Introduction: Notched Beam Construction Set
Even though I love Lincoln logs, there are a couple of things that irk me about them. First, they are not for kids under three. I wanted to make a set for my Granddaughter for her fifth birthday but her brother will only be 16 months old and there is no way we can keep him away from them. Second, it is Lincoln logs are not sized well for today's standard sized modern day action figures. So I designed this set to be about three times larger and this solves both these problems. It is constructed from whitewood 2x3s available from your local home center or lumber yard. It can easily be built with a table saw. (A planer would be nice but not absolutely required.) The dimensions of the different pieces along with the requires number of each size pieces are given in the attached PDF. Also included in this PDF is the layout for efficient use of the 2x3s.
Step 1: Procure Lumber and Rough Cut.
Purchase 14 - 8ft 2x3s and cut them into three equal sized pieces. This gives you 42 pieces, each a bit less than 32" long. You can ask them to cut them to size for you at your home center if hauling around 8ft sticks is a problem. I like to stack the wood and leave it in my shop for a couple weeks to insure it is completely dry.
Step 2: Mill Wood
Plane all of the pieces to a thickness of 1¼". If you do not have a planer then resaw them with your table saw.
Then cut 39 of the boards to a width of 2". Cut each of the remaining three pieces into two 1" wide pieces. This give you 45 piece total.
This process just removed 33% of the wood you just bought.
Step 3: Cut to Length
From the 2" wide pieces you will need to cut:
2 - 29"
2 - 25⅜"
11 - 25"
16 - 17¾”
20 - 10½”
100 - 3¼”
From the 1" wide pieces you will need to cut:
2 - 25"
4 - 17¾”
4 - 10½”
8 - 3¼”
The PDF includes a suggested layout of these pieces for efficient cutting of the material.
Step 4: Preparing to Cut Notches
The notches are 1-5/16" wide by 17/32" deep. Now I don't have a dado blade that will make dados that wide so I will make two passed with a ¾" wide dado blade. Cover the working service of your dado cutting cradle and tack into place a thin sheet of plywood or MDF. Install your 3/4" dado blade and make a cut into the cradle. The edges of the MDF will show the exact edges of where the dado starts. Set the height so the dado blade cuts 9/32" deep. (The piece of scrap wood shows how long it took me to get the depth correct.) You are now ready to cut notches.
Step 5: Marking for the Notches on the Beams and Half Beams
Now you are going to be cutting notches on over 180 pieces and it would be nice if they easily fit together. In an ideal world you would cut the pieces to the exact length, the ends would be exactly 31/32" wide, the notches would be 1-5/16" wide, and width between the notches is exactly 5-15/16" wide. Of course none of these measurements will be exact and errors accumulate. The goal to is lay them out so the combination of errors does not become prohibitively large and cause the pieces to not fit well together.
The top example in the first photo is an example of relative reference measuring. Each measurement is made in reference to the one next to it. In this case, half are done from either size. Now every measurement has some finite error so to the width the piece between the middle notches piece has nine measurements or nine sources of error.
The middle example is a bit better. The width of the piece between the middle notch now only has three sources of error while the spaces between the notched piece on the left and right have only two sources of error.
The bottom example in the first photo is called single point reference measuring. That is, all measurements are made from the a single reference point. (In this case the left most edge of the piece. ) Remember that what is important is the spacing from the center of the notches. In this case these widths have only two sources of error. Even the little end piece on the right only has two source of error.
When laying out parts to be fabricated it is best if you do so with a single point reference.
For each type of piece, take one of the pieces and mark the center point of the notched starting from the left. Then with a square and striking knife mark the notch widths +/- 31/32" away from the center marks. This will be the reference part. Take cutting the B2 pieces as example. Take you reference part an align it on the cutting sled to cut the right side of the right notch. When happy with the alignment clamp a stop in piece to be able to duplicate the cut on all the other B2 part. Then align the reference piece the cut the left side on the notch and cut all the B2 piece. Then the right side of the left notch and finally the left side of the left notch. Now notch all the Beams and Half Beams.
Step 6: Marking for the Notches and Bevels on the Gables
Gables are the triangular pieces, under the roof at either end of a house. They are efficiently laid out has shown in the second page of the PDF. Measure out and cut the notches as you did in the previous step. Then mark the bevels on the gables and cut with a scroll saw. Nip a ¼" off of the points at either end of each gable piece. This is for child safety.
