Elmer Harry Kreps.

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Produced by Linda M. Everhart, Blairstown, Missouri


Published by
71 W. 23d Street, New York

Copyright 1919 by
Peltries Publishing Co., Inc.


Elmer H. Kreps was born in Union county, Pa., in 1880. At that time
large and small game of the various species common to Central
Pennsylvania was plentiful in the neighborhood of his home. From his
early boyhood he took a great interest in hunting and trapping. As he
grew older he visited various parts of the United States and Canada,
and being a keen observer, picked up a vast amount of information
about life in the woods and fields.

Mr. Kreps has written many articles on various subjects connected
with hunting and trapping and this little booklet is a collection of
Woodcraft articles from his pen. Mr. Kreps is an accomplished artist
as well as writer, and the illustrations in Woodcraft are reproduced
from his sketches.

We feel sure that this collection of articles will prove of value to
many men and boys who are interested in living in the woods and no
one will be more happy than Mr. Kreps if his work helps brighten the
life of trappers and hunters, in whom he is always interested.



The first camp I remember making, or remodeling, was an old lumber
camp, one side of which I partitioned off and floored. It was clean
and neat appearing, being made of boards, and was pleasant in warm
weather, but it was cold in winter, so I put up an extra inside wall
which I covered with building paper. Then I learned the value of a
double wall, with an air space between, a sort of neutral ground
where the warmth from the inside could meet the cold from without,
and the two fight out their differences. In this camp I had a brick
stove with a sheet iron top, and it worked like a charm.

But that was not really a wilderness camp, and while I realize that
in many of the trapping districts where it is necessary to camp,
there are often these deserted buildings to be found, those who trap
or hunt in such places are not the ones who must solve the real
problems of camp building. It is something altogether different when
we get far into the deep, silent forest, where the sound of the axe
has never yet been heard, and sawed lumber is as foreign as a linen
napkin in a trapper's shack. But the timber is there, and the trapper
has an ax and the skill and strength to use it, so nothing more is
really needed. Let us suppose we are going to build a log cabin for a
winter's trapping campaign. While an axe is the only tool necessary,
when two persons work together, a narrow crosscut saw is a great
labor-saver, and if it can be taken conveniently the trappers or camp
builders will find that it will more than pay for the trouble. Other
things very useful in this work are a hammer, an auger, a pocket
measuring tape, and a few nails, large, medium and small sizes. Then
to make a really pleasant camp a window of some kind must be
provided, and for this purpose there is nothing equal to glass.

Right here a question pops up before us. We are going on this trip
far back into the virgin forest, and the trail is long and rough; how
then can we transport an unwieldy crosscut saw and such fragile stuff
as glass? We will remove the handles from the saw and bind over the
tooth edge a grooved strip of wood. This makes it safe to carry, and
while still somewhat unhandy it is the best we can do, for we cannot
shorten its length. For the window, we will take only the glass - six
sheets of eight by ten or ten by fourteen size. Between each sheet we
place a piece of corrugated packing board, and the whole is packed in
a case, with more of the same material in top and bottom. This makes
a package which may be handled almost the same as any other
merchandise, and we can scarcely take into the woods anything that
will give greater return in comfort and satisfaction.

If we are going to have a stove in this cabin we will also require a
piece of tin or sheet iron about 18 inches square, to make a safe
stovepipe hole, but are we going to have a stove or a fireplace? Let
us consider this question now.

On first thought the fireplace seems the proper thing, for it can be
constructed in the woods where the camp is made, but a fireplace so
made may or may not be satisfactory. If we know the principles of
proper fireplace construction we can make one that will not smoke the
camp, will shed the proper amount of heat, and will not consume more
fuel than a well-behaved fireplace should, but if one of these
principles be violated, trouble is sure to result. Moreover, it is
difficult to make a neat and satisfactory fireplace without a hammer
for dressing the stones, and a tool of this kind will weigh as much
as a sheet iron stove, therefore it is almost as difficult to take
into the woods. Then there is one or two days' work, perhaps more, in
making the fireplace and chimney, with the added uncertainty of its
durability, for there are only a few kinds of stones that will stand
heat indefinitely without cracking. On the other hand the fireplace
renders the use of a lamp unnecessary, for it will throw out enough
light for all ordinary needs.

