The History of Swedish X-joint Log Houses

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[Introducation][Terminology][History][Roofing][The farmstead][Different corner stylesr[Siding][Paintwork][America][Other ways of constructing houses][Preservation of historic buildings][Modern log houses][Photo Gallery]

IntroductionDelso farmstead, X-joint log house, Skansen, Stockholm

What kinds of houses were used in Sweden in former days?
The dominating house type was the X-joint log house (knuttimmerhus) – houses built with horizontally laid logs, interlocked in the corners.
Sweden has large woodlands so the conditions were right for constructing log houses. There are still a very large number of log houses around in Sweden, especially in the countryside

Terminology

The Swedish term “knuttimmerhus” is normally translated to X-joint log house or cross-joint log house. The technique is called ”knuttimring” and is translated into X-jointing or cross jointing. Other terms are notched corners; log built corners or corner joints.
In our neighboring country Norway X-joint log houses are called “laftehus”.

History

X-joint log houses have been around for a very long time in Sweden. The X-joint building technique began most likely during the 11th to 12th century. The oldest documented evidence of x-joint log houses in Sweden is from the 13th century.
The tradition of building X-joint log houses probably started in the cities and then spread to the countryside. Some historians claim that the Vikings (800 – 1050) were building X-joint log houses but there is no verified evidence of that.
The X-joint technique spread from Eastern Europe to Scandinavia and the timeframe for this is probably the 11th century.
 

Log houses are built from logs laid horizontally, row-by-row, and interlocked on the ends with notches, so- called X-joints. This results in very stable and tight houses.

The X-joint technique replaced the earlier type of houses built with framed horizontal boards or planks (skiftesverk). X-joint log houses existed in parallel with houses built with the earlier techniques during the 12th century though. However, in the 13th century the X-joint building technique totally dominated among the wooden houses. 

X-jointing became the traditional way of building houses in most parts of Sweden, both in cities as well in the countryside until the middle of the 1800’s.

Dating Method:
The oldest dated X-joint log houses in Sweden are from the 13th century. The oldest X-joint log building still standing today is
Granhult church , Småland province, which is from the 1220’s. The oldest secular building is a church "häbre" (a log storehouse raised from the ground) in Älvdalen parish, Dalarna province, which dates back to about 1285.
The age of old log buildings is determined with a technique called dendrochronology, which is an analysis of trees
annual-ring growth patterns.
With this method you can determine the year and even the time of the year when the tree was felled provided you have access of a so-called
basic curve (grundkurva) for the region where the tree has grown. By taking samples from different sites and different strata within a particular region, researchers can build a comprehensive historical sequence that becomes a part of the scientific record. According to Göran Rossander (see reference literature list below) Sweden is leading the world in dendrochronology.

Building Technique

Sealing:Cross-section of logs
By cutting out a groove (“långdrag”) underneath each log,
one could get a tight fit between adjacent logs.  

The upper side of the log below was first evened off a bit.
With a special tool called “dragjärn”, two parallel cuts were then notched on two adjacent logs. This was done on both the inside as well as the outside of the logs.
A “dragjärn” or scribe in English, was a talon shaped tool with two prongs.
The scribe followed the upper part of the log below alongside the gap and the notch made on the upper log thereby followed the contour of the log below. In other words, the contour of the log below was copied to the log on top of it in a very precise way.
The wood between the notches on the underside of the upper log was then carved out to make it fit smoothly on top of the log below and making the gap between the logs very small (image 3).
In the center of the carved part of the upper log, a lengthwise groove was cut out. The groove was v-shaped and about 3 to 4 cm wide (about
1 ¼ - 1 ¾  inches) and 1.5 to 2 cm deep (about 5/8 - 7/8 inches) (see image 4).
With the groove, the weight of the upper log came to rest on its outer edges against the log below making
a tight fit (image 5). 

Normally the gap between the logs (the groove) was filled with moss or tarred flax (lindrev) to seal the area between the logs.
In order to keep the logs in place they also used dowels (dymlingar), i.e. strong wooden tenons or pegs.

