Daniel Carter Beard_

The Axe Camps_

Nineteen and Fourteen_

The boys will undoubtedly acquire a dexterity and skill in building the shacks and shanties here described, which will be of lasting benefit to them whether they acquire the skill by building camps "just for the fun of the thing" or in building them for the more practical purpose of furnishing shelter for overnight pleasure hikes, for the wilderness trail, or for permanent camps while living in the open.

How To Use An Axe_

The old backwoodsmen were as expert with their axes as they were with their rifles and they were just as careful in the selection of these tools as they were in the selection of their arms. Many a time I have seen them pick up a "store" axe, sight along the handle, and then cast it contemptuously aside; they demanded of their axes that the cutting edge should be exactly in line with the point in the centre of the butt end of the handle. They also kept their axes so sharp that they could whittle with them like one can with a good jack-knife; furthermore, they allowed no one but themselves to use their own particular axe. In my log house in the mountains of Pike County, Pa., I have a table fashioned entirely with an axe; even the ends of the boards which form the top of the table were cut off by Siley Rosencranz with his trusty axe because he had no saw.

Both General Grant and Abraham Lincoln were expert axemen, and probably a number of other Presidents were also skilful in the use of this tool; but it is not expected that the modern vacation pioneer shall be an expert, consequently a few simple rules and suggestions will be here given to guide the amateur and he must depend upon his own judgment and common sense to work out the minor problems which will beset him in the use of this tool.


All edged tools are dangerous when in the hands of "chumps," dangerous to themselves and to any one else who is near them. For instance, only a chump will use an axe when its head is loose and is in danger of flying off the handle; only a chump will use his best axe to cut roots or sticks lying flat on the ground where he is liable to strike stones and other objects and take the edge off the blade. Only a chump will leave an axe lying around on the ground for people to stumble over; if there is a stump handy at your camp and you are through using the axe, strike the blade into the top of the stump and leave the axe sticking there, where it will be safe from injury.

Remember, before chopping down a tree or before using the axe at all, to see that there is enough space above and around you to enable you to swing the axe clear (Fig. 112) without the danger of striking bushes or overhanging branches which may deflect the blade and cause accidents more or less serious.

Do not stand behind a tree as it falls (Fig. 115), for the boughs may strike those of a standing tree, causing the butt to shoot back or "kick," and many a woodsman has lost his life from the kick of a falling tree. Before chopping a tree down, select the place where it is to fall, a place where it will not be liable to lodge in another tree on its way down. Do not try to fell a tree against the wind.

Cut a notch on the side of the tree facing the direction you wish it to fall (Fig. 113) and cut it half-way through the trunk. Make the notch, or kerf, large enough to avoid pinching your axe in it. If you discover that the notch is going to be too small, cut a new notch, X (Fig. 116), some inches above your first one, then split off the piece X, Y between the two notches, and again make the notch X, Z, and split off the piece Z, W, Y (Fig. 116), until you make room for the axe to continue your chopping. When the first kerf is finished begin another one on the opposite side of the tree a little higher than the first one (Fig. 114). When the wood between the two notches becomes too small to support the weight of the tree, the top of the tree will begin to tremble and waver and give you plenty of time to step to one side before it falls.

How to "fall" a tree and how to take off the bark.

If the tree (Fig. 117) is inclined in the opposite direction from which you wish it to fall, it is sometimes possible (Fig. 117) to block up the kerf on the inclined side and then by driving the wedge over the block force the tree to fall in the direction desired; but if the tree inclines too far this cannot be done.

There was a chestnut-tree standing close to my log house and leaning toward the building. Under ordinary circumstances felling this tree would cause it to strike the house with all the weight of its trunk and branches. When I told Siley Rosencranz I wanted that tree cut down he sighted up the tree, took a chew of tobacco, and walked away. For several days he went through the same performance, until at last one day he brought out his trusty axe and made the chips fly. Soon the chestnut was lying prone on the ground pointing away from the house. What this old backwoodsman did was to wait until a strong wind had sprung up, blowing in the direction that he wanted the tree to fall, and his skilful chopping with the aid of the wind placed the tree exactly where he wished it.

Fig. 118 shows how to make the cuts on a standing tree in order to remove the bark, which is done in the same manner as that described for removing the birch bark (Fig. 38).

