The ‘cabin’ as we call it is attempting to at least partially follow the long Australian tradition of timber slab buildings.
The “slab hut” has a long history in Australia. It originally developed as an improvised shelter in a pioneer world lacking in tools and materials to build European-style housing. Wiki has some great historical information here. My understanding is that, due to gaps between slabs in the wall, they are cold in winter which is the reason you always see them with a relatively large fireplace but at the same time cool in summer. We will try to have as gapless a building as possible just to try and limit the million species of spiders and insects at the dam site that would try to make the place home.
I think the classic slab huts are really beautiful to look at. Solid timber walls and the ingenuity and resourcefulness at every turn really appeals to me. The skill these guys had as builders is just remarkable. Our little cabin will not be a true slab hut for a number of reasons but we will attempt the main defining feature which is the solid slab walls.
You can still see some of these iconic buildings in small country towns or in national parks. Nanango in the South Burnett has a really interesting slab hut right next to the main drag in the big green park to the left as you come in from Brisbane. Kosciusko National Park has some great examples too as you can see in the video further down.
(Source – Public Domain)
The above is a vertical slab hut with the slabs running from roof to earth floor. Ours will be a horizontal hut which differs in that the slabs will be laid horiztonally and breaks with tradition by being set on stumps I like the idea of horizontal slabs as I understand the premise that they settle into eachother under the force of gravity as they age with reduced gaps and aiflow. A good example of what we are trying to do is below.
Tralee Slab Hut in Hume (Source – http://www.canberratimes.com.au)
You can see in the photo above that they have limited the spacings in the wall to about a metre or so. This is probably to prevent warping and movement of the slabs over time (I guess). It is a bit of a worry as the slabs that we are putting in will span 4.5m along the living room walls and 2.9m along the back walls. They also use much thicker slabs than we are planning. Our plan is to use 1inch slabs which we will then glue to the one above and run in steel channels down the side of the posts. The hope is that if we oil them on the outside and paint on the inside relatively quickly, we can slow the drying (seasoning) process down enough that they don’t warp, crack, slip past eachother and generally turn into a giant mess.. This is a work in progress and we are seriously considering changing our plans to account for smaller slabs and better framed windows (similar to what you see above). It will certainly be a learning process.
The below video is what inspired us in this direction in the first place. These guys are true artists and keeping valuable skills alive. I hope it invigorates you as much as it did us;
(Source – you tube)