 

 

Wood - Pine and Spruce:
The timber normally used for logs was straight pine, but spruce was also used. Pine is an excellent material for this purpose since it normally grows very straight and is relatively resistant against rot.
Spruce rots more readily and has a tendency to twist. Pine trees
The specie of pine trees (“tall” in Swedish - short vowel) we have in Sweden is the Scots pine
(Pinus sylvestris) and the spruce (“gran” in Swedish - long vowel) we have is the Norway spruce (Picea abies).
About half of Sweden is forest land so we had plenty of raw material for log houses. In certain areas like the provinces Värmland, Dalarna, Hälsingland, Medelpad and Ångermanland, forests occupy as much as 80 % of the area. Except in the south of Sweden, pine and spruce are the total dominating species of trees in the forests of which spruce is the most common spiece. 
The image to the right shows pine trees. Photo Hans Högman, August 2008.

The forest and timber industry has always been important to Sweden and Medelpad province (Y) had a situation similar to the Alaskan Klondike during the second half of the 1800’s. There were numerous sawmills in the Sundsvall region and people came from all over Sweden to work in the growing timber industry there. Prior to the 1850’s woodland had no significant value. Most farmers in the forest regions had large forests on their land and the primary use for the woodland was building material and firewood.
Now, when the timber industry grew fast and was in great need of timber, the sawmill tycoons went round to the farmers and tricked them to sell their “worthless” forests for nothing. Also, when the technique of making paper pulp and paper out of wood was a fact, the value of the forest rose even bigger. Sawmills first of all used pinewood while the paper mills used spruce wood.
 

The pines in Sweden can reach a height of 30 meters (98 feet) and an age of 550 years. Our spruce can reach a height of 45 meters (147 feet) and an age of 400 years.
Pine was also used for making tar in the pre-industrial age.

 

Building Technique:
When building log houses, logs of equal thickness are desired and the top end has to be thick enough to be able to cut out the X-joints, the notches. It was important to use full length logs for the bottom row, above windows and doors and for the top row of the walls since they were the logs that held the house together.
The logs for the bottom row (the sill) were normally a bit thicker than the other logs. In the openings like doors and windows the crosscut end of the logs were strengthened with a stabilizing piece of board, a so-called “gåt”, which was inserted in a cut in the crosscut end of the logs. 

By constructing buildings with horizontally laid logs one could control the movements of the wood and if the x-joint log house was properly built, the only consequence of the log shrinking was that the wall sank a bit.
In constructions with vertical logs, the shrinking often resulted in chinks between the logs in the walls. 

In order to get the right balance in the X-joint buildings, the logs were laid top end against butt end, for example in the first row the top end was to the left and in the second row to the right. 

In X-joint log houses you use corner joints both in corners as well as at partition walls. This made the log houses very stable. An effect of that was that the walls could carry a heavy and a well insulated roof.
If you had to lengthen a log this was done at a partition wall with an X-joint. 

The cross joints were designed differently throughout the centuries. Beside that there were also regional differences. It has been estimated that there has been about 250 to 300 different variants of cross joints in Sweden.
Normally the cross joint on the upper side of a log had a diagonally or vertical cut notch with a carved threshold called “bettna”. The log on the upper row had a similar groove where the “bettna” fitted in. 

Since X-joint heads have varied thought-out times, an approximate dating of X-joint buildings can be made by looking at the heads.
 

The image below shows a construction of a multistory X-joint log house in the1670's.

Building site, X-joint log house, 1670’s, Sweden

The Roofing:
Thatched roofs
have been common roofing on utility buildings in the grain producing flat lands of central and southern Sweden since the Middle Ages. In the southern-most provinces they even used thatched roofs on the dwelling houses. In central and southern Sweden (beside Skåne) turf roofing dominated on the dwelling houses while thatched roofs were used for utility buildings, cowsheds etc. The turf was placed on top of a layer of birch-bark.

In Norrland region, northern half of Sweden, they first of all used wooden roofing. The top plate was a rough plank or heavy pole and then poles or planks were laid vertically, side by side, up from the plate to the top ridge pole and the entire surface was covered with a sealing layer of birch bark. Other poles, split in half,  were then laid on top to hold down the bark.

