Chinking a Log Cabin

The Lincoln Log Cabin came into my family through Craigslist. It was built as a children’s playhouse and lawn mower shed. When we got it, there was no question about what it would become: a teeny tiny off-grid cabin for extra guests. It measures 6’x11’ on the inside. If you think that’s small, don’t worry! There is a loft in the rafters that offers a spacious 2’ apex. 

Work on the cabin has been slow going. It was not designed to keep critters out, so there have been multiple iterations of attempts to seal it up. The soffits and fascia saw both plastic and metal screen chewed right through. It’s now enclosed in wood, which we hope will keep the furry neighbors in their trees this winter. Next, there are gaps between the logs. We’ve learned through trial and error that caulking shrinks with temperature fluctuations. What to do? Forego the big box stores and look to the land. 

This summer I began researching chinking in log cabins. This is the type of mortar that fills in the gaps. All I could find for sale was giant quantities of the stuff, as most people who use it have full sized homes and logs to cover, much beyond this petit project. With a little more searching, Mother Earth News came through with a recipe which called for materials I either already had or could easily source.

  • 2 parts clay (or regular soil)
  • 1 part ash
  • 12 part salt (granulated)
  • Water to mix
Interior of a log cabin
Log cabin mortar

I dug a hole for the soil, mined the firepit, picked up some table salt while grocery shopping, and carried a bucket of water up from the lake. They say to add enough water so that the mixture is the consistency of cookie dough. I found this to be about ¾ parts. I used a plastic cup as my “part”, mixing up just enough at a time that I could easily finish a batch in a couple hours. Once you have the mixture, it’s just a matter of applying it. For this situation, a regular teaspoon did the trick. It’s taken about 10 hours to get 25% of the cabin done. Work is on pause until the temperature is warm enough for me to work ungloved, which may not be until next spring. 

This is my first personal project with natural building techniques. I’ve been thrilled to find how simple and satisfying it is.

Pine cones spilling out the door of a log cabin
Pine cones abound.