Trapper cabins are small, contemporary log tilts that are built along trap lines or in hunting camps. This is Packard’s finished product with a small deck attached.
Trapper cabins are small, contemporary log tilts that are built along trap lines or in hunting camps. This is Packard’s finished product with a small deck attached.
Since moving to the area in 2014, retiree Glen Packard and his wife Elizabeth have been enjoying all the things the North Woods has to offer, but a few years ago Packard felt he needed a new hobby.

After the pair started watching “Building Alaska,” Glen had his idea. Packard decided he would attempt to build a 10-foot by 12-foot trapper cabin on his own by foraging all the necessary building materials from his land or from friends, and build whatever additional tools he needed to complete the job himself.

“I had all of these natural resources around me and I thought, you know what, either succeed or fail I’m going to give it a try, and for the most part I think I succeeded in accomplishing my goal,” said Packard.

In 2018, he began researching what type of tools he would need and how much wood it would take to build it. He said that when it was all said and done, this project would most likely morph into more than a traditional trapper cabin.

When doing the math, Packard deduced that he would need roughly 60, 15-foot logs in order to complete the vision of what he saw for the cabin. He flagged all the trees he would use on his land and cut them down.

“I went with big enough logs to make for a good project, but not too big because my idea was to see if I could complete the cabin alone,” said Packard.

In addition to the white pine logs Packard harvested on his property, he came into possession of some red pine logs from a friend of his. The logs he acquired had been drying for 18 months, which was perfect for the project, and Packard had them milled at the Phelps Sawmill to use later on for the floor and the roof.

Moving logs from where they are cut to the job site isn’t an easy task, so Packard built what is called a log arch to alleviate this issue. He was able to hook up the self-made log arch to his ATV and drag logs where they needed to go with no problem.

“As I harvested logs, I built five drying platforms to hold between 12 and 15 of them, with the intent of getting air around them to help the logs lose their moisture content,” stated Packard.

Additionally, he built a tripod to position logs during the build and also built a special log cradle with added lawnmower wheels to help spin the logs during the bark peeling process.

“What I took a lot of pride in was making the tools I needed to get this job done, since I used them every day throughout the process,” said Packard. “I had as much fun building the tools for building the cabin as I did building the actual cabin.”

Packard estimated that each log took about an hour and a half to peel the bark off with a tool called a drawknife. He added an additional hour and a half to notch or scribe the logs correctly to fit together during the building process. Nearly three hours were spent on each log getting them prepped for assembly.

Each log needed to be notched roughly 3 inches at both ends and Packard noted he needed to be very meticulous for everything to fit together the right way.

“If you do a good job making the scribe mark, and you cut to that scribe mark, then you get a nice tight fit on the notch,” said Packard. “Sometimes it would take more than one attempt to do this to get them perfect and ready to be set, but this gave me a great sense of satisfaction.”

Beginning with dimensional lumber, Packard was able to create a perfect rectangular base in order to set the notched sill plate/base logs. He then worked the walls up by using his tripod and getting logs into position after they were scribed and notched for placement.

After a repetitious process of notching and stacking the logs to create the outer layer of the cabin, Packard then cut in the door frame and window frames, in addition to laying some of the planks he had milled down for the flooring inside.

The roof came next and Packard highlighted how this was the hardest part of the project. One of the tips he found in his researching stage stated he should recreate a gable roof replica at ground level that could be raised up and placed, rather than doing all the work up on a ladder.

“I created what I felt would be the appropriate pitch for the roofline with reclaimed cedar attached to the cabin walls,” said Packard. “It seemed like a duplication in effort, but it is not easy trying to cut down on the logs up on the ladder.”

Packard finished the template for the roof and cut the logs to length by following along the ends with his chainsaw at the correct angle to keep the pitch look he wanted. He then set the ridgepole and the purlins which would support the rafters.

He said this process proved to be difficult because of the fact each log weighed almost 200 pounds. To ensure safety, Packard used some cedar board to make a rest where he could place one end of each log, and then moved to the other side to place the other end on an additional rest to get the logs in position.

“I pinned the pieces of cedar to the logs so I could get up on a ladder and take the log already set in place and lift it up over the piece of cedar to make sure it wasn’t going to come down on me when I needed to do the same thing when I dropped the notch in on the other side,” said Packard.

When the purlins and the ridgepole were set, more notching needed to be done for the rafters. Each rafter needed to be notched into the purlins to ensure they would lay as flat as possible.

“Knowing that you are working with a log with taper on it, you are always dealing with it, so you get it as flat as you can,” stated Packard. “This isn’t an exact science like when using dimensional lumber because you know dimensional lumber will be ‘true’.”

Rafters were notched and set and some more of the planks Packard had milled were used for the roof. Next came the tar paper, shingles, and the finishing touches like a door handle and a deadbolt lock. He even added a porch from some of the reclaimed cedar also used on the window frames.

Packard noted that having good health and the determination to complete the project were prominent factors in its success.

He added that he has a few things to finish up this spring including adding a chimney for the wood stove and getting the logs cleaned up.

A finishing touch which he was the most excited about was the laser-engraved sign his wife got him this past Christmas. Outside the front door hangs this beautiful black metal compass that reads “True North,” which Packard had decided would be the name of his trapper cabin.