The cheaper and lighter wooden shingled roofs (shake) later replaced wooden roofs.
Shingled roofs became common when sawmills began producing shingle for sale.
Tile roofing became common during the 19th century. Prior to the 1800’s tile roofing was only used on exclusive buildings like manors etc but during the second half of the 19th century tiling also became common on cottages and smaller houses.
In Gotland stones chips were a common roofing material.

 

Windows:
The old Swedish word for window, as well as the ancient common Nordic language Norse, was “vindöga” (window eye) which originally meant a smaller opening, loophole/aperture, with a folding or sliding wooden shutter without any glass. Larger apertures were usually covered with a translucent cloth of linen or an ox bladder.
Glazed windows were uncommon in town homes during the Middle Age and in the countryside until the 18th century.
In the beginning of the 18th century the glass making improved and it became possible to make larger panes of glass and the use of glazed windows increased.
During the 1700’s Swedish glass panes had a greenish color tone and in the 1800’s a more light green tone. However, during the 1850’s the color tone of window glass became the clear tone of today.

The window sash was introduced during the last part of the 1800’s.

The Farmstead:The entrence of the Delsbo farmstead, Hälsningland (X)
Unlike the log cabins of the US frontier, where the log cabins most often were smaller temporary dwellings with only one room, the Swedish log houses were purpose built permanent dwellings. Swedish log houses were also much larger than the US log cabins and had several rooms. During the 18th century and especially during the 19th century the Swedish farmstead log house dwellings most often were two-story buildings with a richly decorated exterior. US log cabins had the fireplace and chimney at the gable while the Swedish log houses had fireplace and chimney inside the house, normally placed in the kitchen. Adjacent rooms shared the same chimney and larger log houses could have two chimneys.
The image to the right shows the entrence of the dwelling house at Delsbo farmstead, Hälsningland (X).

Photo, Hans Högman, August 2008, Skansen.


 

In the northern half of Sweden, i.e. Dalarna and the Norrland region, the farmsteads were build around a farmyard. The farmstead buildings were surrounded by an open farmyard with a gateway (portlider) out of the farmyard. Every building, including the dwelling house was a log house.
All buildings like the dwelling house, cowshed, stable, sheds etc were placed close together.

Gärdsgård, round pole fence, SwedenThe closed farmyard shut out both farmstead animals as well as wild animals and gave some privacy. Special fences called “gärdgård” were used to keep farm animals away from arable land and meadows, not to enclose them. The farm animals moved around freely grazing and could go any place that wasn’t fenced.
A “gärdsgård” is a wooden round pole fence typical for Sweden. It is usually made of non-decorticated and non-split young spruces or of tops of spruce trees. The fence consists of upright poles in pairs held together with linings of osier. Between the upright poles there are diagonally laid round poles, with the top end facing the ground. The length of the diagonal poles was about 4 meters (13 feet). The fence is usually 1.5 to 2 meters tall (5 to 6.5 feet). 
The image to the right shows a typical Swedish gärdsgård. Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

Since the buildings, including the roof, was made of combustible material there was always risk of fire. In the old days farms were self-subsistent households and every building had its special use. Work that needed fire was done in special log cabins located a bit away from the actual farmyard buildings in order to diminish the risk of fire. Examples of those cabins were the smithy, bakery house, laundry house and smokehouse (used to smoke food or dry flax, grain and hops). Also storage cabins (härbre) and barns were outside the actual farmyard. Bild på gårdsplan från Skansen. 

In the eastern parts of central Sweden the farmyards had a more rectangular shape than in northern Sweden and the buildings were wider apart. Here they kept the cowshed a bit further away from the dwelling house. Nevertheless the buildings formed a farmyard with a gateway.
In these parts there were many manors and at the manors the buildings for animals (like the cowshed) were located far away from the main building and that has probably influenced the farmsteads in these parts to do the same.
In the western parts of central Sweden the buildings of the farmsteads were more spread out than the rest of Sweden.
A variant of the farmsteads in east central Sweden was the so-called gothic farmstead (götiska gården) where the dwelling house was separated from the cowshed with a fence or was located at the other side of the road. 