The good points of the stove are that it can be made by anybody in a
half day's time; it does not smoke the camp, does not black the
cooking utensils, gives the maximum amount of heat from the minimum
quantity of fuel, and will not give out or go bad unexpectedly in the
middle of the winter. If you leave it to me our camp will be equipped
with a sheet iron stove. While the stove itself is not now to be
considered, we must know before we commence to build what form of
heating and cooking apparatus will be installed.

Having decided on which part of the country is to be the centre of
operations, we look for a suitable site for our cabin. We find it
near a stream of clear water. Nearby is a stretch of burned land
covered thinly with second growth saplings, and near the edge of the
evergreen forest in which we will build our camp stands plenty of
dead timber, tamarack, white spruce, and a few pine stubs, all of
which will make excellent firewood. In the forest itself we find
straight spruce trees, both large and small, balsam, and a few white
birches, the loose bark of which will make the best kindling known.
Within three rods of the stream and 50 yards from the burn is a rise
of ground, high enough to be safe from the spring freshets, and of a
gravelly ground which is firm and dry. This is the spot on which we
will construct our cabin, for here we have good drainage, shelter
from the storms, water and wood near at hand, and material for the
construction of the camp right on the spot.


The first thing to settle is the size of the proposed building. Ten
by fourteen feet, inside measurement, is a comfortable size for a
home cabin for two men. If it were to be used merely as a stopping
camp now and then it should be much smaller, for the small shack is
easier warmed and easier to build. I have used camps for this purpose
measuring only six and a half by eight feet, and found them plenty
large for occasional use only. But this cabin is to be our
headquarters, where we will store our supplies and spend the stormy
days, so we will make it ten by fourteen feet. There is just one spot
clear of trees where we can place a camp of this size, and we
commence here felling trees from which to make logs for the walls.
With the crosscut saw we can throw the straight spruce trees almost
anywhere we want them, and we drop them in places which will be
convenient and save much handling. As soon as a tree is cut we
measure it off and saw it into logs. These must be cut thirteen and
seventeen feet long, and as they will average a foot in diameter at
the stump there will be an allowance of three feet for walls and
overlap, or 18 inches at each end. We cut the trees as near the
ground as we can conveniently, and each tree makes two or three logs.
All tall trees standing near the camp site must be cut, and used if
possible, for there is always danger that a tree will blow over on
the camp some time, if within reach.

On the spot chosen for the camp we now place two of the long logs,
parallel with each other and exactly ten feet apart. We block them on
the outside so they cannot be moved easily out of position. Then we
place two of the short logs across the ends and in these we cut
half-round notches directly over the places where they rest on the
long logs, and almost half through each piece. After cutting these
notches we turn the logs notched side down, and these cuts, if they
have been properly done, fit snugly over the long logs, thus binding
the four pieces together and forming the first round of the walls.


Before going farther now we must decide just where we are going to
have the doorway of our cabin. We will place it on the south side,
for we like to have the warm sun rays come in when the door is open,
and if placed on the north or west sides it admits too much cold. We
will place it near one end and then we can also put our window in the
same side. About two or three feet from the corner we will cut out a
section from the top of the log, making the cut four inches deep and
two and a half feet wide, the bottom being hewn smooth and the ends
sawed down square. Then we cut one of the balsam trees and saw a
section from the butt the length of the proposed doorway. This should
be not less than five feet, so we make it this length. Then we split
through the centre with the axe and a pair of wooden wedges, and hew
the two halves into two smooth planks. We also make a plank two and a
half feet long. When these planks are finished we stand the two long
ones upright in the place cut in the log and nail them firmly. We see
that they stand perfectly plumb and in line with one another, then we
nail the short plank across the top, thus completing our doorway. On
this side, as the walls are laid up, we saw each log off squarely at
the proper place and push it up against the door frame, fastening it
there by nailing through the plank. The notches are cut to such a
depth at the corners that the logs fit one against the other and this
leaves no large cracks to close.

