Article: Replication: More than Restoration

Although restoration is the term craftsmen usually apply to the repair of a log structure, Dave Tuxbury of American Log Restoration in Twin Lake, Michigan, prefers the world replication.

Dave came into the business of restoration with the background of a log builder. In this role he was often consulted regarding water infiltration, settling and structural problems. Finding solutions became a challenge and, as his skills grew, a source of pride. He mastered the art of replacing logs using techniques, tools and materials that allow the logs to blend perfectly into the original structure; this the emergence of the method he calls replication. To achieve replication, he uses logs with the same characteristics as the replaced ones and then duplicates the original building procedure. A replicated area will tie in and perfectly match the existing structure. The building’s authenticity, structural balance and beauty will be returned.

In the last fifteen years, Dave Tuxbury and his crew have used this method on hundreds of log buildings: some have historical significance; others are modern residences. These included handcrafted, saddle-notch homes, both chinked and full scribe; square beamed with dove-tailed corners; and various styles of machined logs.

Last year he was called to Berrien Springs to restore the Murdock house, the oldest log building in Michigan. Built in the early 1830’s and later covered with clapboard siding, it was scheduled for demolition in 1960 to make way for a housing development. It was then the property owners discovered that hidden underneath the siding was a square-beamed, dove-tailed log home. The siding was removed and the hand-hewn building was move to the Courthouse Museum Grounds. Since that time the logs deteriorated to the point that the collapse of a rear wall was imminent.

The owners of the Murdock House requested tulip poplar logs to be cut to the original dimensions and used as replacements.

In restoring the building, Dave used some of the same tools the original builders used: saws and axes for squaring and log marks; saws and chisels for hand hewing the dove tails.

The building had to be jacked up to level to remove the bottom logs that were being replaced. Five logs, pressure-treated to withstand the weather, were then installed. The bottom sill log on the width of the house was un-spliced and ran the full width to tie the house securely together. While the building was jacked up, the bowed logs that remained were straightened by repositioning.

Dave stapled screening onto the logs to hold the lime, sand and mortar mixture – the authentic chinking material that was used. After the mortar cured, two coats of sealant were applied to it.

Today the Murdock House is a museum piece. Everyone can enjoy and appreciate the handcrafting that took place in 1830 and the replication of the handcrafting in 1992.

American Log restored another historic residence that was built on Beaver Island in 1846 by the Mormons who came to settle and be part of King Strang’s group. Since the home was also a square-beamed, dove-tailed construction such as the Murdock’s, much of the same type of work was necessary – jacking up the house to level and installing squared logs.

All of the replacements were full length logs with no splicing. The logs that remained were cleaned with wire brush and scraper, and both old and new were treated with the sealer, Lifeline, and Bora Care to prevent insect infestation.

In the Beaver Island home the chinking, all of which had cracked and loosened, had to be removed. The owners had practical interests in mind when they decided on latex-based Perma Chink rather than the authentic mortar chinking. Since the home would be remodeled to serve as a bed and breakfast, the owners wanted it to be waterproof and air-tight – an important factor situation as it was on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan.

A large residence of Lake Syracuse in Indiana shows an example of the use of replication in a machined log system. With turning logs of the same species as the original and saws and chisels, Dave and his workers duplicated the logs and the notches. They spliced in logs at the same locations as original. The ends were then sanded down to close the grain so that moisture wouldn’t seep in.

The old caulking had cracked, allowing water to penetrate and ultimately causing the logs to rot, so extreme care was taken in applying Perma-Chink at the joints. A final application of Lifeline and the residence was ready to face the blast of winds from the lake.

There are many unusual problems that confront the restorer of a log home and just as many innovative solutions. Near Honor, Michigan there is a cottage handcrafted of bark-on jack pine. In this case, four bottom logs needed replacement.

