How To Make Lincoln Logs General Woodworking

A Project by Pocket83.

Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright in 1916. Just imagine: You have created a product that has become a sensation, a product that will still be widely recognizable a century later…

…and yet your accomplishment is still overshadowed by your father, who is one of the most prominent figures of
architecture in world history!

Being that I am the type to appreciate design on a scale both large and small, I am going to pay homage to the son of Frank Lloyd Wright with this tutorial. I have been to Falling Water, and while I do find it impressive, I prefer playing with Lincoln logs.

how to make lincoln logs

Let’s start with the equipment you will need:
– Miter Saw
– Table Saw
– Router Table

Obviously, there are tons of different ways you can go about this, but I will be using a method that uses a Router Table for as much as possible. You will need two router bits for this:

how to make lincoln logs

– 3/4″ Straight bit
– 3/8″ Round-Over bit
(with bearing)

The materials that you will need are very simple,
and they can be acquired for around $13 (enough for one batch):

– One white pine 1x6x8 footer (3/4″ x 5 1/2″ x 8′)

Box stores carry #2 in a big pile, so you can get a board like this for around $7. That is what I used for this tutorial. One batch of logs from an 8′ board will yield 224 singles, ideally. That could also be either 112 doubles or 56 quadruples. I will discuss appropriate combinations later, but this amount is probably three times larger than any set you could purchase, and it would retail for big $$$.

– One quart of Minwax Red Mahogany #225

The big one isn’t needed, but it is cost effective, and it’s nice to dip logs into. You may choose another stain type, but I recommend this, not only for its nice color, but after two weeks the logs have a very pleasant and mild odor. Be careful; another stain may give whoever plays with these a headache, so it is worth another $6 to get this brand. One quart will stain more logs than you will ever care to make, I promise.

This is what we are making:

how to make lincoln logs
how to make lincoln logs

Let’s start by rough cutting
8 blocks to 11″ long. After rough cutting, square each piece by cutting off another 1/8″.
This is important, because later we
will be cross-routing, and it is very helpful to be square.

You will notice that the logs have an additional 3/8″ sticking over each end notch. I make this end-cap slightly heavier than 3/8″ long, just for appearance. But this will complicate the measurements a bit, so should you also decide to do this, you can figure out the math for yourself.

how to make lincoln logs

*For this tutorial, we will treat all overlap measurements as 3/8″.
If you have decided to stay with the simple measurements, then you should now measure from your squared end and cut each block to 10 1/2″, making sure that both ends are square.

Now we rout. The 3/4″ straight router bit should stick (up) out of the table 3/16″, assuming that you have 3/4″ material.
The rout should begin at 3/8″ from the fence. You can rout both sides of each end, only one pass.

While routing, don’t worry about the fuzz or the splintering, but go slow through the end to limit them. After you have the first one complete, check to make sure that the measurements are in order. The routs are all on 3″ centers, so you should have 8 1/4″ in between at this point. I was precise, honest- the pic (above) is just misleading.

how to make lincoln logs

how to make lincoln logs

After you have done all 8 blocks, 4 times each, sand off the fuzz with some 100 grit, preferably with a sanding block. After sanding, make one more pass with the router on each one. This final pass will ensure consistency, and make a nice smooth seat rout. Luckily, that is pretty much all of the sanding that this project requires.

Before we continue, I would like to note that the rout depth is a slight modification that I’ve made to the logs. The logs that you would buy have a deeper rout, so they will rest on the row directly underneath them: This stacking arrangement prohibits a log from distributing its weight load on interlocking logs, so the walls will feel wobbly.

how to make lincoln logs

I have found that the shallower rout improves the overall sturdiness when building.

how to make lincoln logs

A perfect log might have about a 1/32″ gap between it and the log underneath or above it, ensuring that the perpendicular interlocking logs that touch it carry the load down the corners, instead of down the walls. I should mention that this modification does add noticeably to the height of a structure after a few layers, so it is worth considering if these are going to be mixed with store-bought logs or not.

Ok, that’s enough physics… back to routing!