The farmsteads in the south most part of Sweden, first of all Skåne and Halland, are known for its closed square-shaped farmyard, however with a more complete enclosure than in Norrland. The houses down here weren’t built like the traditional X-joint log houses in the rest of Sweden but with a technique called “korsvirkeshus” in Swedish (half-timbered houses with clay daubed walls). 

During the second half of the 1800’s the way buildings were located at farmsteads changed quite radically. The enclosed farmyards were broken up in Norrland as well as in Skåne. In northern Sweden they abandoned the system with the multi-purpose log cabins like the smithy, smokehouse etc due to a reduced use of the self-subsistent house holding. With supplies that had required earlier farm production now available in stores, the need for special cabins more or less ceased to exist.

Drawings of Different Types of Farmyard Formations:
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Drawing of Älvros farmstead, a north Swedish farmstead from the beginning of the1800's in Härjedalen (Z).

Drawing of Mora farmstead, a farmstead from the end of the1700's in northwestern Dalarna (W).

Drawing of a Skåne farmstead, a south Swedish farmstead from Hög socken, Skåne.

Drawing of Oktorp farmstead, a south Swedish farmstead from the beginning of the 1870's in i Halland.

Photo Hans Högman, August 2008, Skansen.Hässja, central Sweden

Hässja - Hay Drying Racks:
Special hay-drying racks, called “hässja”, were used to dry cut grass etc into hay. They
were raised in the meadows. Also the work of piling hay on the drying racks was called to “hässja”. There were special drying racks for barley, which were used to dry the barley prior to threshing. These racks were larger than the ones used for hay and called “kornhässja”.
The hay-drying racks were constructed in different ways in different parts of Sweden. A common type was the so-called “stånghässja” with horizontal laid poles. Very tall racks were used in Norrland region called “storhässja” (grand hässja).

The image to the right shows a hässja from central Sweden. Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

 

Three Common Swedish Corner Styles – Notches

RännknutRännknut

The “rännknut” ("ränn" X-joint) is the simplest of the X-joints and in Sweden the earliest one known. This X-joint was used with round logs.
The construction of this X-joint varies but what they all have in common is that the beveling of the upper log is placed in the notch (“saddle”) of the log below which had slanting walls. “Rännknuten” was very common in the northern parts of Sweden. However, after the 18th century it was only used on utility buildings or simpler log buildings.
In the oldest variants of “rännknuten”, the X-joint only had a half round hollowness at the upper side of the log (överhaksknut). This X-joint was later developed into the “rännknut”. 

The "rännknut" was probably the type of X-joint the Swedish settlers brought to America in the 17th century (the New Sweden Colony), which was later named Swedish Saddle Notch in the US?

DubbelhaksknutDubbelhaksknut

The X-joint was developed further at the end of the Middle Age and got a carved threshold (“bettna”) in the middle of the notch, a so-called “dubbelhaksknut” (double notch X-joint) or at the side of the notch – a “enkelhaksknut” (single notch X-joint). This resulted in a tighter and more stable construction.
This X-joint, the “dubbelhaksknut”, became the most common X-joint during the 18th century.
Hewing of the exterior side of the logs began in the 17th century. Also the X-joint heads were vertically hewed.
The “dubbelhaksknut” was in other words used both with round logs as well with hewed logs.
When the logs were hewed they were turned upside down to avoid waterlogged gashes.

LaxknutLaxknut - Dovetail Notch

At the end of the 19th century the older X-joints with protuberant X-joint heads were replaced with X-joints with smooth corner joints. The most common one of those X-joints was the “laxknut” – the dovetail notch.

 

Sketch of a Cross Joint:

Sketch of a cross joint (knut). Sketch of a cross joint (knut).

