Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 1, Issue 3
March 2007
The Log Workshop

In the Beginning…

In chilly Eastern Ontario, November is the best month really. Old derelict log buildings can easily be seen from the road and access can be gained, without impediment, over frozen, barren fields.

If you are looking for a challenging restoration project, then November is the month to make your move. That's what I did when I decided to find a hand-hewn log building that would become home to my dream woodworking workshop. For me a workshop must be an inspiring, creative space. I wanted my studio to make me grin from ear to ear and make my heart swell at the very thought. Who knows why, but old log buildings do that for me.

The author’s new log cabin.
The author had big plans when she purchased
this decrepit log building. Eventually, it would become her
dream woodworking workshop.

Although most historians agree that the Swedes originally brought the practice of log building to North America, it's generally believed that the Scotch-Irish were responsible for the abundance of log structures in the Ottawa Valley (an approximate area that stretches from Ottawa westward to Algonquin Park). The characteristic hand-hewn logs and dovetailed corners were attributed to English or German cabinetmakers-cum-builders, who applied the familiar woodworking joint to log buildings in the Ottawa area. In this method of log building construction, a one-to-four inch gap is left between logs on the wall, and that gap is filled with chinking – a mixture of lime, sand and cement packed with wood and small stones.

I sourced my building through a dealer in the business of buying and selling old log houses. When I found it, an architectural antique dealer had already gutted the structure, leaving only the exterior logs and floor joists. However, the 22'x26' one-and-a-half story building suited me just fine. I had my heart set on dismantling it myself, so, at the side of the road with the building in view, I struck a deal akin to buying the Brooklyn Bridge.

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