How To Split Logs, Make Shakes, Splits, Or Clapboards_ How To Chop A Log In Half_ How To Flatten A Log. Also Some Don't's_

Logs are usually split by the use of wedges, but it is possible to split them by the use of two axes. Fig. 119 shows both methods. To split with the axe, strike it smartly into the wood at the small end so as to start a crack, then sink the axe in the crack, A. Next take the second axe and strike it in line with the first one at B. If this is done properly it should open the crack wide enough to release the first axe without trouble, which may then be struck in the log at C. In this manner it is possible to split a straight-grained piece of timber without the use of wedges. The first axe should be struck in at the smaller or top end of the log. To split a log with wedges, take your axe in your left hand and a club in your right hand and, by hammering the head of your axe with the club, drive the blade into the small end of the log far enough to make a crack deep enough to hold the thin edge of your wedges. Make this crack all the way across the end of the log, as in Fig. 119. Put two wedges in the end of the log, as in the diagram, and drive them until the wood begins to split and crack along the sides of the log; then follow up this crack with other wedges, as shown at D and E, until the log is split in half.

While ordinary wood splits easily enough with the grain, it is very difficult to drive an axe through the wood at right angles to the grain, as shown by diagram to the left (Fig. 120); hence, if the amateur be chopping wood, if he will strike a slanting blow, like the one to the right in Fig. 120, he will discover that the blade of his axe will enter the wood; whereas, in the first position, where he strikes the grain at right angles, it will only make a dent in the wood and bounce the axe back; but in striking a diagonal blow he must use care not to slant his axe too far or the blade of the axe may only scoop out a shallow chip and swing around, seriously injuring the axeman or some one else.

If it is desired to cut off the limb of a tree, do not disfigure the tree by tearing the bark down; trees are becoming too scarce for us to injure them unnecessarily; if you cut part way through the limb on the under-side (see the right-hand diagram, Fig. 121) and then cut partly through from the top side, the limb will fall off without tearing the bark down the trunk; but if you cut only from the top (see left-hand diagram, Fig. 121), sooner or later the weight of the limb will tear it off and make an ugly wound down the front of the tree, which in time decays, makes a hollow, and ultimately destroys the tree. A neatly cut branch, on the other hand, when the stub has been sheared off close to the bark, will heal up, leaving only an eye-mark on the bark to tell where the limb once grew.

If it is desired to chop a log up into shorter pieces, remember to stand on the log to do your chopping, as in Fig. 122. This will do away with the necessity of rolling the log over when you want to chop on the other side. Do not forget to make the kerf, or notch, C, D the same as A, B; in other words, the distance across the notch should equal the diameter of the log. If you start with too narrow a kerf, or notch, before you finish you will be compelled to widen it.

How to split a log, chop a log, flatten a log, and trim a

To flatten a log you must score and hew it. Scoring consists in making a number of notches, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, etc., to the depth of the line A, B (Figs. 123 and 124); hewing it is the act of chopping off or splitting off the pieces A, C and C, D and D, E, etc., leaving the surface flat, as shown by Fig. 125, which was known among the pioneers as a puncheon and with which they floored their cabins before the advent of the saw-mill and milled lumber.

Perhaps it will be advisable for the amateur to take a chalk-line and snap it from A to B (Fig. 123), so that he may be certain to have the flat surface level. The expert axeman will do this by what he calls "sensiation." It might be well to say here that if you select for puncheons wood with a straight grain and wood that will split easily you will simplify your task, but even mean, stubborn wood may be flattened by scoring and hewing. Quoting from Horace Kephart's excellent book on woodcraft, an experienced man can tell a straight-grained log "by merely scanning the bark"; if the ridges and furrows of the bark run straight up and down the wood will have a corresponding straight grain, but if they are spiral the wood will split "waney" or not at all. "Waney" is a good word, almost as good as "sensiation"; so when you try to quarter a log with which to chink your cabin or log house don't select a "waney" log. To quarter a log split it as shown in Fig. 119 and split it along the dotted lines shown in the end view of Fig. 126.

In the Maine woods the woodsmen are adepts in making shakes, splits, clapboards, or shingles by the use of only an axe and splitting them out of the billets of wood from four to six feet long. The core of the log (Fig. 130) is first cut out and then the pieces are split out, having wedge-shaped edges, as shown by the lines marked on Fig. 127. They also split out boards after the manner shown by Fig. 128. In making either the boards or the shakes, if it is found that the wood splinters down into the body of the log too far or into the board or shake too far, you must commence at the other end of the billet or log and split it up to meet the first split, or take hold of the split or board with your hands and deftly tear it from the log, an art which only experience can teach. I have seen two-story houses composed of nothing but a framework with sides and roof shingled over with these splits. In the West they call these "shake" cabins.