Hak = notch
Överhak = the notch on the upper side
Underhak = the notch on the underside
Tröskel = threshold (in this context also known as "bettna" in Swedish)
Halsning = neck
Långdrag = groove (moss groove)
Drevspår = pinion groove

 

Photographs of Cross Joints:

Dubbelhaksknut, Skansen Rännknut 1300's.
Photo Hans Högman, August 2008.
Knut, 1700-tal Dubbelhaksknut (double notch X-joint), 1700's.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.
Knut, 1700-tal Dubbelhaksknut (double notch X-joint), 1700's.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.
Vertical x-joints from Blekinge. 1700's. Sawn timber.
Photo Hans Högman, August 2008.
Laxknut Laxknut - Dovetailed x-joints.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.
Lindrev Interior corner of a X-joint log house. In the gaps between the logs you can see sealing material, lindrev.

Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

Innerhörn av ett knuttimrat hus Interior corner of a X-joint log house.

Photo Hans Högman, August 2008.

 

Wooden Siding of Log Houses

At the end of the X-joint log house era sawn timber (milled logs) were used rather than crafted timber.
At this time it also became the fashion to fasten wooden boards to the exterior walls of dwelling log houses (not
utility buildings). Using exterior boards made it easier to have corners without protuberant joint heads, so the dovetailed corner joint was now used on new houses instead of the older types of corner joints.
Siding of the exterior walls with wooden boards of the dwelling houses began in the 1890’s - board and batten.
The wooden boards were applied vertically. This was practical since the logs were laid horizontally. The boards were attached directly to the logs. The gaps between the broader boards were covered with narrow boards (see image below).
Siding with vertical boards became a traditional method of applying exterior sheathing as a further means of weather protection in Sweden.  

However, the the X-joint heads had often been covered with boards even before the 1890’s though. The reason for this was to protect the joint heads from rotting.
In the beginning of the 20th century it became common to build houses with a frame of timber, so-called timber-frame houses.

Inklädd knut

X-joint heads covered with wooden boards. The walls are not covered with boards on this building. 
Kaplansgården, Enköping.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

Knuttimmerhus med panel

X-joint log house with wooden boards. The boards are fastened vertically in the typical Swedish fashion. The gaps between the broader boards were covered with narrow boards.
Kaplansgården, Enköping.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

Knuttimmerhus med panel

X-joint log house with wooden boards on a part of the wall. Here we can see that the boards are attached directly to the logs.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

 

 

Paintwork/Coloring

Painting of farmstead buildings didn’t begin until the 19th century.
Before then it was uncommon to have painted buildings in the countryside. The paint that first of all was used was a red paint called Falu rödfärg.
Falu rödfärg (Falu red paint) can be traced back to the 16th century. In the 17th century painted houses were an sign of wealth and high social status. The red brick buildings on the European continent served as a model.  

Red house with white cornersWealthy farmers often painted their dwelling house with the more expensive yellow paint that was common on larger estates and manors. However, the farm buildings were painted with Falu rödfärg.
Falu rödfärg was cheap and the paint gave the buildings a better protection against bad weather than the unpainted buildings, which conduced to make the red paint popular. Falu rödfärg was a type of paint similar to whitewash.  

Today Swedes see the red painted buildings with white corners in the countryside as something very typical Swedish, even as national symbols,  but the tradition with red painted buildings isn’t older than the 19th century.
See image to the right - a red cottage with white corners.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

Falu red is still widely used in the Swedish countryside. 
The color pigment in Falu rödfärg is a by-product from Falu Copper Mine, Falun, Dalarna province (W).
Falu Copper Mine is very old. It might be from the Viking age but the earliest found document about the mine is from the 13th century.

 

Omålat knuttimmerhus

Unpainted X-joint log house. The dwelling house (1700's) at the Kvek farmstead, Enköping.
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

 

.Målat knuttimmerhus

Kaplansgården (1700's), Enköping, a parish minister's parsonage - painted with Falu red paint (Falu rödfärg).
Photo Hans Högman, July 2008.

 

The New Sweden Farmstead MuseumThe X-joint log houses were introduced in America by Swedish settlers

The traditional Swedish log house became a model for many settlers’ dwellings in America.
The X-joint log house building technique was brought to America by Swedish settlers in the middle of the 17th century.

