Cordwood masonry is a time-tested green building technique that is costs next to nothing and is practical for many homesteaders. If you want to build a chicken coop, shed, playhouse, garage, or even a house out of cordwood masonry, then preparing your cedar trees correctly will make the job a lot quicker and easier. In this step-by-step guide, we lay out the exact process we use to cut down and prepare cedar trees from our property to use in our cordwood building.

How To Prep Cedar Trees for Cordwood Building

Cordwood masonry is a time-tested green building technique that is costs next to nothing and is practical for many homesteaders. If you want to build a chicken coop, shed, playhouse, garage, or even a house out of cordwood masonry, then preparing your cedar trees correctly will make the job a lot quicker and easier. In this step-by-step guide, we lay out the exact process we use to cut down and prepare cedar trees from our property to use in our cordwood building.

Since school let out, we have spent nearly every day working on our property prepping trees!  Any time NOT spent working on the property has been spent working on school stuff for next year, practicing/gigging, or spending time with our adorable little boy.  Or doing all of the above!

IMG_2536


 

We’ve been steadily prepping our cordwood for building. We are using all Eastern Red Cedar for the walls, cut to 16 inch lengths.  A typical workday looks like this:

1. Scout out a suitable tree.  Here, we’re looking at it being a reasonable size (not too small) and reasonably located (we can get to it to remove it with the truck, not covered by brush, etc.)

2. Clear the area around the tree. This is mostly for safety.  If the tree starts to fall in a different direction and you need to run out of its way, you’d better be sure there isn’t anything for you to trip over along the way.  Here’s Mark clearing some brush around the tree with a machete:

.IMG_2551

3. Cut down the tree. This is Mark’s territory.  He assesses how it is likely to fall and then cuts it methodically with his chainsaw.

IMG_2557

 

4. Limb the tree.  Using the chainsaw, remove all of the branches and top of the tree. If any branches are a few inches in diameter, remove the little branches/twigs from it and save it for use.

5. Drag the tree to the work area. We loop a chain around the end of the tree and attach the other end to the hitch on the truck.  We then “tow” it to the work area.  Here it is in all its glory!

IMG_2539 IMG_2538 IMG_2537

6. Start peeling the log! This is important to do as soon after felling the tree as you can.  Once it is down, the sap will start drying and will act as a glue, holding the bark tightly to the tree.  When it is freshly fallen, the bark will practically peel itself.  We’ve been using a tomahawk and a knife with ease.  If you debark the tree soon enough after felling it, you won’t even need to use a drawknife or power tool like the Log Wizard.

Peeling cedar log
Peeling the log with a tomahawk. It works best to come in from the side and pry it off perpendicular to the grain rather than running parallel to the grain of the bark. Perpendicular allows you to pry off big sheets at a time!

7. Cut the tree in equal segments. We’ve been propping the debarked trees up on the older logs to get them off the ground while we cut.  We chose 16 inch cordwood walls, so my job has been to measure each segment, mark it with a knife, and then let Mark cut it with the chainsaw.  We also use this as an opportunity to clean the log up from any stick-ups or spots of sap we missed during the limbing process.

IMG_2544
Log ends where they fell (we did quite a few trees this particular day)
IMG_2545
…and then log ends stacked in the drying shed

 

By our best estimates, we have almost half the number of logs we’re going to need to complete the walls.  The logs then have to spend a period of time drying to about a 12% moisture content.  We measure this with a simple moisture meter like this one. Several of our earliest logs from only a few weeks ago are already to this level because of how hot, dry, and windy it’s been.  Other newer logs are closer to around 20%.  They tend to be around 35-40% when they are first cut.  According to many others, Eastern Red Cedars tend to dry quicker than other species of wood, and so far that seems to be true.

The next step is to start the excavation, which we’re told should begin next week as long as the weather holds out (no thanks, Tropical Storm Bill). Can’t wait to show Anthony the big dozer that is going to level our land for building!

Thanks for reading!  Stick around for more building updates!

Here's our simple method for felling and easily removing the bark from cedar trees to use for cordwood construction (or if you like, for crafting or furniture making!) #greenbuilding #cordwood

Tags:
31 shares
Previous Post

Homestead Update: The Dirt’s a-movin’!

Next Post

Learning Fun at the Cordwood Workshop

  1. AnneMarie
    July 7, 2016

    Wow. What a lovely house. I would love to build my own house. Hubby isn’t too keen.

    1. Emily
      July 7, 2016

      Thanks! It’s a dream that took us a LONG time to get to, and really it all started as Mark’s dream. I wasn’t on board for years because I didn’t think we could do it, but over time I saw how much it meant to him and started looking into what it would really take. Now I’m doing the heavy lifting right there with him! It definitely requires both parties to be committed to it or it would never work. There is always the middle ground of being your own contractor and doing some of the easier work on your own as you’re able. You still save a boatload of money and get the satisfaction of a house you want but without the stress of doing basically everything yourselves. There are lots of ways to go about it, and if it’s something you really want to do one day, then I hope he can see the validity of that and work with you towards a shared goal. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

logo
Food Advertising by