Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Log Lessons

AmeriCorps project highlights hewn log structure construction

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/10/18

ELY – Young adults with the AmeriCorps Historic Preservation project spent the last week near Ely learning “old school” log construction techniques. They put their hands-on lessons to work …

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Log Lessons

AmeriCorps project highlights hewn log structure construction

Posted

ELY – Young adults with the AmeriCorps Historic Preservation project spent the last week near Ely learning “old school” log construction techniques. They put their hands-on lessons to work building a hewn log structure, complete with dovetail joinery, at the Halfway Ranger Station Historic District.

Nine members of the Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps, based in Duluth, spent the week at the historic site, located off Highway 1 near the Kawishiwi River. Rainy conditions, cold temperatures, even an overnight snowfall, forced the crew to sleep indoors for most of the week.

Sunny conditions last Thursday were welcomed at the outdoor classroom.

Gerald David, of GFD Woodworking, a German-trained timber framer, taught the students log material and axe handling techniques, proper sharpening and storage of the tools, and shaping, hewing, and dovetail joinery.

“They start with rough cut logs, typically red pine, and start with debarking using a draw knife,” David said. “We then square them and remove all the material that isn’t part of the squared log. There is lots of chopping and shaving and detail work that goes into working with the raw logs to shape them into timber.”

They hoped to make enough logs to build a small log-cabin. “The structure will be used to teach chinking and daubing methods to future AmeriCorps members,” he said. AmeriCorps members preserve historic buildings all around the state during their service terms using the methods taught at the Halfway Station.

“I really enjoy working with my hands and learning to use these traditional hand tools is a real education, and a great workout,” said Dylan Walker. “It was pretty cold when we started this morning but the sunshine and the hard work warmed us up pretty quick.”

The project is partly funded by the Historic Preservation Education Foundation and with help from the state Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Northern Bedrock’s mission is to develop enduring workforce and life skills in young people through service learning that supports historic preservation for the common good, according to Operations Director Rhea Harvey.

Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps was established in 2011 to meet two converging needs: an aging stock of historic structures and landscapes in need of maintenance and repair, and a growing need to create a pathway for young adults into the preservation trades workforce, she said.

“Northern Bedrock utilizes a corps model and partners with trades professionals to provide young adults with hands-on experience and training in the historic preservation trades,” she said. “Our AmeriCorps program works with young adults, 18-25 years old, from across the region. Corps members work at project sites across Minnesota and receive training in a variety of preservation areas over a six-month field season.”

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