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Patience leads to Perfection

By Staff | Mar 7, 2010

Sherman Humburg has handcrafted his rural Blue Earth home from top to bottom

Some people collect hats or other objects, but Sherman Humburg collects wood and does amazing things with it.

The 84-year old says he has always had an interest in logging and wood. This is very evident when one sees his sawmill and workshop. His fascination with, and knowledge of, wood is incredible.

What began as a necessity – needing wood cut to size for various farm projects – resulted in Humburg setting up his own sawmill on his building site northeast of Blue Earth.

“I used to go to Martin Skogan’s sawmill two miles east of Frost to have things cut,” says Humburg. “I was building a corn crib and began my own sawing then. That was about 47 years ago and I have been doing it ever since. I guess that’s how I got started.”

Since then, he has not been able to leave wood alone.

A view from the loft of the dining room and fireplace. The new wood floor can be clearly seen.

While on a deer-hunting trip many years ago to Northern Minnesota, Humburg says he saw some log buildings owned by the Forest Service. It was enough to set the woodworker’s mind to work.

“I thought it would be neat to have a log building for a hunting shack up there,” he says with a grin. “But I thought I should practice first. It got out of hand and I wound-up building a house.”

After doing some inquiring on one of his trips, he learned there were experimental forests in Northern Minnesota, which are thinned out about every 10 years. Located on Hwy 46 between Deer River and Northome, the area is referred to as the ‘Avenue of the Pines.’

“I told them I wanted as much log as possible,” recalls Humburg after he had reached a deal with them on one of his trips. “I ended up with 102 Norway or red pine logs which ranged from 58-75 feet in length. They hauled them to my Blue Earth farm on four log trucks.”

For the next two years, the boards were racked in an airplane hangar. He wanted them to be thoroughly dry before he began building his log home in 1979.

“Building the log house was a winter project since I was farming then,” says Humburg. “I remember we had a very mild winter that year, so I had the logs up by Feb. 11.”

He used old highline poles and an old telephone truck for his booms and winches to set the logs in place.

“With this project it was like crossing a stream,” says Humburg. “When you get to about the middle you wonder what you’re doing, but it’s just as close to continue as to go back, so you keep going.”

Humburg enhanced his log home further by using northern white cedar he got near Bemidji for the ceilings. He sawed them and placed the boards in a herringbone pattern. It was a style he had seen in a log home also while on one of his Northern Minnesota trips.

He selected this type of wood since it has a high insulation rate or R-factor. It is a lighter wood, which also has more air spaces in it.

Humburg not only built his home from logs, he also made a dining room table complete with several leaves and chairs. The only things he wasn’t involved in during his log home’s construction were the plumbing, electricity and cabinets. These he had professionals make or install.

In addition to the open staircase with rope railings, Humburg also recycled local rocks for his stone fireplace, which is the focal point on the main floor. He even made a hydraulic wood box for his fireplace. The wood is transported from outside to his basement where it then is hydraulically lifted to the box housed next to the fireplace for easy access.

After living comfortably in their home for years, the Humburgs began discussing remodeling projects needing to be done. Naturally, in a log home, this would somehow involve wood. The area they would concentrate on would be the main floor where they would remove the carpet and replace it with a hardwood floor.

“Two years ago last fall, I ran across some fallen red oak trees east of Frost,” says Humburg. “I looked at them, then contacted the owner of the wood lot to see if he would be interested in selling them to me. I chipped into them. They were sound and looked okay.”

Humburg ended up buying the wood “because it was just lying and decaying there.” Like any collector, he would worry about what to do with it later. He just wanted it.

Once he got it home and cut into it more deeply, he was dismayed to find the red oak was wormy. Little beetles had burrowed holes into the wood stressing or distressing it.

He soon found out there is a demand for wormy red oak. In fact, he says he discovered people hire other people to drill holes into the wood so it looks like the wood he had on hand. He also learned being ‘wormy’ doesn’t impune the physical integrity of wood.

“At first I was disappointed with the wood,” admits Humburg. “But after hearing how people liked this type of wood and realizing these little guys (beetles) worked for me for just room and board, I was okay with it. Besides, anything that can bore 24 inches into an oak log without getting claustrophobic deserves respect.”

After making peace with the little critters, Humburg had his grandson, Michael, operate the sawmill to cut the boards. Humburg then stickered