It may be wise before we close this axeman's talk to caution the reader against chopping firewood by resting one end of the stick to be cut on a log and the other end on the ground, as shown in Fig. 131, and then striking this stick a sharp blow with the axe in the middle. The effect of this often is to send the broken piece or fragment gyrating through the air, as is shown by the dotted lines, and many a woodchopper has lost an eye from a blow inflicted by one of these flying pieces; indeed, I have had some of my friends meet with this serious and painful accident from the same cause, and I have seen men in the lumber fields who have been blinded in a similar manner.

There are two sorts of axes in general use among the lumbermen; but the double-bitted axe (131 A) appears to be the most popular among lumberjacks. My readers, however, are not lumberjacks but campers, and a double-bitted axe is a nuisance around camps. It is always dangerous and even when one blade is sunk into the tree the other blade is sticking out, a menace to everybody and everything that comes near it. But the real old-fashioned reliable axe (131 B) is the one that is exceedingly useful in a camp, around a country place, or a farm. I even have one now in my studio closet here in the city of New York, but I keep it more for sentiment's sake than for any real use it may be to me here.

Axemen's Camps_

The same style of a camp can be made in the temperate zone of smaller trees and shingled with browse, or in the South of cane or bamboo and shingled with palmetto leaves, or in the Southwest of cottonwood where it may be covered with adobe or mud.

The Stefansson Sod Shack_

Now that we know how to wield the axe we can begin on more ambitious structures than those preceding. We may now build camps in which we use logs instead of poles. Most of these camps are intended to be covered with sod or earth and are nearly related to the old prairie dugout. The sod house is used in the arctic regions because it is warm inside, and it is used in the arid regions because it is cool inside. You will note that the principle on which the Stefansson is constructed (Fig. 135) is practically the same as that of the Pontiac (Fig. 36); the Stefansson frame, however, is made of larger timbers than the Pontiac because it not only must support a roof and side of logs and sod but must also be able to sustain any quantity of snow.

First erect two forked upright sticks (Fig. 132), and then steady them by two braces. Next lay four more logs or sticks for the side-plates with their butt ends on the ridge-pole and their small ends on the ground as in Fig. 133. Support these logs by a number of small uprights—as many as may be necessary for the purpose. The uprights may have forks at the top or have the top ends cut wedge-shaped to fit in notches made for that purpose in the side-plates as shown by Fig. 133 A. The shortest uprights at the end of the roof should be forked so that the projecting fork will tend to keep the roof logs from sliding down. The roof is made by a number of straight rafters placed one with the butt in front, next with the butt in the rear alternately, so that they will fit snugly together until the whole roof is covered. The sides are made by setting a number of sticks in a trench and slanting them against the roof; both sides, front, and rear of the building should project six inches above the roof in order to hold the sod and dirt and keep it from sliding off.

Details of the Stefansson sod shack.

Up in the north country one must not expect to find green, closely cropped lawns or even green fields of wild sod in all places. Although in some parts the grass grows taller than a man's head, in other places the sod is only called so by courtesy; it really consists of scraggy grass thinly distributed on gravelly and sandy, loose soil, and consequently we must secure the sod by having the walls project a little above the rafters all around the building. Of course, in summer weather this roof will leak, but then one may live in a tent; but when cold weather comes and the sod is frozen hard and banked up with snow the Stefansson makes a good, warm dwelling.

The same style of a camp can be made in the temperate zone of smaller trees and shingled with browse, or in the South of cane or bamboo and shingled with palmetto leaves, or in the Southwest of cottonwood where it may be covered with adobe or mud. Fig. 134 shows a Stefansson shack roofed with sod. The front is left uncovered to show its construction and also to show how the doorway is made by simply leaving an opening like that in a tent. In winter this may have a hallway built like the one described in the Navajo earth lodge (Fig. 35) or in the Pawnee hogan (Figs. 42 and 43), and in milder weather the doorway may be protected with a skin. An opening is left in the roof over the fireplace, which answers the purpose of a chimney.