To make our cabin comfortable it must have a floor and we have this
in mind as we work. Before building the wall higher we will lay our
sills for the floor, for it is difficult to get these cut to the
proper length and fitted in place after the walls are completed and
the timber must be brought in through the doorway. We cut three
straight logs about eight inches thick in the middle and 14 feet
long. These are bedded into the ground in the cabin, one along each
side wall and the other in the centre. They must be placed at an even
height and this is determined by means of a straight ten-foot pole,
which when placed across these logs should rest on each. If one of
them is too high in spots we dress these places down with the axe.

We will now leave the floors and proceed with building the walls.
Round by round the logs are notched and fitted into place, until the
walls have reached a height of about four feet. Then we make a window
boxing of planks and fasten it in the wall in the same way we did the
door frame. The ends of the logs are butted against the window frame
and fastened with large nails, driven through the planks into the
logs. But before making the window frame the size of the proposed
window must be determined, and this is done by measuring the width of
the glass and making the proper allowance for the sash. When the logs
are placed in the walls we try to select timbers of such a size that
one round of logs will come within about three inches of the top of
the window boxing, and the next log is cut out to fit down over this
window and the frame is nailed fast to this log. The same thing is
done when the top of the door frame is reached, and this gives a
greater degree of rigidity to the walls.

[Illustration: THE GABLES.]

When the walls have been raised to a height of about six and a half
feet above the floor sills we commence work on the gables. These are
constructed by placing a full length log across the end, a shorter
one on top of this, continuing thus until high enough. This is best
done by setting a pole up in the end of the camp exactly in the
middle of the end wall, the top being just the height of the proposed
gable. From the top of this straight pole, poles are run down to each
corner and these give the slope of the gables, also of the roof. The
logs are then cut off on an incline at the ends to conform with the
line of this pole, and are fastened one on top of another by boring
holes and driving wooden pins into them. When both gables have been
raised to half their height we cut two 17-foot binding poles, each
six inches thick in the middle, and notch them into the logs of the
gables. These logs or poles not only give more stability to the
gables, but they also make a support for the roof, and are a nice
foundation for a loft on which to store articles after the camp is
finished. When the ends are brought up to within about eight inches
of the required height a stout, straight ridge pole of the same
length as the binding poles is placed on top, and notched lightly
into the top log.

Our camp is now ready for the roof, and what are we to use for this
most important part. I have no doubt that camp roofs have caused more
gray hairs for woodsmen than any of the other problems they have to
solve. If it were early summer when the bark could be peeled from
cedar and spruce trees we would have no trouble, but bark is not
available now. About the only style of roof that we can make now is
what is called a scoop roof, made from split logs. We must find a
straight-grained, free-splitting wood for this, and of the woods at
hand we find balsam the best, so we cut balsam trees about eight or
ten inches in diameter, and make logs from the butt of each, about
seven feet long, so that they will reach from the top of the
ridge-pole to the walls and extend a foot beyond. These we split
through the centre and hollow out each in a trough form, by cutting
notches in the flat side, without cutting the edges, and splitting
out the sections between. We place a layer of these the entire length
of the roof, hollow side up, and notch each in place so that it
cannot slip or rock. Between each set of these troughs we will place
a three-inch pole, and on top of the pole we place marsh moss. Then
we place over these poles a second layer of the troughs, hollow side
down, and over the ridge pole we place a large, full-length trough.
This latter we must make by hewing a log flat on one side and then
hollowing it out, for we cannot find a tree with such a straight
grain that we can split a 17-foot length without more or less of a

[Illustration: THE ROOF.]

