Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Chilcotin Holidays

Learning to build two log cabins in one week


Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin HolidaysWhen the opportunity for a Chilcotin Holidays chainsaw training program arose, I signed up with the aim of improving my chainsaw skills and applying these new skills to building log cabins.

I had some prior chainsaw operating experience but this didn’t carry much weight after getting through the required training at the start of the log cabin course, where learning to safely handle the saw is the highest priority.
Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin Holidays
The first step was gearing up for the chainsaw orientation: Chaps, ear plugs, gloves, glasses, hard hats and steel capped boots all being necessary. The training itself showed us the fool proof ways to buck, controlling all the variables for a beginner using the saw. The main concern being if you cannot handle a chainsaw safely, in a controlled environment, how are you going to handle one with all the variables involved in log cabin building?

We moved on to chainsaw maintenance, repairing a chain brake on a saw, then sharpening the chain, both critical techniques when building log cabins. Luckily for us the Ranch had many log cabins of differing structures such as a horizontal barn and a vertical log shop. Enabling us to see first hand the theory behind building log cabins as we walked around observing the pros and cons of each structure type, as well as errors that occurred in construction and possible pitfalls.

Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin Holidays
Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin Holidays
After everyone was proficient in safe handling of the saw, we moved onto how to construct a horizontal log cabin. Our starter cabin was already blocked up and even, standing at three logs high. Our first lesson was how to choose our logs for the cabin. Which was particularly important as logs that are too thin will not have enough log to notch and hold the logs on top and logs that are too big swallow up the smaller logs which disappear into them, or cause large wall gaps. Not to mention logs vary in straightness, but need to sit close to flush on the log below. Our log cabin course instructor Kevan showed us how to manage the variables, whilst all the time keeping the end result in mind, a level log cabin.

We spent the day mastering our new skills; selecting logs, cutting notches to fit them in place, then positioning them correctly to keep the height and alignment of the cabin in order. Even though from the outset progress was slow, the team was becoming more efficient as time went on.

We started early the next day, with enough practice and training under our belts, we became more productive at raising the walls, placing log after log, building scaffolding so we could place the logs higher and higher. Having reached the cabins optimal height, the afternoon was focused around constructing a roof. This required a whole new skills set, based around cutting logs to a specific fit for the roof, making the work much more intricate with many more components than the wall construction.

Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin HolidaysAlthough by that afternoon we had successfully completed the bare bones of our first cabin and we were looking ahead to our next step, finishing a cabin out in the mountains.

Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin HolidaysAfter selecting our horses and fitting our saddles, our team completed a riding orientation, learning how to ride in the western style and becoming acquainted with the personalities of our horses. The next morning, we began the five hour ride to the mountains camp. Traveling on our sure footed Mountain Cayuse horses, the journey was easy, despite trekking across deep mud, rock slides and slippery creeks. The opportunity to be deep in the wilderness, amongst nature, mounted atop my trustworthy steed, was a truly breathtaking experience.

Arriving at our mountain camp we started our next conquest, a 24 foot long cabin, nearly twice the size of our last cabin. That meant heavier logs, a greater risk and a greater danger. This log cabin course was about starting small, in our case at the ranch, then slowly working your way up.

Aside from the sheer extent of the new project, we also faced the issue of the poor log choices. As our predecessors had failed to select the correct logs to keep the walls level and even.

Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin HolidaysDespite the struggle we were able fix the issue, and we learned some great tricks from our log cabin course instructor Kevan on how to compensate for errors in cabin building (assuming these errors could not be avoided in the first place).

We also had our first wilderness horse logging experience, having Willy, one of the larger horses, drag logs through the bush to the cabin site.

After two long hard days work, the walls of the cabin were up. Next began the intricate work, fitting doors and windows. Sounds simple right, you just have to cut out a rectangular hole? This is not the case. We needed to factor in the placement of the door to keep the corners weighted correctly, in order to preserve the stability of the walls after you have cut so much weight out. Then the alignment and support of the logs that will be cut and the height lost from the cabin logs settling over time needs to also be prioritized. However with much finesse, we managed to cut and support a door and a window.
Learning to build two log cabins in one week with Chilcotin Holidays 
From inexperienced bucking to safe operation of a chain saw our week long adventure resulted in the construction of two entirely new cabins! From this graduated process I learned and developed many new skills, although it took lots of hard work.

All in all, a job well done.

James, Australia


Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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