The author aims to take hints from all the primitive dwellings which may be of service to outdoor people; the last one described was arbitrarily named the Stefansson because that explorer built himself such shelters in the far North, but he did not invent them. He borrowed the general plan from the natives of the northern country and adapted it to his use, thereby placing the official stamp on this shack as a useful building for outdoor people and, consequently, as deserving a place in this book.

Railroad-Tie Shacks, Barrel Shacks, And Chimehuevis_

No observing person has travelled far upon the American railroads without noticing, alongside the tracks, the queer little houses built of railroad ties by Italian laborers. These shacks are known by the name of dagoes (Fig. 136) and are made in different forms, according to the ingenuity of the builder. The simplest form is the tent-shaped shown in Fig. 136, with the ends of the ties rested together in the form of a tent and with no other support but their own weight (see the diagram to the right, Fig. 136). I would not advise boys to build this style, because it might make a trap to fall in upon them with serious results, but if they use a ridge-pole like the one shown in Fig. 139 and against it rest the ties they will do away with the danger of being caught in a deadfall trap. Of course, it is understood that the ridge-pole itself must first be secure.

Railroad ties being flat (Fig. 137), they may be built up into solid walls (Fig. 137) and make neat sides for a little house; or they may be set up on edge (Fig. 138) and secured in place by stakes driven upon each side of them; or they may be made into the form of an open Adirondack camp (Figs. 139 and 140) by resting the ties on a ridge-pole supported by a pair of "shears" at each end; the shears, as you will observe, consist of two sticks bound together near the top and then spread apart to receive the ridge-pole in the crotch.

Railroad-tie shacks, barrel shack, and a Chimehuevis.

All of these structures are usually covered with dirt and sod, and they make very comfortable little camps.

In the Southwest a simple shelter, the "Chimehuevis," is made by enclosing a room in upright poles (Fig. 141) and then surrounding it with a circle of poles supporting a log or pole roof covered with sod, making a good camp for hot weather.

Fig. 142 shows a barrel dugout. It is made by digging a place for it in the bank and, after the floor is levelled off, setting rows of barrels around the foundation, filling these barrels with sand, gravel, or dirt, then placing another row on top of the first, leaving spaces for a window and a door, after which the walls are roofed with logs and covered with sod, in the same manner as the ones previously described. The dirt is next filled around the sides, except at the window opening, as shown by Fig. 142. A barrel also does duty as a chimney.

Shacks like this are used by homesteaders, miners, trappers, and hunters; in fact, these people use any sort of material they have at hand. When a mining-camp is near by the freight wagons are constantly bringing in supplies, and these supplies are done up in packages of some kind. Boards are frequently worth more a yard than silk, or were in the olden days, and so the home builders used other material. They built themselves houses of discarded beer bottles, of kerosene cans, of packing-boxes, of any and every thing. Usually these houses were dugouts, as is the barrel one shown in Fig. 142. In the big-tree country they not infrequently made a house of a hollow stump of a large redwood, and one stone-mason hollowed out a huge bowlder for his dwelling; but such shacks belong among the freak shelters. The barrel one, however, being the more practical and one that can be used almost anywhere where timber is scarce but where goods are transported in barrels, deserves a place here among our shacks, shelters, and shanties.

The Barabara_

The houses along the coast of the Bering Sea are called barabaras, but the ones that we are going to build now are in form almost identical with the Pawnee hogan (Figs. 42 and 43), the real difference being in the peculiar log work of the barabara in place of the teepee-like rafters of the said hogan.

To build a barabara you will need eight short posts for the outside wall and six or eight longer posts for the inside supports (Fig. 145). The outside posts should stand about three feet above the ground after they have been planted in the holes dug for the purpose. The top of the posts should be cut wedge-shaped, as shown by Fig. 144, in order to fit in the notch B (Fig. 144). The cross logs, where they cross each other, should be notched like those of a log cabin (Figs. 162 and 165) or flattened at the points of contact.

Plant your first four posts for the front of your barabara in a line, two posts for the corners B and E (Fig. 145 A), and two at the middle of the line C and D for door-jambs (plan, Fig. 145 A). The tops of these posts should be level with each other so that if a straight log is placed over them the log will lie level. Next plant the two side-posts F and G (Fig. 145 A) at equal distances from the two front posts and make them a few feet farther apart than are the front posts. The sketch of the framework is drawn in very steep perspective, that is, it is made as if the spectator was on a hill looking down upon it. It is drawn in this manner so as to better show the construction, but the location of the posts may be seen in the small plan. Next set the two back posts, H and K, and place them much closer together, so that the bottom frame when the rails are on the post will be very near the shape of a boy's hexagonal kite.