Before completing our roof, in fact when the first layer of scoops
are placed on, we must make provision for our stove pipe, for it must
have an outlet through the roof, and the location the stove is to
have in the cabin must be determined. A hole 12 or 14 inches square
is left in the roof, by using a few short scoops, and this hole is
covered with the sheet of tin we brought for the purpose, and a
slightly oblong hole is cut in this for the stove pipe. The edge of
this hole we turn up with the hammer, which makes it waterproof, and
when finished it is such a size that the pipe makes a snug fit. The
whole thing is so arranged that water cannot run under from the top,
but this is difficult to explain.

A roof like this causes a lot of work, in fact as much as the
remainder of the camp in some cases, but if carefully made it is a
good roof, warm and waterproof. It must be well mossed or snow will
sift in, and the lower ends of the troughs, from where they cross the
walls, should be cut deeper than the portion above. If this is not
done the ice which forms in the ends of these troughs will back the
water up until it runs over the edges and down the walls of the
cabin. It may even be necessary occasionally during the winter to
clean the snow off the lower edge of the roof and clip the ice from
the troughs with a hatchet. The steeper the roof the less trouble
there will be from this source.

With the roof completed our cabin becomes a real shelter and we can
camp inside at night. If necessary the flooring may be postponed for
a few days, but we may as well finish it at once, so we clean out the
chips and commence laying the floor. This we make of straight spruce
poles about four or five inches thick. In the end of the camp where
our beds are to be we leave them in their natural round state, merely
flattening them on the underside where they rest on the sills, to
make them fit and lie firmly in their places. But when the floor has
grown at this end to a width of about four feet we adopt a different
plan. We now hew the poles straight and smooth on one side their
entire length, and flatten the underside where they rest on the
sills, also straighten the sides so they fit up snugly against one
another. At the place where the stove is to be placed we leave an
opening of two and a half by four feet, and around this place we
fasten smooth pieces of wood about four inches thick, so that it
makes of the opening a sort of box. When our floor is completed we
nail down along each wall, a pole, which covers the ends of the floor
poles and holds them all firmly in place.

[Illustration: THE DOOR.]

To complete our cabin now we need only a door, a window, and
something to close the cracks. For a door we split cedar or balsam
wood into planks, which we place on edge in notches cut in a log, and
hew down smoothly on both sides with the axe. Then we straighten the
edges and measuring our door frame carefully we fit the boards into
the opening, binding them all together by nailing across near each
end a narrow board. We also place a strip diagonally across the door
from near one corner to the opposite, to stiffen the door and prevent
warping. Hinges we make of wood, fasten them together with a single
large nail through each, and fasten the door to the wall. Then on the
outside we hew the ends of the logs until they are flush with the
edges of the door frame, and nail a flattened strip along both sides
of the doorway. This is not absolutely necessary, but it gives the
doorway a more finished appearance, and increases the rigidity of the

Our window sash also makes considerable work. For this we split soft,
dead cedar and hew it into three-inch strips. From these we make a
frame that will fit inside the window boxing, and make the strips of
this frame flush at the corners by cutting away half of each. Then at
the proper places we fit our lighter cross strips, sinking them into
the wood at the ends, and fastening with small nails. Grooves are
then cut in the strips and the frame itself to receive the sheets of
glass, which are put in place and fastened with tacks. The window is
then placed in the wall and secured by nailing narrow strips of wood
against it. As a window at its best is apt to admit a lot of cold air
it will pay well to spend some time at this work and make the window
fit snugly.