The first X-joint log houses in America were built in New Sweden (possessed by Sweden between 1638 to 1655), t
he Swedish colony along both banks of the Delaware River into modern Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The craft
was quickly adopted by other colonists and settlers.
In the centuries that followed, the log cabin spread out from the Delaware Valley when German, English, Scots-Irish, Scandinavian, and other Pennsylvania colonists moved to the west.
The Swedish the log houses became a model for the frontier style log cabin.
Very few examples of New Sweden's homes remain today.
The photo to the right are from the
New Sweden Farmstead Museum, USA. Photo: Ken Peterson, USA.

 

Other ways of Constructing Houses

The building material used for houses and buildings was greatly engraved by the natural material that was available in the regions. Log cross jointing was the natural way of building houses in the woodlands, .i.e. areas with lots of pine and spruce trees.
In regions with mostly deciduous forests, houses built with framed horizontal boards or planks (skiftesverk) were the most common type of house. This was a building technique that was adapted to the short and crooked oak wood. These buildings had vertically mounted staves with horizontally fastened planks or boards.
A technique called “korsvirke” (half-timbered houses) was used in areas with very little woodland. This was a technique that needed very little wood. Timber were only used as a framework with walls made of daubed clay.

Prior to the 1850’s it was very unusual to find stone houses on farmsteads and in small towns.

SkiftesverkSkiftesverkshus från Halland

Houses built with framed horizontal boards or planks (skiftesverk) were common in southern and western Götaland region and on the islands Gotland and Öland’s farmstead buildings, especially on utility buildings and simpler buildings. The walls consisted of thick posts mounted vertically on a sill with a top plate holding them together. The vertical posts had notches on opposing sides and in the space between the posts, horizontal boards or planks were fitted into the notches.
Dwelling houses in this style were normally built with oak but also with pine. Smaller and warped pieces of wood could also be used to fill the space between the vertical logs.

The image to the right is a "skiftesverk" building at the Oktorp farmstead, Halland, now at Skansen. 1800's.
Photo: Hans Högman, August 2008.

 

Wall, skiftesverk building Diagram showing how the walls were constructed in a skiftesverk building.

 

Korsvirke - Half Timbered HousesKorsvirkeshus

A ”korsvirkeshus” was a half timbered house with a frame of logs and walls filled with bricks or daubed clay (lerklining). The walls were strengthened with diagonals struts at exposed spots like corners and doors. The space between the logs had a vertical skeleton or framework, similar to a wood lath wall prior to plastering. This skeleton was held together by wounded straw ropes to keep the clay in place, when clay (cob) was used as a filling.
A frame with its filling was called “bindning” and this type of constructions was sometimes also called “bindningsverk”.

The vertical logs in the framework were placed on a sill.
The clay used was blue clay mixed with sand, straw and chaff. Even cow-dung could be mixed in. Clay walls were a bit vulnerable and had to be renewed now and then. Half-timbered houses with clay walls was primarily used in the countryside of Skåne province but also in western Blekinge and southern Halland where the whitewashed clay walls gave the countryside a characteristic touch.

The image to the right is
of  Skåne farmstead, Skansen - a "korsvirke" house.
Photo: Hans Högman, August 2008.
 

Stone HousesStenhus, Gotland

Before the middle of the 19th century it was unusual to find stone buildings, both in the countryside as well as in small towns. Before then stones (granite or bricks) were mostly used as building material for churches, town halls, palaces/castles, estates/manors and military fortifications.  

However, around the 1850’s rural areas also started to use granite as building material. One reason was that the blasting techniques were developed so stones could be split into blocks.
Mostly farm buildings were constructed with stone. With the industrialization
of brick production in the beginning of the 20th century, bricks replaced granite as building material. 

Still in the 18th century, it was only in Stockholm and a few other larger cities where stone houses dominated.
The building to the right is built with limestone, which was a common building material on the island of Gotland. The roofing is saw grass.

The image to the right is
of Russgiftet from Gotland, Skansen.
Photo: Hans Högman, August 2008.

