Picture of How to build a log cabin with dovetail notches
Of course the first thing you need is logs. A good source may be someone who has a portable sawmill in your area. Contact woodmizer sawmills to get a list of owners near you.

If you have your own trees, have someone saw them for you.

Step 1: Dovetail Jig

Picture of Dovetail Jig

The easiest and fastest way to notch the logs is with a jig

My site has plans to build your own if you want : http://logdovetailjig.com . By building your own, you can have a custom set of jigs that will work for your particular log dimensions and end up with the gap between the logs that you want.

Our example cabin for this instructable is 11'-8" x 16' using logs that are 7" thick x 9" high. The gap will be 2.5 inches. Yours could be other sizes. The plans are custom designed for whatever dimensions are specified.

After you decide on the cabin dimensions, add 4 inches to each and use those numbers to cut the logs to length.

So the logs for this example would be cut 12' and 16'-4".

The jigs shown are for half dovetail notches and take about 2-3 hours to make.
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luvit5 years ago
this is bad for trees and nature. please see the instructable to build a house out of trash. tanks.
Cant Hardly luvit5 months ago

Live in trash if you like, but I am not Oscar the Grouch, and this is not Sesame Street.

luvit Cant Hardly5 months ago
i live in a cardboard box & have cable internet, just off maple ave.. i'm grouchy sometimes.
DuaneD1 luvit3 months ago

Doesnt cardboard come from trees? Dont your internet use electricity which comes from coal plants which hurts the ozone? Doesnt the computer, phone, tablet you use have heavy metals and use electricity? Isnt the plastic made from petro ingredients? If you drive, then really? Yes, do not throw stones when one does the same thing, actually worse then what they complain about.

If what you say is true about living in a cardboard box and using internet, then he is doing less harm to the environment then you. He is helping the woods by thinning and allowing other trees to flourish and the under brush to grow giving home to animals and more oxygen.

Whats your do? Pollute or add to it.

luvit DuaneD12 months ago

you're awesome. i love log cabins, too. -- you remind me of a time when a co-worker, who was on a low-carb diet, said, "Don't eat the pizza crust, it's nothing but carbs. Instead, eat another piece of pizza without the crust." -- i'm pretty sure he was the real son of Mother Earth.

Cant Hardly luvit2 months ago


For every tree cut at least 5 are replanted< so your argument dosnt hold water

for every 2 mcdonalds bags i find its like 1 pair of free socks. ketchup packets are like free dinner.
rc jedi luvit5 years ago
i wonder, if these last longer than conventional construction, then they may be better for trees. maybe we should give it a chance.
beakman rc jedi4 years ago
Properly maintained, log buildings can last a VERY long time. There are still many log structures in my area that are over 200 years old. That can't be said about too many traditionally built buildings -- and I would bet they've incurred far more maintenance costs over the years if they ARE that old.
glorybe beakman4 years ago
They are climate dependent. Tropics eat wooden homes quickly. Cold keeps wood safe as bugs do not prosper in cold weather.
beakman glorybe4 years ago
Most definitely the climate plays a part. My area gets good and cold during winter, killing off quite a number of the insects. But we also get 90 -100 degree, high humidity summers, and these buildings still hold up very well.
mountain_man (author)  luvit5 years ago
The trees I used were all dead when they were cut. Killed by beatles. So rather than rotting or burning (either releases an equal amount of carbon), they will become part of a building. A building with no sheet rock walls. Almost no insulation. No fumes given off.
i love log cabins. besides, if i built a house out of recycled glass bottles, i can no longer throw stones at others.
hitachi88 months ago

i know am gonna get flack for this but, its the truth, what do you fear?:

your notches are totally wrong. this not that important because as we all know, its the end result that counts, and with those big gaps i have to say i never seen such a monstrous job before.

the notches serve a purpose, to hold the log together preventing them from rolling BUT most important, to bring the gap between each log to the closest thing possible. we did better with simple hand tool 2000 years ago, now with all our technological advancement people cant accomplish the most basic task.

let me tell you a story:


Richard Proenneke

Kotteman4 years ago
Maybe the wrong place to ask but, why is it so that in USA the log-cabins have big gaps between the logs so you need to fill it up with something, like clay and synthetic stuff?
Here in Sweden we don't have such big gaps between the logs but the houses are still very comfortable to live in.

