Wednesday, January 15, 2020

An Inside Look: A perspective on varnishing your log home interiors

by Michael McArthur

Coating interior log walls with a transparent varnish has numerous merits worth considering. The psychological difference between non-coated and varnished logs is dramatic. Varnishing the log surface will enhance the depth of the wood grain and enliven your living space.

Leaving aside the positive aesthetic benefits, there is also a health benefit to sealing your log walls. Wood is a porous material and as a result, it has a tendency not to clean or dust well if left uncoated. If you are an allergy sufferer, dust mites and other airborne particles will cause allergic reactions. Log walls are an ideal location to accumulate and hold these various irritants. Because of its porous nature, cleaning a bare wood surface with a detergent solution will raise the wood grain and further aggravate its magnetic attraction to airborne particles. By filling the wood pores with a varnish type coating, a slicker, easier to “dust and clean” surface is created thus making the control of microscopic allergens on your log walls more effective.

There are primarily two types of varnishes that can be used on log walls: solvent-based or water-based. The major advantage of a water-based varnish over the traditional solvent-based type is its lower fumes. When working indoors, the harsh fumes and odor of a solvent-based varnish can be quite unpleasant, especially when good ventilation is not possible. Also, new environmental regulations are slowly phasing most of these solvent-based varnishes off the market. It should be noted that even water-based varnishes do have differing degree of fumes, some having more than others. (PolySeal™ water-based wood varnishes are some of the lowest in the industry).

A minimum of two and usually three coats of a water-based varnish is required to insure an adequate seal of the wood pores. Additionally, by applying multiple layers of finish, a thicker film is created thus magnifying and increasing the depth and clarity of the wood grain. At the same time, it provides a smoother surface that is easier and more durable to clean. Water-based varnishes also dry faster so a project can be completed in much less time. The hardness of the coating will depend on the resins used. For maximum durability, a polyurethane resin used alone or in combination with hard acrylic resins is your best buy. On log walls, a flatter satin or matte finish is usually preferred in order to minimize the glare of indoor lighting, whereas a gloss finish tends to be too reflective.

A WORD OF CAUTION... Never varnish interior log walls that still contain excessive moisture in them, generally above 18%. The reason is that a varnish is a clear or transparent enamel type coating that is not very breathable, especially when two to three coats are applied. When the heat is turned on during cold weather, the warm interior log walls draw the moisture to their surface. If enough moisture is present in the logs, peeling of the coating may occur and/or molds will grow BENEATH the coating causing ugly discoloration. This can only be remedied by removal of the coating. A rule of thumb is to wait one year and through a heating season BEFORE applying a varnish to the interior log walls. Also, consult with the log manufacturer for feedback on this log moisture issue.
In conclusion, varnishing your interior log walls provides great advantages to the home dweller for reasons of appearance and cleanliness. It is an investment well worth the cost that will be recouped many times over in the years of comfortable living it will provide.

*Reprinted from Winter 1999 issue of Log Core Newsletter.




*Michael McArthur was manager of the Log Home Products Division of the Continental Products Co. Continental manufactures wood coatings for the log home industry including PolySeal™, a waterbased polyurethane/acrylic interior varnish.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Camo Your Cracks

By Robert G. Kenel, Sashco, Inc

Checking is a natural occurrence that occurs in wood as it dries and acclimates to the surrounding atmospheric conditions. There are some things that can help reduce the effect of checking. Radial checking is the most common. That’s when the log shrinks as moisture is removed. To give you a better idea of how that looks. Picture the growth rings of the tree as a length of rope. It breaks as the wood dries. Know think the length of rope, it will shrink in length and get shorter. The longer the rope the more it more it will shrink. As these checks occur some will be bigger and others smaller as the logs reach specific gravity (G). You can see more in the ICC 400 Log Standards section 302.
Those checks can be seen exterior and interior, horizontal and vertical. While some see them as part of the log, others find them very displeasing. Besides the appearance there are some things that need to be addressed when checks are on the exterior of a structure. Foremost, upward facing checks are like gutters, collecting water in all its forms. This water becomes trapped and is absorbed in the wood fibers. It then starts to decay the wood internally where it can not be seen. Even if the logs look fine on the exterior, stain and sealers are doing their job. The hidden damages can cause expensive log replacement

