Relevance of log crib research, renovation and development in Estonia and the world


  • Douglass C. Reed



In 1972 I was apprenticed to an elderly mountain man steeped in the traditions of log crib construction. Cyrus Paul Lewis taught me the skills of 18th and 19th century rough and finish carpentry as it pertained to folk architecture. The craft training of log construction added on top of several years experience as a modern day carpenter enabled me to build a company that restored houses and other log buildings all over the United States from 1974 to 2006. In 1978 I continued my formal education in anthropology and preservation specializing in log structures at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Having read all the authoritative works on log buildings and compared them to what I was learning in the field, it was obvious there were many gaps in the collective body of knowledge concerning the development and dissemination of log crib structures.

During a brief first trip to Europe, it was easy to see that the log crib buildings in Alpine and northern Europe in no way resembled the American log cribs erected for three centuries by the settlers arriving on the American shores and those pushing west to establish their farms and build their houses. It became clear American scholarship had a long way to go in understanding the log crib, its development, technology and dissemination throughout the world much less in America. In 2009 a quest to fill in some of the gaps was begun.

After four years of intense research with field trips to Turkey, southern Europe and ranging all the way north to the Scandinavian and Baltic countries ringing the Baltic Sea two findings became very clear. First, no one person can possibly conduct the massive research needed to fully understand origins, technology and dissemination of the world’s log cribs. Secondly, it was apparent, contrary to what had been declared in former publications, that Europeans did not transfer their log crib technologies intact to the eastern shores of the US. Rather only a small number of scattered details mixed with a few processes of material manufacturing and building commonly used in Europe were configured into what was to become an American log crib style almost from the first settlements. 

These discoveries bore witness to the fallacy of single or two person research efforts that resulted in broad, sweeping declarations of origins and disseminations concerning log crib technologies. Most authors were not familiar with the professional training needed to fully understand the hands-on traditions of building with logs and have largely missed the facts concerning the developmental history of log buildings in a specific country and the world. Far more collaborative research between the multiple disciplines and experienced master craftsmen is needed.

Even in Estonia further studies are needed to determine how the dual-purpose barn-dwelling developed and where it originated. With seven centuries of multiple foreign occupations responsible for bringing in many different types of technologies form their occupiers’ homelands, Estonia is a perfect research area for studying and tracking details of development within the country and tracing them back to their origins.

Estonia is not the only country where a rich tradition of log construction needs further research. Further Continental and world-wide log crib studies are needed on a global basis. National surveys must be completed and all resulting data shared to a central data base and collated for developmental research to take place. This work is vital to the understanding of the origins, development and disseminations of log crib technologies throughout the world much less the US and the European Continent.

The results of multiple global log crib research efforts will have far reaching effects in craft training, log crib technology training, and in reintroducing relative millennia’s old technologies in a modern day world rife with toxic fixes that do not work very well in new construction. New restoration techniques of wooden buildings will be learned and culled from the research. Environmental considerations that reduce CO2 levels, green house effects and increase local community cohesiveness all will benefit from global in-depth research efforts to fill in the missing information gaps in log crib development and technologies.

In order for all this research to be coordinated, collated and disseminated, a single global organization dedicated to the study of log crib development must be formed. A new organization focused solely on ferreting out log construction histories, developing techniques of restoration, forest management and timber conservation is necessary in part to provide continued introductory and higher level job training for a log crib work force. The research and training is imperative if the world is to maintain and develop additional higher paying jobs, lower taxes, maintain existing log structures, wisely use limited natural resources in an efficient manner and better living conditions for millions of people.

Keywords: log crib building, log crib research, technologies, tradition, vocational training, sustainability


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