I think it must be a measure to save logs,and time,If I were to build one I would plane the tops and bottoms,and have no gaps.As you know one dont have to plane to get the logs to touch,but because of the logs not being all straight,one may have small cracks in a few spots that when filled would not be that noticeable..

I don't know about proper gaps but I do know that in Florida we don't get cold enough to beat down termites and any cabin made of natural wood will be little more than a lunch for our insects. It is also difficult to get permits for any kind of wooden dwelling as our frequent hurricanes turn boards into high speed missiles.
awtkins glorybe4 years ago
Several log houses in south Fl. and in Dade some of the lest damaged by Andrew. U can get get homes permitted in Dade and that is the hardest county in the USA when it comes to wind damage stats.
(yes I also know about limber missiles, I wish I still had the picture of a 2x12 driven through a tree at about 20' high)
Nicholai3 years ago
thank god for instructables. in in an architecture class and my insructor wants us to make a scale model of a log home. i got assigned dovetail and have been going crazy trying to figure it out.
maclog4 years ago
kotteman - I think you are thinking of the round notch method and the v shape along the bottom of each log. Very snug method, takes longer.
Kotteman maclog4 years ago
If you know what you are doing it doesn't take longer, but it also depends on what kind of notch method and tools you are using. A dovetail notch made with pre sawn timber and a chainsaw is made quite fast. But if you make a Dala-notch with round timber and only use hand tools that takes about 30-45min for a expert to do but with chainsaw, scary fast.
Ferguson1994 years ago
You shouldn't have gaps that big. But, it does look nice.
Tinworm4 years ago
excellent jig!
KOMAH44 years ago
Very cool! Good jobs, if the logs are not totally dry (kiln dried) then they will settle about 1 inch per foot of height. The opening frames must be able to accomodate the settlement.
Wow, so much easier than the traditional approach! Good on you for streamlining the process. :D
From what I've read in some parts of northwest Europe this is the traditional approach. The dovetails make the logs fall together rather than apart and there are some log cabins that are hundreds of years old and might be a little warped, but the walls are as structurally sound as ever since they basically have to rot into the ground before those joints come apart.
Actually we have a cabin where we spend our summers. The cabin was moved there in the middle of 1800's so we estimate it was originally built over 200 years ago. one log from the backwall has rotted away and the cabin is slightly leaning towards it. all of the log ends are a little worn out and eaten away. otherwise it is in good contidion
mountain_man (author)  carpespasm5 years ago
This is also very typical of Appalachian cabins in the USA. I also see alot of 1800s cabins here in MT built that way.
mattbomb5 years ago
dude your using caulking. why dont you use expanding foam. or even better mud and moss. hey its free
If you use something rigid, it will crack over time (less than a year) due to the expanding and contracting of the logs with humidity. Mud and moss is a more traditional approach but it has a huge draw back: Mud and moss retain moisture which means that in less than 3 years, you would have to build a whole new cabin due to structure being destroyed by fungi of one sort or another.
Good on you for the hard material not working, but using the traditional clay won't rot out the wood in a few years. There are examples over 100 years old that have been more or less maintained as they were built. The devil is in the details; what wood did you use, how good are your corners, what sort of corner did you cut, how did you pack the daubing in and shape it. These are a good sort as they shed water away from the inside. I can't see really well, but it looks like the daubing is shaped flat against the outside of the wall which wouldn't hold up as well as concave and slightly recessed, like what you see on a regular brick wall.
I completely agree. Clay works great. Mud and moss on the other hand...
well moss would work for a good insulator but. what about using it for the roof
mountain_man (author)  mattbomb5 years ago
It isn't caulking. It is an acrylic product designed for log construction. It comes in tubes, or 5 gallon buckets. Foam isn't good for this as it has no UV protection and isn't necessarily water proof.
All I can think about is the squeezing from a tube. Let's see. A very conservative 5 squeezes per foot times top, bottom and middle equals 15 squeezes per foot. With 10 foot logs, that is 150 squeezes. With seven spaces per wall, that is 1050 squeezes. Times 4 walls, this is a very conservative 4200 squeezes. Oy vey! My hand hurts just thinking about that! Nice jig though. The video certainly helped my understanding of the way it really worked.
mountain_man (author)  hammer98765 years ago
The chinking suppliers sell and rent much more efficient systems for applying the chinking.
Thank goodness!
or fill them with concrete with a chinking
well use a bit of foam then spread a thin layer of the "acrylic product" over it.
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