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Trading wrenches for hammers

April 09, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Ty Long and Jeff Stull, bored with their jobs as auto mechanics, are trading their wrenches for hammers and switching from blown head gaskets to wall panels.

Long and Stull, both 38, are partners in Long Ago Log Homes.

Long recently closed Auto Diesel Service, the auto repair shop he ran on Salem Avenue in Hagerstown for 13 years. Stull worked for area auto repair shops.

Still in its infancy, their new business is being run from Long's home at 5915 Iron Bridge Road.

Their office is an old school bus. Their workshop is outside on both sides of a gravel lane that leads to the log home that Long built for himself in 1992.

There's a small sawmill for cutting and shaping the raw logs that are hauled in. Long has fashioned some rough-hewn work tables that serve as a makeshift workshop.

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"This is just a temporary base. Someday we'll have a building," Long said.

The partners said they're trying something new in log home construction: prefabricating 8-by-8 log panels that are joined to make walls in log buildings.

It was Long's idea and he thinks he and Stull eventually will make a living at it. "With four men - two cutting logs in the sawmill and two assembling - we'll be able to make four panels a day," he said.

Long said the panels save money because they use shorter logs. Long logs cost more and are harder to find, he said.

The panels save labor and assembly time and are stronger than conventional log construction, Long said.

"In conventional construction all the weight presses down on the logs," Long said. "In my panels the weight is carried by the beam that holds the panels together. The panels also cut down on shrinkage and settling."

Long designed a steel spline to hold the ends of the panels together. Each panel weighs about 700 pounds. It takes a forklift to move one.

Any size or configuration can be designed in a house built with panels, Long said. "They build houses from precast concrete panels, why not preassembled log panels?"

It takes 14 panels to build a 2,000-square-foot home. A panel costs about $650, he said. He hasn't sold any homes yet. "We only started three months ago," he said.

Stull sees himself as more of an artist since he's begun working on log homes. He said he never felt like that when he was fixing cars.

"You get a lot more pride out of doing this," he said. "You can do a lot more with a log home. With a basic house you go to a lumber yard to buy stairs or railings. With a log home you build them and everything else."

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