Birth of a Wooden House: Watch a Log Cabin Get Built from Scratch

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Few of us have any concept of what it’s like to take on the responsibility of cutting down trees and using manual tools to painstakingly craft the timber into a completely handmade log cabin that’ll last for centuries to come.  The work – and skill – involved in the process is really kind of mind-boggling, but thankfully there are still craftspeople today who maintain the knowledge and practice of these techniques. This video posted on YouTube provides an overview, nearly start-to-finish, of a log cabin being built from scratch.

“I built my house from trees I felled with an axe and two man crosscut saw in my own forest,” says Jacob, a carpenter, craftsman and founder of John Neeman Tools. “In the building process I used mostly traditional carpenters hand tools – axes, hand saws, timber framing chisels and sticks, old Stanley planes, augers, draw knives and mostly human energy… in the walls, timber frame and roof construction there I used only wood joints and wooden pegs to hold the main construction together – no nails, screws or steel plates.”

“To preserve the wood from spoiling, frame posts, sills, top beams and final cladding boards are treated with fire and pine tar mixed with Tung oil. This wood preservation technique was adapted from the Japanese traditional wood preservation technique Shou Sugi Ban.”

“I have fulfilled my vision to build natural, ecological house with high thermal efficiency, low energy consumption, sustainable, using local materials such as – wood, stone, old and new clay bricks, moss, linen fibre, clay, water, lime, wheat flour, salt and wood shavings.”

The Chelsea Project: High-Rise Wood Condo Tower for NYC

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America’s top metropolis is set to get on board with wooden megastructures, hinting toward a tipping point that’ll boost demand for tall wooden buildings throughout the country. One of the winners of the USDA’s recent tall timber building competition, this ten-story condominium by SHoP Architects is a soaring 120 feet high and will overlook the High Line, the city park built on an old elevated freight rail line.

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Planned for 475 West 18th Street, the project will have retail space on the ground floor in addition to dozens of new gorgeous-looking, modern wood-lined apartments. The environmentally friendly project aims to reduce overall energy consumption by at least 50 percent relative to current energy codes, and will seek LEED Platinum certification.

SHoP architect Chris Sharples notes that “every element of the building, right down to the elevator core, can be constructed in wood.” Aside from the sustainability of its construction, the building is notable for the warmth that its wood facade brings to an urban landscape that can otherwise be quite hard and cold, packed with steel and concrete.

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Boosting the profile of wooden buildings could be a big boon to the entire industry, says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who announced the winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition at a press conference in September 2015. A proposal called Framework in Portland, Oregon is the second winner.

“The U.S. wood products industry is vitally important as it employs more than 547,000 people in manufacturing and forestry, with another 2.4 million jobs supported by U.S. private forest owners. By embracing the benefits of wood as a sustainable building material, these demonstration projects have the ability to help change the face of our communities, mitigate climate change and support jobs in rural America. I look forward to seeing how these two buildings help lead the way in furthering the industry.”

As Lumber Industry Recovers from Recession, Wood Projects Begin to Boom


The lumber industry is bouncing back from the 2008 recession at a slow and steady pace that has experts hopeful of a full recovery within the next couple years. Many mill owners and lumber retailers are reporting increasing sales, feeling cautiously optimistic about the potential for regaining the business that was lost when the economy crashed. It’ll probably take a while to get back to the historical highs the industry reached in 2004-2006, but in the meantime, growth seems particularly notable in the DIY sector.

According to fresh figures from the Institute for Supply Management, makers of wood products are among the top performers in a swath of industries that expanded in February 2016, suggesting that manufacturers are gaining economic traction across the board.


Low lumber prices mean tight margins for producers right now, but they’re leading to a spike in interest in wood-centric construction projects. While the price of lumber has risen over the last two years, it’s still phenomenally low, encouraging many consumers to choose wood instead of steel or concrete when building their own projects. Slow housing recovery is projected to cap domestic lumber markets this year, predicts Forest2Market, a wood supply chain management firm, but it’s only a matter of time before lower unemployment levels lead to a boost in demand for housing.

Meanwhile, officials around the world are adjusting building codes to allow for taller wood buildings, opening the door to a whole new era of wood construction. Experts are calling it ‘the dawning of the timber age,’ predicting that wood will overtake steal and concrete in new construction, especially in urban centers where wooden high-rises are seen as the sustainable, renewable, aesthetically superior wave of the future.

Top image via Wikimedia Commons

Woodhouse: Eastern White Pine Kit Homes Designed to Last for Centuries

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One Pennsylvania-based home designer is rekindling two American architecture traditions at once with a business model that combines the old “kit home” delivery process with post-and-beam construction. Woodhouse offers a variety of pre-designed building kits in adirondack, craftsman, barn, cabin, cape, coastal and other architectural styles ranging from 832 to 6,163 square feet.

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Choose one, and they’ll deliver the frame, wall panels, roof, windows, doors and five full sets of construction drawings for you or a local contractor to assemble. Woodhouse representatives are on-site for five days overseeing the layout of the grid for the floor system, guiding the contractors in putting up the frame and helping them get started on the panels.  If you want a home that’s fully tailored to your own individual needs, they’ll help you design a custom floor plan, too.

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While the old kit homes that you could order from catalogs like Sears  were conventional balloon construction, wherein the studs extend from sill to plate, Woodhouse’s post-and-beam construction puts the beautiful wooden beams on full display, with highly energy-efficient foam walls. The frame is made to last for centuries, and requires very little maintenance.

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Many of Woodhouse’s models are made from beautiful Eastern White Pine from the Southern Adirondacks, like the two models pictured here. To see all of them, visit the Woodhouse website.

White Pine Architecture: Beautiful Barns by Keystone

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The versatility of white pine lends itself to all sorts of architectural applications, from crisp modern beach houses and complex ceiling designs in gymnasiums to its more traditional uses in rural New England-style farmhouses and barns. Here are some examples of the latter via Keystone Barns, a Pennsylvania company specializing in custom barns with beautifully finished interiors.

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Many of these barns are built using Eastern White Pine, including gorgeous tongue-and-groove boards that give each structure a warmth and comforting sense of simplicity. Some are left unfinished for a more rustic look, while others are just as lovingly crafted as full-scale houses.

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And if you love the look of barns so much you’d like to claim a livable version as your own abode, Keystone also builds homes with barn-inspired aesthetics. Options include car garages, lofts, apartments and lean-tos as well as barns and sheds designed specifically for livestock purposes. See more at

New Milling Process Turns Waste Wood into Architectural Trim


After eight years of research and testing, Georgia-based timber company Gilman Building Products has devised a way to transform sawdust and other wood manufacturing waste into value-added products like architectural trim. Pine remnants like immature trees and brush that are too small to be milled conventionally, which would normally go to waste or be used as fuel, can also be salvaged using the new process.

Aiming to use as much of their product as possible, cutting back the 25-40% yield loss that’s typical during the conventional milling process, the company developed a proprietary patent-pending kiln system that can bring the moisture content of this leftover material to commercial standards and turn it into engineered wood products. This reportedly reduces yield loss by 50% or more.

The scraps of wood typically produced as a byproduct of the lumber industry doesn’t go completely to waste when it’s not used in a high-tech new process like this one, however. Industry waste wood goes to sustainable biomass plants that burn it to produce clean, renewable energy.

Photo by Horia Varlan