Now we are going to make the two center seat routs. The fence has been moved to 3 3/8″ to where the rout begins. On the first one, I went in about an inch on each one, just to make sure they were all centered correctly.

Remember: These routs are on 3″ centers, so you should have 2 1/4″ in between.

Same as before- we make one pass on all 4, sand the fuzz, then make the final pass. Easy!

how to make lincoln logs

Now to the table saw.
Sand off any fuzz off from the nicer side to run against the fence. Set it to 11/16″. Try to be exact , but better to be slightly heavy if anything. This size allows 1/16″ of play when a log is locked into the 3/4″ seat.

Cutting is easy until the last two. A push block is nice here. Don’t be afraid to go in halfway, stop the table saw, and flip the piece around to continue. The kerf marks will be barely visible, and carpenters like their fingers.

how to make lincoln logs

If your material is 5 1/2″, you should be able to get 7 logs from each block with a thin-kerf blade. I use a 24-tooth, 7 1/4″ Freud Diablo in my 10-inch table saw. It is laser-thin, razor-sharp, and dirt-cheap
($10 at Home Depot).

Back to the router:

If everything went alright, you have 56 big logs without blood on them. Now we use a 3/8″ round-over bit with a bearing and a fence, all set in line with a straight-edge. The height adjustment is best left to common sense, trying to make the radius begin at the bottom of the seat notch. This should give you two distinct lines down the log, giving it a nice appearance and slightly discouraging the log from rolling.

how to make lincoln logs

Feed each log through with the seat notches facing up and down, as running them through sideways will have a different effect on the rout. 4 times on each of the 56 logs is 224 routs!
Get to work.

This is what you should have:

how to make lincoln logs

And now we will go back to the table saw, for the most dangerous and difficult part.
This is rather advanced table-sawing, so if you aren’t comfortable with it, you can use a band saw, or just skip this step. I personally don’t think it’s that bad, but you need to take a table saw seriously. I cut through over halfway, turn off the saw, flip the piece, and finish it. Kill the power at the last inch so the blade stops just as it finishes, so it doesn’t pull the cutoff into the blade cavity. If you go slow and think, you will be just fine. A zero-clearance insert is highly, highly recommended here:

how to make lincoln logs
how to make lincoln logs

A thin-kerf blade (like I mentioned earlier) is also very important here. These half pieces are very handy for bases and they also double as roofing/flooring. I make lots of them. For one batch, you should cut around 7 logs in half.

Finally, we come to the last part of the construction: the length cutting.

how to make lincoln logs

If you find a 3/4″ scrap to lock the logs together, it will enable you to cut 6 logs simultaneously . Press a 3/8″ brass bar against your locking edge to trace a cut line, and then make the cuts by using either a miter-saw or a table-saw sled.

Don’t try to cut 4 singles out of one of your blanks, it’s not worth it! Instead, get 2 singles and a double out of a blank. Use some head-scratching, so you get what you want.

Leave some as quadruples, because even though I don’t think they sell those, they really open up lots of building options. Also, do not underestimate how many singles or doubles you use.

The most useful ratio is really dependent upon what you build, so it is pretty hard to suggest an ideal recipe. You will probably just end up making more, like me.

how to make lincoln logs

This is the ratio of sizes
I recommend:
– 58 Singles
– 25 Doubles
– 16 Triples
– 12 Quadruples

– 6 Double-halves
– 4 Triple-halves
(leaves 4 single-halves)
– 4 Quadruple-halves

Note: This ratio will totally vary on what you decide, knots in wood, damaged pieces, etc.
It’s just a quick reference.

how to make lincoln logs

That’s it!
All you have to do now is stain. Sorry, but that’s the worst part. It takes quite awhile. Dip ’em, wipe off the excess, and drop them in a bucket… and then resist the urge to play with them for a few days.

Now find a Guinea pig! If you can’t locate one, children also enjoy these.

Thank you for reading this! And special thanks to I BUILD IT.CA for hosting this page.

Here’s a video showing how it all goes together:
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Pocket83 makes very interesting and informative videos, and you check out his YouTube channel to watch them all