The details of a Barabara.

Inside erect another set of posts, setting each one opposite the outside ones and about a foot and a half or two feet farther in, or maybe less distance, according to the material one is using. Next set some posts for the hallway or entrance, which will be the door-jambs, and you are ready to build up the log roof. Do this by first setting the rail securely on the two side-posts on the right and left of the building; then secure the back plate on the two back posts at the rear of the building, next resting a long log over the side rails at the front of the building. The door-posts, of course, must be enough taller than the two end posts to allow for the thickness of the log, so that the front log will rest upon their top. Next put your two corner logs on, and your outside rail is complete. Build the inside rail in the same manner; then continue to build up with the logs as shown in the diagram until you have a frame like that in Fig. 145. Fig. 147 shows the inside of the house and the low doorway, and Fig. 148 shows the slanting walls. This frame is supposed to be covered with splits or shakes (Figs. 147 and 148), but, as in all pioneer structures, if shakes, splits, and clapboards are unobtainable, use the material at hand—birch bark, spruce bark, tar paper, old tin roofing, tent-cloth, or sticks, brush, ferns, weeds, or round sticks, to cover it as you did with the Pawnee hogan (Figs. 42 and 43). Then cover it with browse, or thatch it with hay or straw and hold the thatch in place with poles or sticks, as shown in Fig. 146. The barabara may also be covered with earth, sod, or mud.

This sort of a house, if built with planks or boards nailed securely to the rafters and covered with earth and sod, will make a splendid cave house for boys and a playhouse for children on the lawn, and it may be covered with green growing sod so as to have the appearance of an ornamental mound. The instinct of the cave-dweller is deeply implanted in the hearts of boys, and every year we have a list of fatal accidents caused by the little fellows digging caves in sand-banks or banks of gravel which frequently fall in and bury the little troglodytes, but they will be safe in a barabara. The shack is ventilated by a chimney hole in the roof as shown by Fig. 146. This hole should be protected in a playhouse. The framework is a good one to use in all parts of the country for more or less permanent camps, but the long entrance and low doorway are unnecessary except in a cold climate or to add to the mystery of the cave house for children. It is a good form for a dugout for a root house or cyclone cellar.

The Navajo Hogan, Hornaday Dugout, And Sod House_

If the reader has ever built little log-cabin traps he knows just how to build a Navajo hogan or at least the particular Navajo hogan shown by Figs. 148 and 150. This one is six-sided and may be improved by notching the logs (Figs. 162, 164, 165) and building them up one on top of the other, dome-shaped, to the required height. After laying some rafters for the roof and leaving a hole for the chimney the frame is complete. In hot countries no chimney hole is left in the roof, because the people there do not build fires inside the house; they go indoors to keep cool and not to get warm; but the Navajo hogan also makes a good cold-country house in places where people really need a fire. Make the doorway by leaving an opening (Fig. 150) and chinking the logs along the opening to hold them in place until the door-jamb is nailed or pegged to them, and then build a shed entranceway (Fig. 153), which is necessary because the slanting sides of the house with an unroofed doorway have no protection against the free entrance of dust and rain or snow, and every section of this country is subject to visits from one of these elements. The house is covered with brush, browse, or sod.

Log Dugout_

Fig. 152 shows how to make a log dugout by building the walls of the log cabin in a level place dug for it in the bank. Among the log cabins proper (Figs. 162 and 166) we tell how to notch the logs for this purpose.

Forms of dugouts and mound shacks.

Fig. 151 shows one of these log dugouts which I have named the Hornaday from the fact that Doctor William Hornaday happens to be sitting in front of the one represented in the sketch. Fig. 154 shows a dugout with walls made of sod which is piled up like stones in a stone wall. The roofs of all these are very flat and made of logs (Figs. 54, 55, and 56), often with a log pegged to the rafters above the eaves to hold the sod. All such houses are good in dry countries, cold countries, and countries frequented by tornadoes or by winds severe enough to blow down ordinary camps.

The Navajo hogan is an easy sort of a house for boys to build because the lads may use small poles in place of logs with which to build the camp and thus make the labor light enough to suit their undeveloped muscles, but the next illustration shows how to build an American boy's hogan of milled lumber such as one can procure in thickly settled parts of the country.