Bigger checks of 1" or more I like to cut out a taper in the check. Using a small saw, I use a small electric chain saw. In which I cut tapers within the check making sure to go all the way to the very ends of the check. This is important as you can not caulk or seal those small ends properly. I do this for two reasons. One, to make a space for the wooden wedge I cut to fit the check. Two to cut out all the splinters to create a good fit for the backer strips required before caulking. On the job site I will use a 2X and circular saw set at angle to cut the wooden wedge. These I like to make a bit bigger so they extend beyond the log. That way I can grind off to fit. I fill the checks with either powder or liquid borates using a squeeze bottle. Like from a dish soap of ketchup bottle. I use glue to adhere the wedges. A good all weather adhesive I use is UltraTech 0770 ADA by Loctite. After the wedge dries is fully dried, grinded down and sanded. I can then match the stain and finish as needed.

For checks that do not need wood, proceed with the same method but use backer strips that fit the check. They come in many sizes. The use of backer is very important as it creates that all important two point adhesion that bonds much better and allows the product to stretch properly. If backer is not used product could pull from the wood and there is no mid point of expansion to stretch. Follow the curves of the check with the saw and backer. Again, don’t forget the borates. A proper backer in inserted in the check is 1/4'” – 3/8” below the surface of the face of the log. This gives a depth that will hold a good amount of caulk, but not wasting by using to much. Tool using water mixed with a little dish soap. You can use a small brush with hair or foam. Wipe any excess off with a rag wiping in the same direction each time. I like using caulk designed for applications I am doing. Textured products like Conceal have grits that make it much less noticeable when dry. Other caulks are very smooth, and wood is not so much. Colors change as they dry so always do a test area first. Stain can also be applied over these areas after proper curing.

Reprinted from 2019 GLLCA newsletter.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Handle Feeding

by Paul VanKeuren
Customer Service
www.loghelp.com

Wooden handles are excellent. On hammers and axes they absorb shock, protecting the user. They are durable when used as a lever, as you would discover while using a peavey, cant hook, or shovel. And they decompose gracefully when accidentally abandoned in the woods, unlike fiberglass or plastic. However, wood handles are susceptible to the same forces that lead to the decay of any other wooden object, log homes included. Water is the enemy. Not only does it lead to the decay of the handle, it can also rust the metal parts of your tools. To prevent this you need to apply something to your handles, and while most handles already come varnished, I argue that a drying oil is the best treatment.

Why treat your handles with oil rather than varnish?
An oiled finish is easier on your hands than a varnished surface, and is less slick when wet. This makes it safer for you and those around you. Oiled finishes also breathe better than varnished surfaces, helping you get moisture out of the handle if any ends up getting in. Another benefit of an oiled handle, is the fact that it swells when treated with oil. This helps the wood form a tighter bond with other parts of the tool like an axe head.

Aren’t handles replaceable, why not just buy new ones when needed? Wood handles are replaceable and renewable which are some of their many virtues. However, quality handles are hard to find at your local hardware store, and the prices keep going up. If you carve your own you can avoid this, but then you still have a month of waiting for your freshly carved handle to dry. It is best to care for your tools AND replace/repair as needed. High quality replacement handles are available to order here.

What oil should I use?
When it comes to treating wood, there are essentially two types of oils, the drying oils and the non-drying oils. Drying oils are oils that cure to a plastic-like state, they include oils like linseed, tung, or walnut. A non-drying oil does not cure, but can evaporate or wash away with time. For tool handles, I recommend drying oils as they cure inside the wood making it a more durable material, while also protecting much longer than a non drying oil. Traditionally linseed oil has been used.

Be warned, drying oils heat up as they cure and can burst into flame. Any rags you use to apply drying oils should be burned, or soaked in water and spread out on a hot surface. I’ve heard several stories of folks throwing oil soaked rags in the trash only to have them start on fire and burn down their homes.