All that now remains to be done is to close the cracks between the
logs. Since our logs were of a uniform size and have been well
notched down there are no large cracks, and no blocking is needed.
The warmest chinking, outside of rags, which we do not have, is woods
moss. That found growing on rocks and logs is best, for it does not
dry out and shrink as much as marsh moss, and there is an abundance
of this near at hand. We gather a few bags of this moss and with a
piece of wood we drive it into the cracks all around the walls. We
also keep a small quantity of this moss in the cabin, for no matter
how firmly it is driven into the cracks it will shrink and become
loose after awhile, and this must be tightened and more moss driven

Our little cabin is now complete. It has taken much hard work to
build it, but it is worth the effort for it is a comfortable,
home-like camp. The cold winter winds may howl through the forest and
the snow may fall to a depth of several feet, but here we can live as
comfortably as woodsmen can expect to live in the wilds.


A single day's work will do wonders towards making a cabin
comfortable. Sometimes through press of more important work, such as
getting out a line of traps while the season is yet young, the
trapper may well neglect these touches of comfort, and the simplest
of camp furnishings will answer until a stormy day keeps him indoors,
when he can make good use of his time in making camp furniture. A bed
and a stove or fireplace are the only absolutely necessary
furnishings to start with, if other work demands immediate attention.

But in our own case such neglect is not at all necessary. The
preceding chapter saw our cabin completed, that is the walls, roof
and floor, all that can really be called cabin, but much more work
will be required before it is really comfortable and ready for
occupancy. Providing the camp with suitable furniture and adding
conveniences and comfort is the next step, so while we have time and
there is nothing to hinder the work we will push it along.

Most important of all camp furnishings is the stove. Nothing else
adds so much to the cheerfulness and home-like aspect of a camp as a
properly enclosed, well behaved fire, which warms up the room,
enables us to cook our food indoors, and dispenses the gloom of night
by driving the darkness into the farthest corners. If the weather is
cold nothing in the camp is so indispensable.

For the lodge which we built in the preceding chapter we will make a
stove of sheet iron. I have made a number of camp stoves by riveting
together four sections of new, unbent stovepipe into a square sheet,
bending this into proper shape, fitting ends, and cutting holes for
cooking utensils and for the pipe. But for this camp we have secured
from a hardware store a pipe of sheet iron three feet wide by four
feet long. We now place this on the floor of the cabin and measure
off from each end 17 inches, then on each edge at the 17-inch mark we
make a three-inch cut. This we do by holding the sheet metal on a
block or flat topped stump, placing the corner of the axe on the
metal at the proper place, and striking on the head with a billet of
wood. Then we place a straight edged strip of wood across the end on
the 17-inch mark, and standing on this wood we pull the end of the
metal upward, bending it to a right angle. The other end is treated
the same way and this leaves the metal in the form of a box, three
feet long, 17 inches high, and 14 inches wide, open on top and at
both ends. Now we turn this upside down and in the top we cut two
seven-inch holes, as round as we can make them. These are to hold the
cooking utensils. Near one end we cut a small hole, not more than
three and a half inches in diameter. The edge of this hole we cut at
intervals all the way around, making straight, one-half inch cuts.
Then we turn these edges up, and we have a stovepipe hole, with a
collar to hold the pipe in place. We now close the rear end of the
stove by bending three inches of the sides into a right angle, the
same amount of the top being bent down. This is the purpose of the
three-inch cuts we made when we first commenced the work. Now we
rivet a piece of sheet-iron into this end, using for rivets the head
ends of wire nails. They must be cut short and riveted on the head of
an axe. Beneath the top of the stove, between the cooking holes we
rivet a folded strip of metal; this is to stiffen the top. Then we
turn in three inches of the front of the stove and rivet the corners
where they lap. This leaves an eight-inch opening in front over which
we will hinge a door. This door must have some kind of fastening, and
a simple little twist of wire working in a punch hole is easily
arranged and convenient. We can make a very crude stove of this if we
like, but we do not want that kind, so we take plenty of time and
turn out a satisfactory article.

Our stove is now completed except for the covers which are easily
made. We set it up in the box-shaped opening left in the floor and
fill around it with sand to a height of six inches, also fill the
inside to that height. While doing this we must see that the stove
stands perfectly level, and that the pipe hole is directly beneath

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