Step 7: Cut Awnings
Awnings are a new type of piece that doesn't exist with the original Lincoln logs. They are used to make a lean to roof, a porch, or covered patio. The plans show 10 different types. For this collection of pieces I need only two pieces of the A4,3 awning. Each is made by take a B4 beam and cutting a bevel 1" up from the end and ¼" down from the appropriate notch. Mark the two pieces and cut them with a scroll saw.
Step 8: Bevel Edges
This step is optional. If you like the rectangular look at the pieces then skip this step. Set the tables blade to cut 45 degree, ¼ " bevels on the edges.
Now this isn't all or nothing. If you prefer 1/8" or 3/16" or 1/16" bevels then knock yourself out.
Bevel every edge the has a notch cut on it.
Step 9: Opps
As I beveled all the pieces, I dry fit them together to see if there were any miscut and this is where I found the problem. I am building a house with a lean-to style awning. I noticed that there was a gap for the lean-to roof on the ends to allow the roof to sit, but not in the middle. I have two solutions to fix this. One is to replace the two B1 pieces with A2,1 pieces. The other is to modify those two B1 pieces to be special "Opps" pieces. This is done by cutting a bevel ¼" from the end of the notch to 11/32" down from the end. As shown in the photos, either solution works.
Step 10: Cut Roof Slats
For the roof you will the following slats.
16 ¼" x 1⅞" x 27"
16 ¼" x 1⅞" x 19¾"
16 ¼" x 1⅞" x 12½"
These are to be cut from 2x3.
Normally I would make the out of whitewood and dye them green. However. I am going to leave the pieces there natural color and make the roof slats from some contrasting wood. I choose redwood.
Cut the 2x3 into lengths of 27", 19¾", and 12½". Ideally you will need four of each side but depending on the quality of the you may need more.
Cut these pieces to a width of 1⅞". The flip the block of its side and saw ¼" strips.
Other option is to not use slats but instead use a piece of appropriately sized tag board, folded in half, to make a roof. This is the kind of roof supplied with the very first Lincoln log set. It also is a good type of roof if the cabin is to be a formal doll house. Glue or nail the pieces together and you have a study doll house. The cardboard roof makes it easy to get in side, (You could also design your cabin so it has an open back!)
Step 11: Sand and Finish
Take all the pieces and sand them with 120 grit sandpaper. Now is the time to dye the pieces if you wish. The following Instructable gives directions to dye whitewood with leather dye and denatured alcohol.
To finish, I like to use a Tung oil sealer. You only need a single coat to keep the grime from children's hand from working into the pores of the wood.
Step 12: Gable Pins
When you assemble a cabin and place the slats onto the gables, they will side down. What is needed is a small pins at the bottom of the gable assemblies to hold the slats in place.
These pins will be ¼: #2 flathead screws. The heads are 5/32" inches wide. Position the slats on the gables assembly while holding the bottom one in place. Use your striking knife to mark where the bottom stat crosses the bottom of both gables. The mark a point 5/64" down (half the screw head width) from these lines. Screw in the screws, half way in, at these points. The gable pins are installed. Do this for the other side. Also attach pins for any of the awnings you built.
Step 13: Explanation the Four Pages of Plans
You may be making these for someone special in you life or you may be making them as business. This set I cut is fairly large and can build a variety of different building types. You may only want the pieces to make a specific cabin of you may want even I larger set.
Page one of the plans has a list of the different component types, their names, and dimension to build them. So when my Granddaughter requests some more B1s or a couple of C2,1s, I will know exactly want she wants and the amount of material to buy.
Page two has the dimensions to lay out the gables for efficient use of the material.
Page three has several different pieces I may add to page one. I am hesitant to add more as I am afraid of Lego-ization of these pieces. Presently there are 18 different pieces, not counting slats, and 10 of those are awnings. Much more than this could be overwhelming. Still a G4, or double awning (DA4,2) looks like they might be popular. The same goes for the High Pitch Gables
Page four shows the number of pieces in for this particular set and a suggested layout scheme for efficient use of the material. it also a four side view of a large cabin.
If you are making them for sale, I recommend you have some smaller sets that make a specific cabin. You can list the number of each component types used. Of course their will be people that will want to buy them ala-cart.
Step 14: Garden Cabin
These cabins are large and may take up too much room in yourhouse. One solution is that when the weather gets nice to set up a cabin in the garden. I got the idea from the Germans ans there G gauge model trains. In fact the scale of this set works well with the G gauge trains set. I would finish the pieces with a UV resistant deck finish. Penofin is an outdoor finish made from the oil of Brazilian rosewood nuts and is the best outdoor finish I have ever used.
So build your cabins outside and you will be buying a G gauge train in no time.