How To Build An American Boy's Hogan_

The first time any working plans of an underground house for boys were published was when an article by the present writer on the subject appeared in the Ladies' Home Journal. Afterward it was published with a lot of similar material in "The Jack of All Trades." Since then other writers have not hesitated to use the author's sketches with very little alteration; imitation is the sincerest compliment, although it is not always fair, but it does, however, show the popularity of the underground-house idea.

The American boy's hogan may be built like the preceding shacks of the material found in the woods or it may be constructed of old boards and waste material to be found in village back yards or on the farm, or, if the boys have the price or if they can interest their fathers or uncles in their scheme, it may be built of milled lumber procured at the lumber-yard.


Procure some good, sound planks and some pieces of two by four with which to build your frame. The hogan should be large enough to allow room for a table made of a packing-case, some benches, stools, or chairs, and the ceilings should be high enough for the tallest boy to stand erect without bumping his head.


One funny thing about this house is that it must be furnished before it is built, because the doorway and passageway will be too small to admit any furniture larger than a stool. Select or make your furniture and have it ready, then decide upon the location of your hogan, which should be, like the Western dugouts, on the edge of some bank (Fig. 158). In this diagram the dotted line shows how the bank originally sloped.


The real hard work connected with this is the digging of the foundation; one Y. M. C. A. man started to build one of these hogans, but he "weakened" before he had the foundation dug. He wrote the author a long letter complaining of the hard work; at the same time the author was receiving letters from boys telling how much fun they had in building and finishing their underground houses.


Ever since "Robinson Crusoe" and "Swiss Family Robinson" were written cave houses have been particularly attractive to boys; no doubt they were just as attractive before these books were written, and that may be the reason the books themselves are so popular; at any rate, when the author was a small boy he was always searching for natural caves, or trying to dig them for himself, and so were all of his companions. One of the most charming features of the "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" stories is that part connected with the cave.

The original American boy's hogan or underground house.

Dangerous Caves_

The trouble is that with caves which the boys dig for themselves there is always serious danger of the roof falling in and smothering the young troglodytes, but a properly built underground hogan is perfectly safe from such accidents.


After you have levelled off the foundation erect the rear posts of two-by-fours A, B and C, D (Fig. 156). These posts should be of the same height and tall enough to allow the roof to slant toward the front as in Fig. 155. The front posts E, F and G, H, although shorter than the back posts, should be tall enough to allow headroom. One, two, or three more posts may be erected between the post A, B and the post C, D if additional strength is required. The same is true of the sides, and in place of having only one post in the middle of each side (M, N and O, P, Fig. 156), there may be two or three posts, all according to the size of the house you are building; the main point is to make a compact and strong box of your framework so that in the wet weather the banks surrounding it will not be tempted to push in the sides and spoil your house.

Decaying Wood_

Locust, chestnut, and cedar will last longer than other varieties of wood when exposed to contact with damp earth, but common wood, which rots easily, may be protected by preservatives, one of which is boiled linseed-oil with pulverized charcoal stirred into it until a black paint is produced. Some people say that a coat of charcoal paint will preserve even a basswood fence post for a lifetime, and if that is true a hogan protected by a coating upon the outside of paint made by stirring fine charcoal into boiled linseed-oil until it is as thick as paint will last longer than any of my readers will have occasion to use the hogan for a playhouse. Erect the frame (Fig. 156) by having some boys hold the uprights in place until they can be secured with temporary braces like those shown running diagonally across from B to E and A to F. You may then proceed to board up the sides from the outside of the frame by slipping the planks between the frame and the bank and then nailing from the inside wherever you lack room upon the outside to swing your hammer. The door-jambs I, J and K, L will help support the roof.

The Roof_

The roof may be made of lumber, as shown by Fig. 160, or it may be made of poles like those shown on the Wyoming Olebo (Fig. 236), or it may be made of planks and covered with tar paper (Figs. 296, 297, 298, and 299), or it may be shingled, using barrel staves for shingles, or covered with bits of old tin roofing tacked over the planking—or anything, in fact, which will keep out the water. As for looks, that will not count because the roof is to be afterward covered with sod.