 

Preservation of Old Houses - Historic Buildings

Many old historic log buildings are being preserved at various places in Sweden. We have for example open-air museums like Skansen in Stockholm, Gamla Linköping (Old Linköping), Wadköping in Örebro, Norra Berget in Sundsvall, Murberget in Härnösand etc.
Further, there many privately or publicly owned historic buildings and farmsteads open to the public such as museums or cultural centers, for example Grassagården in Strängnäs, Callanderska gården in Mariefred, Karlsgården (Karl farmstead) in Järvsjö, Kaplansgården in Härkeberga, Enköping, Kvekgården (Kvek farmstead) near Enköping, Gudmundstjärn farmstead in Medelpad.
Then of course there are local history centers (hembygdsgård) throughout Sweden.

Skansen:
Skansen is the oldest open-air museum in the world, founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius. It is located on the island of Djurgården, a royal park near the city center of Stockholm. Over the years about 150 historical buildings (farmsteads, houses etc) have been moved from nearly every part of Sweden and re-erected at Skansen. Most of them date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The Town Quarter shows what a Swedish town looked like in the mid-19th century.
The idea behind Skansen is to show how people lived in former days in different parts of Sweden. Visitors to the houses and farmsteads are met by historical interpreters in period costume. They often demonstrate domestic occupations, such as weaving and spinning.

Skansen is the largest and most well-known open-air museum in Sweden.

Gamla Linköping:
Gamla Linköping is an open-air museum in the city of Linköping, Östergötland (E). Here we have about 80 buildings collected  from the city of Linköping and its surroundings. About 50 of them have their original interior and are open as museums.
The idyllic small-town atmosphere of Old Linköping tells of life in former days.

Wadköping:
Wadköping in Örebro City is an open-air museum and a town district in the central parts of Örebro, Västmanland (T). The open-air museum was founded in 1965 when Örebro celebrated its 700th birthday as a city. With its old log houses Wadköping portrays the older settlements and town environment of Örebro. There are houses from the 16th, 17th, 18th and the 19th centuries in Wadköping moved here from all parts of Örebro.

Norra Berget:
Norra Berget is Sundsvall’s city park, and one of Sweden’s largest open-air museums with historic farmstead buildings as a remembrance of how country people lived on farms long before the age of mechanized farming.
The city park is located at Norra Stadsberget, the northern city mountain, just north of Sundsvall’s city center, Medelpad (Y).

Murberget:
Murberget is a large open-air museum in Härnösand City, Ångermanland (Y). Here are several historic buildings and houses in a proper environment telling us about life in Mid Norrland during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. A neighbor to the open-air museum is the Västernorrland Länsmuseum (Västernorrland County Museum).

 

About finding old X-joint log houses in Sweden today:
It isn’t difficult to find old X-joint log buildings in the Swedish countryside. All older buildings in the countryside are built with the X-joint technique. However, at the end of the 19th century it became the fashion to fasten wooden siding on the exterior walls of X-joint dwelling houses, so you don’t necessarily see the actual logs today. X-joint barns, cow sheds and utility buildings etc, haven’t been covered with siding though, so they can be seen in their original appearance.
There are X-joint dwelling houses on farmsteads that haven’t been covered with wooden siding, however there aren’t that many and therefore not always easy to find. The majority of the X-joint dwelling houses without siding are dwellings that have been kept in their original appearance as historic buildings.
Almost all old X-joint log houses are painted today but there are still a few that aren’t and have their original platinum hue made by the weather throughout the centuries. 

It is even more difficult to find X-joint log houses in cities but it is still possible, especially in older smaller towns. However, log houses in cities been torn down or been victims of fire.

Modern X-joint log Houses

Until the middle of the 1900’s, construction of wooden buildings was a common skill. However, after World War II, construction of houses was drastically changed. The old skills were replaced by industrialized and technological construction methods and the old skilled craftsmanship of building log houses was more or less forgotten. 

In modern building, lumber has become a stock line. The old advanced knowledge and craft that earlier was so characteristic in log building wasn’t passed down to modern times in any greater sense.   

X-jointing faded out at the end of the 19th century. At that time more modern building techniques came into use, for example timber framework with boards. Later in the 1950's/60's prefabricated houses dominated in the building industry. Once the foundation is ready, complete prefabricated sections on walls are lifted on to the foundation with a crane. This is quick and the roof is mounted during the same day. 

