By Blaise Sopiwnik
Chinking is what makes a primitive log structure into a place anyone would call home. Early in human history, dwellings of all shapes and sizes had some sort of material stuffed in between logs, rocks, or framing. The process of chinking (sealing) in warmth and sealing out cold, mice, bats and other vermin can be done in many ways.
Early log homes in America could have had anything from horsehair to moss from the forest floor. It usually consisted of any material that was inexpensive and easily attained, most often a dry fiber that had some insulation value.
On the chinking project we are working on this week near Duluth, MN the log lodge had oakum jammed in between the logs, which was very common for a turn-of-the-century structure. Oakum is usually long hemp fibers soaked in oil or a pine tar-like substance. When you look at the pictures, you will notice that the logs are already close together and some are scribed to each other leaving very little space for air in between the logs.
When woodworkers took extra time and care in building the log walls, very little material was needed to seal the joint between the logs. I always appreciate their craftsmanship and imagine how patient and detail-oriented the person must have been.
Today, when chinking log buildings using latex-based chink, we use specific tools to speed up the application while making every effort to deliver the craftsmanship that has been shown as an example before us. After years of seeing different styles and methods of applying chink, I appreciate what practice can do to create a quality finished look.
If you look at these pictures and have any questions on how we approached different aspects of this building, please post on our “Ask an Expert” link to the right.