log cabin easier to build, it is possible to create one without using any.
Power tools commonly used in log cabin construction are chainsaws, jigsaws and drills. However, these can be replaced by hand tools if desired.
Here’s the list of hand tools that you’ll need for a log cabin build:
- Cant hook
- Log cleat
- Tape measure
- Hand saw
- Log scribe
- Spirit level
- Chisel and hammer
- Notch jig
We’ll go through each of these tools in detail, in the order of where they come in the building process.
Essential log cabin tools for each stage of the build
Log collection and transportation tools
1. Cant hook
A cant hook is used to roll logs and position them where you want.
You can also use a peavey to do this. These tools are very similar except a peavey has a pointed tip that provides some extra functions. It can be useful for levering logs and for sticking in the ground to act as an anchor.
The cant hook, however, has an extra hook on the handle to give you a better grip when manoeuvering logs into position.
Make sure you opt for the longest cant hook you can find, unless you are undertaking a small cabin project, such as a treehouse for example.
The longer the tool, the more leverage you have, meaning it’s easier to move larger logs.
You must also consider purchasing at least two hooks to use together.
Here are two of the longest cant hooks we were able to find:
Logrite 60″ Xtreme Duty Cant Hook is longer than the standard 4 foot models, accommodating logs up to 36″ in diameter. Made in the USA.
Logrite Aluminum Handled Peavey is a good option if you want a reliable peavey.
Lastly, here’s a fantastic 3-in-1 option for smaller logging projects, the LogOX 3-in-1 Forestry Multitool.
2. Log cleats
Log cleats, or log dogs, are tools that hold your logs in position while you work on them.
They look like two arrows and they are put either side of the log you are securing.
The pointed end of the arrow should face away from the log, and this can be turned downward so that it’s secured in to the ground.
Here are some log cleats available on eBay
There are also these Timber Tuff log dogs, made from steel.
Both items have a rope connecting both log cleats, so that you can’t lose them both!
Log preparation tools
A drawknife is a tool that is used to remove bark or shavings from your logs.
You will need to carry out this log preparation step before the drying process, if you are using logs that you have felled yourself.
Once you have your logs in a secure position, use the blade of the drawknife and pull it towards yourself over the log.
Here’s a heavy duty drawknife example from Timber Tuff.
If your logs have hard bark that you’re finding difficult to remove, you can also try a bark spud.
These are specifically designed to remove bark from timber and can be used for patches that are missed with your drawknife.
Bark spuds blades are not as big as drawknifes. Here’s an example.
4. Tape measure
A tape measure needs no explanation.
Make sure you go for the longest length tape measure you can find for your log cabin project.
They are very useful in the notching process, especially dovetail notching as you need to be precise when measuring the ends of logs.
Axes have a few important roles in log preparation for cabin building.
They are firstly used for felling and preparing logs.
If your logs are wide in diameter, it’s easier to use a chainsaw, but if you don’t have one, an axe is the next best option.
Another part of the process you’ll need an axe for is hewing. This part is essential if you’re building your log cabin from scratch and not using a pre-made kit.
Hewing is the process of turning your logs into timber by smoothing the rounded edges.
Special hewing axes are available if you find it tricky to use a regular axe.
Lastly, axes can be used in the nothing process, in combination with a chisel and scribe.
6. Hand saw or chainsaw
Chainsaws are the preferred option over hand saws when it comes to log cabin construction.
They are much more convenient and allow you to prepare logs more easily.
However, if you don’t want to use any power tools, then a hand or bow saw is the next best option.
Chainsaws are used in log preparation for felling and cutting logs, as well as in other parts of the process such as notching.
7. Log scribe
A log scribe is used when notching to create a template based on the profile of another log.
This is drawn on to the log you want to cut so you can follow the outline.
Log scribe tools are not essential for all types of scribing, however, if you want to use either a:
- Scandinavian saddle notch…
- Cornerpost notch
Then you will need a scribing tool.
You will need to use the tool for every sleeper log you add when building up the walls of your log cabin, so it’s important to pick a reliable scribe for the job.
Here’s an example of a high quality log scribe you can get:
8. Notch jig
A notch jig is a template that you can use to ensure that every cut you make to a log is identical.
They are usually in the form of a box that a log can be fed into, and you can then saw the edges to create the same cut-out each time.
This means that it’s unlikely you will be able to purchase a notch jig – you will more than likely have to make your own if you are building your cabin from scratch. This is because the size of your logs is unique to your project, so a pre-made jig will not be the right dimensions.
Notch jigs are mainly used when building logs cabins with dovetail notches. Feed each log in to the jig and scribe them. You can then fit them securely on top of each other like a jigsaw puzzle.
You can get specific plans on how to construct a dovetail notch jig for your log cabin project too.
A mallet is used when notching to hammer the logs into place once they have been cut to fit.
They are recommended for this purpose over hammers because they are less likely to split or cause damage to the logs, due to their rubber head.
10. Chisel and hammer
Chisel and hammers are used in conjunction with axes and saws when scribing and notching logs.
Once you have laid your log down and used a scribe to mark where to cut, you can go along it with a chisel and hammer before using an axe or chainsaw.
A ruler is a helpful tool used when scribing logs.
Since they’re quite inexpensive, you can have a variety of rulers (different lengths) so you’re able choose the best one for the job.
Screw drivers are another useful tool that every carpenter should have in their toolbox.
Here’s a reliable screwdriver you can use for woodwork instead of a drill.
13. Spirit level
A spirit level is used for laying the foundation of your log cabin and when building up the walls.
They allow you to check that your surface is even and not skewed in a certain direction.
Spirit levels can also be used when notching to check the gradient, although using a log scribe and jig is usually good enough to ensure an even layering.
Chinking and caulking tools
Once you have cleaned the logs and applied a backer rod, you will need tools to apply chinking or caulking to your log cabin siding.
The first tool you need is a trowel. There are other ways you can apply the chinking, however a trowel allows you to have more control over it. You can make sure that it is spread evenly between each log.
Once the chinking has been applied, use a brush to go over any mistakes you’ve made and to smooth it over.
Make sure that the brush you use is cleaned after each use so that you can get an even spread each time.