In the 1950’s the X-joint building technique was revived when the construction of summer cabins/summer cottages quickly grew.  Modern log house

Today, there is a large production of X-joint log houses in Sweden. It is once again the fashion to have a log house. Today’s log houses however, are prefabricated, ready to be shipped to customers and assembled in a short time. 
The image to the right shows a modern X-joint log house.
Photo: Hans Högman, August 2008.

There are many courses today in Sweden where you can learn the craft of building log houses. These courses are open both to professionals as well as amateurs and are very popular.

 

Photo Gallery

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Dwelling house, 1700's, Kvek farmstead, Enköping (C).

Utility building, 1700's, Kvek farmstead, Enköping (C).

X-joint heads from an utility building, 1700's. Kvek farmstead, Enköping (C).

X-joint heads, 1700's. Kaplansgården, Enköping (C).

The Dwelling house at Kaplansgården, Enköping, 1700's. A parish minister's parsonage.

Building at Kaplansgården, Enköping, 1700's.

Enclosed farmyard, Kaplansgården, Enköping. 1700's.

Two-story X-joint log house with wooden sidings, Malmköping (D).

The old Town Hall, Mariefred (D).

An X-joint log house, Mariefred town (D).

Åbladsstugan - the Åblad cottage, Trosa (D). 1700's.

Utility building at Callanderskagården - the Callander house, Mariefred (D).

Härbre - storage house raised from the ground, Skansen.

Torp farmstead, Norra Berget, Sundsvall (Y).

Stable, Norra berget, Sundsvall

Bastu - smokyhouse, Norra berget, Sundsvall.

Delsbo farmstead, Skansen. 1850's.

To the left, a double shed from the 1320's. To the right, a two-story storage house, 1500's. Both at Mora farmstead, Skansen.

House at Mora farmstead, Skansen.End of the1700's.

Seglora wooden church, Skansen.1700's.

Oktorp farmstead, Skansen. Skiftesverk house. 1750's.

Skånelänga - Skåne farmstead, Skansen.

Älvros farmstead, north Swedish farmstead, Härjedalen (Z), 1800's. Skansen.

Älvros farmstead, north Swedish farmstead, 1800's. Skansen.

Loftbod, a two-story storehouse at Älvros farmstead, north Swedish farmstead, 1800's. Skansen.

Storhässja - a type of hay drying rack, Sundsvall.

Water sawmill, 1700's. Norra Berget, Sundsvall.

Interior, early 1800's. Torp farmstead, Norra Berget, Sundsvall (Y).

Decorated (hand painted) walls, early 1800's. Torp farmstead, Norra Berget, Sundsvall (Y).

Interior, early 1800's. Torp farmstead, Norra Berget, Sundsvall (Y).

Interior, Delsbo farmstead, Skansen. 1850's.

Delsbo farmstead, Skansen. 1850's. Woman in a traditional folk costume.

 

Photo, all images: Hans Högman, July and August 2008.

It is not allowed to copy images from my site without my permission!

 

Reference Literature:

  1. Nationalencyklopedin

  2. Byggnadsvård, Skansen

  3. Knuttimring i Norden, 1986, Red. Göran Rosander, Dalarnas Museum

  4. Uppländsk knuttimring, särtryck ur Uppländsk bygd, 1940, Nils Ålenius.

  5. Timringstekniker, Högskolan Dalarna

  6. C-Uppsats, "Knuttimring" av Lars Hedman, 2003, Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia, Uppsala universitet

  7. De gamla hantverken - redskap och metoder från självhushållningen tid, John Seymour, 1984. [Eng. originalets titel: The Forgotten Arts].

  8. Byggnadsvård för landbygden - Timmerhusens uppbyggnad, Länsstyrelsen, Västerbotten

  9. Timringskonsten en tusenårig tradition, Länsstyrelsen Dalarna

  10. Hantverksbladet, Timmerväggar, Skellefteå Museum

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Copyright © Hans Högman, last updated 2016-11-16