Cliff-House Roof_

If you wish to make the roof as the cliff-dwellers made theirs, put your biggest logs crosswise from A, M, E to C, O, G of your house for rafters, and across the larger logs lay a lot of small poles as close together as may be, running from the back to the front of the house. Fill in the cracks between with moss or calk them with dry grass; on them place a layer of brush, browse, or small sticks and over this a thick coating of clay, hard-pan, or ordinary mud and pack it down hard by tramping it with your feet until it becomes a smooth and tightly packed crust; over this you can put your sod and weeds to conceal your secret.


To make the frame for the underground hall or passageway (Fig. 156), first nail Q, S across the door-jambs to form the top to the doorway, after which put in the supports Q, R and S, T. Next build the frame U, V, X, W and join it to Q, S by the two pieces Q, U and S, V and put in the middle frame support marked ZZZZ.

The passageway should be about six feet long and the front doorway (U, V, X, W, Figs. 156 and 157) of sufficient size to enable you to creep through with comfort. The bottom piece W, X can be nailed to a couple of sticks driven in the ground for that purpose. The next thing in order is the floor, and to make this firm you must lay a number of two-by-fours parallel to B, D and F, H and see that they are level. You will need a number of shorter pieces of the same material to run parallel to F, H and W, X for the hall floor, as may be seen in Fig. 157. Across these nail your floor securely as shown in Fig. 155.

There are no windows shown in the diagram, but if the builders wish one it can be placed immediately over the entrance or hallway in the frame marked I, K, Q, S (Fig. 156), in which case the top covering of dirt must be shovelled away from it to admit the light in the same manner that it is in the dugout shown in Fig. 142 and also in the small sketch (Fig. 154). The ventilator shown in Fig. 155 may be replaced, if thought desirable, by a chimney for an open fire. On account of the need of ventilation a stove would not be the proper thing for an underground house, but an open fire would help the ventilation. In the diagram the ventilator is set over a square hole in the roof; it may be made of a barrel or barrels, with the heads knocked out, placed over the hole in the roof, or kegs, according to the size of the roof. When your house is complete fill in the dirt around the edges, pack it down good and hard by the use of a piece of scantling two by four or four by four as a rammer, then cover the roof with small sticks and fine brush and sod it with growing weeds or grass.

The Door_

You should have a good, stout front door (Fig. 157) and a padlock with which to secure it from trespassers.

Aures Hinge_

A rustic hinge may be made by splitting a forked branch (Fig. 157 C) and using the two pieces nailed to the sides of the door-jambs (Fig. 157 A) to hold the round ends of the rod (Fig. 157 B) run through them. The middle of the B stick is flattened to fit on the surface of the door to which it is nailed. This hinge was invented by Scout Victor Aures of stockade 41144 of Boy Pioneers of America and a description with neat diagrams sent by the inventor to his chief. When all is completed you can conceal the ventilator with dry brush or by planting weeds or shrubs around it, which will not interfere with the ventilation but will conceal the suspicious-looking pipe protruding from the ground. The top of the ventilator should be protected by slats, as in Fig. 161, or by wire netting with about one-quarter-inch mesh in order to keep small animals from jumping or hopping down into your club-house. Of course, a few toads and frogs, field-mice and chipmunks, or even some lizards and harmless snakes would not frighten any real boy, but at the same time they do not want any such creatures living in the same house with them.


In place of a ventilator or chimney a trap-door may be placed in the roof and used as a secret entrance, access to inside being had by a ladder. A description of an appropriate ladder follows (Figs. 169 and 170).

Fig. 159 shows a rude way to make a chandelier, and as long as your candles burn brightly you may know that the air in your little hogan is pure and fresh. When such a chandelier is used pieces of tin should be nailed above the candles to prevent the heat from burning holes through the roof.

How To Cut And Notch Logs_

Boys you have now passed through the grammar school of shack making, you are older than you were when you began, you have acquired more skill and more muscle, and it is time to begin to handle the woodsman's axe, to handle it skilfully and to use it as a tool with which to fashion anything from a table to a two-story house. None of you is too young to learn to use the axe. General Grant, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Sunday—all of them could wield an axe by the time they were eight or nine years old and do it without chopping off their toes or splitting any one else's head open. Remember that every time you hurt yourself with an axe I have a yellow ribbon for you to wear as a "chump mark"; but, joking aside, we must now get down to serious work of preparing the logs in order to build us a little cabin of our own, a log club-house for our gang, or a log camp for our troop of scouts.

