Canadian Woodworking

A Home in the Woods — Part 1

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: April May 2014

Over the years I have often – too often, some say – men­tioned that I once built a log house for my family in the Yukon (not that I have another family elsewhere). What I have never men­tioned was how, let alone why. Well, I’m glad you asked!


It all started with the purchase of 15 acres of raw forest about 30 kilome­tres north of Whitehorse. We already had our Number One Daughter and our Emergency Backup Daughter was fast approaching. We had no idea the boy was also coming along, albeit still three years in the making. For some reason my wife was no longer enam­ored with living in a wall tent next to a stream that was frozen nine months of the year. She decided that I had to build her and the kidlet a log house. The fact that the closest I had ever come to build­ing log houses was using a Lincoln-Log set … once. And it wasn’t even mine. Luckily, for some reason the Whitehorse library had a small selection of books. Unfortunately, none were about build­ing log houses, but I spent many a happy minute there anyway.

Eventually I located a source for what I needed and ordered every available book regarding log home construction. It finally arrived and I eagerly opened it only to find that it was about the con­struction of Chateau Montebello in Quebec, the world’s largest log build­ing. My wife decided that might be a little ambitious for my first attempt, and besides, there weren’t enough suit­able trees in the entire Yukon for such an endeavour. Ironically, Quebec didn’t have any suitable trees either when they built their log cabin and had to import logs from BC, so I figured what was good for Quebec just naturally had to be better for me.

After further research (I love research, it’s the conclusions I sometimes have to draw from it that I hate), I discovered a forestry outfit that could supply me with the right size (12–16″ diameter by 35 feet long) and number of logs (38) I would need for our humble abode. What I didn’t take into account was that the majority of the logs would also have a certain weight to them (approx. 1100 lbs each). Further calculations indicated that each log weighed just about 11 times what I did and if even one of them fell or rolled on me I likely wouldn’t be very happy about it. I didn’t stop to question just how I was going to lift each one onto the walls if I ever got that far, but first I had to find out just how a log house was actually constructed. The log part I already suspected, but how to make them fit in such a way that they wouldn’t roll around and fall into the living room some night, or during our frequent, albeit minor (so far) earthquakes, was still just a vague, ephemeral idea.

As previously mentioned, I like research, so what I then researched was how to convince my wife to do some, and locate a log home construction course that would accept me. I should have known better. She found several great courses located in absolutely beautiful locations but, just to be mean, she signed me up for one in Ver**lion, Alberta. For those of you who have ever had the mis­fortune to live, visit, pass through or even heard of Ver**lion, well … enough said! (The town isn’t spelled weird, the aster­isks are just to disguise the real name. I get enough hate mail as it is.)

It seems that the local agricultural college put on a two-week course every year and they unfortunately had an opening. Big surprise there. The bright spot was that the course was conducted by Vic Janzen, the foremost log home instructor in Canada, or maybe BC. Possibly just Prince George. Whatever! All I knew was that he was good at his job and had also written a do-it-yourself book on building your own log house. I figured I could always read any relevant passages if I forgot to listen during the course itself.

And so, once again I was off to col­lege. Let’s hope I last longer this time.

Apparently this stupid story is going to take as long to write as it did to actu­ally build our house, so I’ll have to finish this in subsequent issues. You may as well order a prescription to the magazine if you wish to hear how this turns out.

Hint: I lived.

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