Build a Log Raft
Building a raft for crossing a stream, or other small body of water, is often a diversion for campers, who have the usual supply of camp tools and materials. The woodsman is sometimes confronted with a different situation, He has only a hand ax as his tool equipment, and to construct a fairly safe raft of crude materials becomes necessary in order to pursue his course.
Logs are readily available, and he may be fortunate enough to find willow withes, various stringy kinds of bark, or even coarse seaweed. If these are not available, the practical woodsman, particularly of the northern regions, builds a raft of logs, pinned together firmly with poles and pointed wooden spikes, cut on the spot.
The method, as shown in the illustration, is simple and interesting. It may be of service in the woods even when other methods of binding the logs into a raft are possible, and as a practical test of woodcraft for the amateur or boy camper it is of interest.
The sketch shows the completed raft, bound together by wooden pins notched into poles, and the inset details show the manner in which the poles are clamped by the crossed pins.
This method of construction may be applied to a variety of rafts, for carrying small or large loads. In selecting the material for the raft several points must be considered. Dry logs are preferable to wet or green ones, and if the latter are used, a relatively larger raft will be needed to carry a certain load.
For one passenger, three logs, 9 to 13 in. in diameter, 12 to IG ft. long, and spaced to a width of 5 ft., will provide a stable raft. Poles may be laid across it to give sufficient footing. For heavier loads the logs should be about the same length and diameter, but spaced closer together, and laid to form a raft of considerable width and of greater buoyancy.
Select a shore, sloping gently into the water, if possible, and cut the logs and poles as near this place as is convenient. Cut the logs and roll them to the bank, alternating the butts, if there is any considerable difference in the diameter of the ends. Cut a supply of poles of about 3-in. diameter, and of the length necessary to reach across the proposed raft. Then cut a number of pins of hard wood, 1 ft. long, and sharpened on one end, as shown in the detailed sketch.
Roll the first log — one of the largest — into the water until it is nearly float- ing. If it is bowed or crooked, place the "humped" side toward the outer edge of the raft. Chop notches, 2 in. deep, in the top of the log about 1-1/2 ft. from the ends, and squarely across. Place a pole in the notch, with its end projecting slightly beyond the log, and cut a double notch in the upper edge of the pole, as shown in the detail sketches, so that when the pins are driven into the log, they will rest diagonally in the notches cut into the poles.
Make rifts in the log with the ax, cutting as though to split off a slab of bark and wood, rather than toward the center of the log, and drive two of the pins into place. Properly done, this will make a remarkably strong joint. Fasten a second pole at the other end of the log, and prop up both poles so as to permit the next log to be rolled into the water, under the poles.
Notch the second log before slipping it finally into place. Alternate ends only, of the inner logs, need be fastened, and if time is important, some of the logs may be left unfastened, provided they are held tightly between the logs that are pinned. Shove the raft out into the water as each log is added. If there is a strong current it is desirable to guy the raft with a pole to the bank, downstream. The last log, which should also be a large one, is then floated down and pinned at both ends.
The raft may then be floated, and is ready to be covered with light poles or brush, to provide a dry footing and a place for the dunnage. The dunnage is placed near the forward end of the raft, and the person controlling it sculls with a pole at the rear.
Click on the image above for a larger view.