Notching Logs_

To make the logs hold together at the corners of our cabins it is necessary to lock them in some manner, and the usual way is to notch them. You may cut flat notches like those shown in Fig. 162 and this will hold the logs together, as shown by 162 E or you may only flatten the ends, making the General Putnam joint shown in Fig. 163. This is called after General Putnam because the log cabins at his old camp near my farm at Redding, Conn., are made in this manner. Or you may use the Pike notch which has a wedge-shaped cut on the lower log, as shown by Fig. 164 J, made to fit into a triangular notch shown by 164 H. When fitted together these logs look like the sketch marked 164 F which was drawn from a cabin built in this manner.

But the simplest notch is the rounded one shown by A, B, and C (Fig. 165). When these are locked together they will fit like those shown at Fig. 165 D.

Away up North the people dovetail the ends of the logs (Fig. 166) so that their ends fit snugly together and are also securely locked by their dovetail shape. To build a log house, place the two sill logs on the ground or on the foundation made for them, then two other logs across them, as shown in Fig. 168.

Handling the Logs_

That the logs may be more easily handled they should be piled up on a skidway which is made by resting the top ends of a number of poles upon a big log or some other sort of elevation and their lower ends upon the ground. With this arrangement the logs may be rolled off without much trouble as they are used.


A log cabin built with hardwood logs or with pitch-pine logs can seldom be made as tight as one built with the straight spruce logs of the virgin forests. The latter will lie as close as the ones shown in Fig. 162 E, while the former, on account of their unevenness, will have large cracks between them like those shown in Fig. 165 D. These cracks may be stopped up by quartering small pieces of timber (Y and W, Fig. 168½) and fitting these quartered pieces into the cracks between the logs where they are held by spikes. This is called "chinking the cabin."

Showing how the logs are notched.

To keep the cold and wind out, the cracks may be "mudded" up on the inside with clay or ordinary lime mortar.


Study these diagrams carefully, then sit down on the ground with a pile of little sticks alongside of you and a sharp jack-knife in your hand and proceed to experiment by building miniature log cabins. Really, this is the best way to plan a large cabin if you intend to erect one. From your model you can see at a glance just how to divide your cabin up into rooms, where you want to place the fireplace, windows, and doors; and I would advise you always to make a small model before building. Make the model about one foot three inches long by ten inches wide, using sticks for logs a little less than one inch in diameter—that is, one inch through or one inch thick. I have taken these dimensions or measurements from a little model that I have before me here in my studio, but, of course, you can vary them according to the plans of your cabin.

Notched Log Ladders_

Ever since man learned to use edged tools he has made ladders or steps, or whatever you may call them, by notching logs (Figs. 169 and 170).

The pioneer log ladder.

A few years ago I took a splendid trip among the unnamed lakes and in what is known as "the unexplored country"—that is, the unmapped country of northwestern Quebec. We travelled over trails that had not been changed by man since canoes were invented. The forests were untouched by the axe of the white man. There were no roads, no houses, no fences, no people except a few wandering Indians, no cattle except caribou and moose, no dogs except wolves, and we slept at night on beds of balsam and paddled by day through rivers and lakes or carried our luggage and our canoes over the portages from one body of water to another over centuries-old trails. At one place the trail led up the side of a mountain to the beetling face of a cliff—a cliff that we had to climb with all our canoes and luggage, and we climbed it on a couple of notched logs, as shown in Fig. 169. By the way, boys, the Indian with the big load on his back is my old friend Bow-Arrow, formerly chief of the Montainais, and the load on his back was sketched from the real one he carried up that ladder portage. This old man was then sixty years of age. But all this talk is for the purpose of telling you the use of the notched log. Our pioneer ancestors used them to ascend to the loft over their cabins where they slept (Fig. 170). It is also a good ladder to use for tree-houses and a first-rate one for our underground hogans when we have an entrance through the top instead of one at the side shown by Fig. 156. Since you have learned how to use the axe you may make one of these primitive ladders to reach the hay-loft in your barn, if you have a barn. You may make the ladder of one log if you set the pole or log upright and notch it on both sides so that you can clasp it with your hand and, placing one foot on each side of it, climb up in that manner.

How To Use A Cross-Cut Saw And A Froe --

The saw is all right and may be used if you have it, but it is a little too civilized for real woodcraft work. You cannot throw one of these saws over your shoulder as you would an axe and go marching into the woods with any comfort. The saw is also a more dangerous implement around camp than even a sharp axe.