In order to replicate the bark-on system, jack pine was found at its most dormant stage – after the second hard frost of the season, since the bark at this time is less likely to peel and pull away form the tree. The trees when cut had to be dried thoroughly to prevent shrinkage and movement. For authenticity, the customer chose mortar rather than latex chinking. Thus the project was completed to the satisfaction of the owner. In Gladwin, Michigan the owner of a thirty-five year old home wanted only the bottom log replaced. A concrete walk butting up to the base had allowed water form the roof to splash onto the sill log causing severe damage. The challenge came in finding and replacing the base log since it had been thirty-five feet long and twenty-four inches in diameter. Dave found white pine that weighed nearly one ton to fit the specifications.

Chains and winches were used to unload the log from the truck. It was then skidded up to the sidewalk close to the wall. Using hydraulic jacks and cables the log was positioned and secure by Dave and his helper. In another instance, it was necessary to find white pine with twelve to twenty inch diameters to match the handcrafted timbers in an elegant cottage on Walloon Lake in Michigan.

Over the years the rain gutters in this home had accumulated debris and had rusted out, allowing water to drain onto the logs. The bottom logs and several corners had to be replaced. The replication included the use of draw knives in peeling the logs and chain saws and chisels to handcraft the notching to match the original.

When a series of logs in a wall has deteriorated, as it has in this home, it is necessary to replace the bottom sill log first then, working the way up, use a replacement with the same characteristics as the previous log. This job was especially difficult because the foundation was made of field stone and the sill log had to be meticulously cut to match the uneven foundation. One side of the house had to be jacked up to accomplish this.

The repairs on the imposing cottage are not evident since they were perfectly blended to match the existing structure. The most ambitious and challenging project that American Log Restoration undertook was the replication work on a seventy-room lodge located on Lake Superior. Granot Loma, built in 1929 by Louis Kaufman, was the subject of an extensive article in the Summer, 1987 issue of Log Home Guide – before restoration begun.

Kaufman imported pine logs from Oregon and brought craftsmen from Finland to build Granot Loma. Twenty-two architects worked on the plans that included steel framework on which to secure the logs. It is this framework which kept the building from deteriorating to a far greater extent – perhaps beyond repair. Located on a point on Lake Superior, the home was buffeted with water on three sides for sixty years which, along with harsh storms, created a severe problem. It was also to be noted that products to repel water are far superior today than those available in 1929.

Granot Loma was handcrafted in saddle-notch, full scribe style. Over the years the logs had shrunk, allowing air and water to infiltrate. In the mid-forties it was necessary to apply a bead of caulking between them. It was the breakdown of this system that ws the major cause of the logs’ deterioration. There was also a problem with settling which required the jacking up of several wings of the house, removal of some logs and straightening of others before replacements could be installed.

vLogs were replaced from the second floor to the ground. Some were over thirty-five feet from the level. To reach this height an elaborate scaffolding was installed. Calbe and winch were used to hoist the logs to the desired height. For this project Dave used several hundred Michigan white pine logs, ten to twelve inches in diameter, that were individually selected. The logs were fully cured and dried for the least amount of shrinkage and settling. He used a draw knife for peeling and adapting the logs to blend into their proper place in the structure.

Most of the corners were duplicated in saddle-notch style, although in one octagon-shaped area, built to look like a tepee, large posts were replaced at intersecting corners. An outside log stairway was a particular challenge as each tread had to be scribed and cut in three different areas: the crevice in the log wall of the main building, the supporting log wall on the outside of the tread, across the length to fit the tread above. Six months after the project was begun, the American Log Restoration crew battled winds, cold rain and, finally, snow as they finished the replication work on Granot Loma. The lakeside lodge was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although American Log Restoration used methods, tools and products that were used by craftsmen years ago, they will not hesitate to advise a customer where half logs and epoxy can be advantageous. They also use modern products which do an excellent job preserving a home today.

Dave Tuxbury has not come across a log home that is beyond repair. He has discovered created solutions to the problems that come with time and has found a way of replicating the most intricate log building to recover its structural integrity and revive its natural beauty.

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