Boiled or Raw?
There are two kinds of linseed oil on the market, boiled and raw. The boiled linseed oil is not actually boiled, but has heavy metal driers added at the factory to make it dry faster. Raw linseed oil is the same thing as flax oil without any additives. Raw linseed oil will dry much slower, but is also a more natural product. To further complicate things, some folks thin their linseed oil with turpentine to aid in penetration. The turpentine then evaporates out of the handle depositing the oil further into the wood.

Application?
Apply liberally to the handle paying extra attention to the end grain until refusal. Then let the handle sit out in the sun for a minute or two, and wipe away any excess. There is an old adage that says you should oil your fresh handles once a day for a week, then once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and then yearly. I think this is over prescribed, but you do want to build up a good layer of oil within the wood.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Replacement Axe Handle Measurements

Hults Bruk Replacement Hickory Handles (a.k.a. haft or helve) for Hults Bruk Axes.


As the saying goes with several variations, "This axe has been in my family for generations. The handle has only been replaced twice and the head replaced once." If the handle is replaced, is it the same axe? How about the head? Well, either way, there comes a time in an axe's life when it needs a new handle (also called a half, or helve).

There are also times when a haftless axe head is found at a flea market, in an old barn, or somewhere else treasures are discovered. In that case, restoring an old axe is a rewarding project that leaves one with a quality tool. For finding an appropriately sized handle for an axe head, the measurements for eye length and eye width are needed.




Hults Bruk handles designed to fit Hults Bruk Axes can also be used to replace old or missing handles on old axe heads.  After measuring the eye width and eye length, the chart below can help find an appropriately sized haft to fit the axe head.



Name & Length Eye Width Eye Length
Akka - 24" 15 mm 42 mm
Almike - 16" 15 mm 42 mm
Arvika - 32" 23 mm 63 mm
Atran - 32" 23 mm 63 mm
Jonaker - 9.4" 15 mm 42 mm
Kalix - 28" 20 mm 50 mm
Kisa - 26" 20 mm 50 mm
Motala - 30" 23 mm 63 mm
Tibro - 20" 20 mm 50 mm

Hults Bruk handles are available at www.loghelp.com

Saturday, June 1, 2019

2019 GLLCA Conference

We had a great time with the Great Log Crafters Association this spring. An April snowstorm pushed the scheduled GLLCA Conference into May, which altered a few plans, but ultimately it was an educational and enjoyable conference. One of the outdoor sessions was Mark Weber’s log chain demonstration. He showed how to chainsaw-carve a large-linked chain out of a solid. The unfinished chain went up onto the Association’s fundraiser auction, and now it’s sitting in the SLHS lobby as a point of interest.

There were two experiences highlighting the history of logs in the region—a presentation by Lilah Crowe of the Itasca County Historical Society gave an overview of the history of logging and notable log structures. Later, a visit to the Forest History Center of the Minnesota Historical Society gave a living history experience of life in a 1900 logging camp. Many of the historic tools used in the camps a century ago are still very familiar and used by log builders today—cant hooks, peaveys, axes, and the like.

Some great, educational presentations included engineering for log structures by Asche Engineering, and dustless wet blasting by ABS Blast.

Association members presented on some crafting techniques, including live-edge paneling cut from a curved tree, and an S-Curve log stairway that merged a glue-laminated stringer with half-log stair treads. Another great demonstration was John Beltman’s spring-pole lathe, in which he turned a Windsor chair leg on his lathe powered by a foot petal and a green wood pole.

Preliminary plans are in progress for next year’s moving, annual conference, and those interested in log craft are welcomed to join and watch for updates at www.gllca.org

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Old Forestry Mixture

The old forestry mixture, as some have called it, is a formula for a penetrating oil stain developed by the Forest Products Laboratory in the 1950's. Other than the old forestry mixture, it's more formerly know as the Forest Products Laboratory Natural Finish. The FPL Natural Finish was introduced as follows:

"Many homeowners want a finish that retains a part of the natural color and the grain of new wood or one that enhances the rustic appearance of lumber or plywood. The commercially available natural finishes that form a clear film, such as varnish, have been so short-lived, however, that they are not recommended for exterior use. One durable natural finish is the penetrating stain, developed at the Forest Products Laboratory in the 1950's. The FPL natural finish was formulated to overcome the more serious shortcomings inherent in such finishes of t the film-forming type that are so susceptible to failure by cracking ind peeling. Because the stain penetrates the wood surface and does not form a coating, there is no failure by blistering and peeling even in excessive moisture conditions. There is no coating to scrape before refinishing. Thus, the penetrating stain is easily maintained at a low cost on a variety of wood surfaces. Test results indicate that the first application of the FPL natural finish to smoothly planed surfaces fully exposed to the weather should last I about 3 years. When refinished after weathering, the finish will last much longer. Two coats of stain applied to rough-sawn or weathered surfaces may last 10 years or more."

The exact recipe and full document are listed here. It contains a blend of linseed oil, paraffin wax, solvent, and some other ingredients, including Penta, which is no longer available to the public and restricted to things like the manufacturing of telephone poles and railroad ties. While some of the ingredients are difficult to obtain and Penta is nye impossible, there is at least one alternative on the market. As a ready-made option, a formula similar to that old mixture is available under the brand Organiclear WR-5.


WR-5 Log Home Stain is a superior exterior wood treatment that restores, preserves and enhances the natural beauty of your new or existing log home, deck, fences, railings, shakes and shingles, and outdoor wood furniture. WR-5 offers a unique blend of deep-penetrating premium oils, resins and waxes to create a long-lasting MOISTURE-GUARD™ barrier against harsh weather. To enhance wood life further, WR-5 provides maximum protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage by combining sun blockers to absorb and control UV degradation, thus minimizing wood deterioration. WR-5 penetrating coating will also help prevent wood from cracking or peeling. WR-5 also works very well in high humidity areas. WR-5 allows wood to "breathe" naturally through a micro porous film and prevents moisture penetration. Water beads up and rolls off the exterior wood surface. WR-5 brings out the natural grain beauty of the wood while preventing the wood from cracking and peeling. WR-5 is the perfect choice for the full realm of wood protection your home needs to stand the test of time. For new, unfinished decks, apply two coats of WR-5 this year and then either a third in the Fall or one more next year. WR-5 Clear can be used as a second (if only putting on two coats), third coat, or as future maintenance coats though it won't last as long as a pigmented coat. Some people like to use the clear in this way to "lock" in a particular light color. Made in the USA.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Log Rot: The Problem With Painted Logs

Log Rot: The Problem
With Painted Logs


This log house was originally coated with house paint instead of a Log Home Finish. You can see where the house logs have cracked or "checked" leaving open cracks in the paint for rain water to penetrate into the wood causing further log rot. The density of the paint coating acts like a plastic sheeting that traps in moisture causing blisters and flaking paint. In winter when the logs freeze, the trapped moisture expands by becoming ice particles. This causes more subsurface damage making tiny cracks larger and allowing more space for water to penetrate farther into the log causing more damage. In the photograph, the dark area behind the pipe is totally rotted.

In a situation like this all of the paint needs to be removed with either a chemical stripper or blasted with media (glass is most common now). The next step would be to cut out the rotted areas of wood and use
Tim-bor or Boracol to saturate the logs and keep them from rotting any further. If the rotted areas are relatively shallow, LiquidWood can be used to seal cracks and create an undercoating for the WoodEpox to adhere to. Next, apply the WoodEpox and form it so that it conforms to the rest of the log. Dry pigment can be added to WoodEpox to color it (especially if you will be coating with a stain). Allow to dry thoroughly, then apply a new finish.

If large portions of the logs are rotted away, you will either have to replace portions of the log with half-log inserts or replace the entire log. You may need the services of a professional log home restoration contractor.


For DIY advice or restoration contractor referrals, call Schroeder Log Home Supply, Inc., at 1-800-359-6614 or contact electronically here.

An Inside Look: A perspective on varnishing your log home interiors

by Michael McArthur Coating interior log walls with a transparent varnish has numerous merits worth considering. The psychological diff...