The Tools Dick Proenneke Used to Build his Cabin

The Tools Dick Proenneke used to build his cabin

In 1968, Dick Proenneke (1916-2003) set out to build his cabin in the Alaskan wilderness with only hand powered tools. During July 1967, he harvested spruce logs for his cabin. He returned to Twin Lakes on May the next year to build a small cabin and spend more than 30 years living there.

Because he made his cabin, in a remote area, by himself, and only using hand tools I am curious to know what methods and tools he used.

Here is a fragment of Alone in the Wilderness, the film about his time out there:

He also filmed Alaska, Silence and Solitude, and The Frozen North in addition to Alone in the Wilderness, which shows the process of building his cabin.

These are the tools that Dick brought to build his cabin and test himself:

The Tools of Dick Proenneke labeled

A) Folding Pocket Knife

B) Woodworking Dividers (2)

C) Plump Bob

D) String Level

E) Mallet (made of spruce in the field)

F) Chalk and Chalk Line, for marking logs for boards

Dick Proenneke Tools Adze and file

G) Adze, for flattening (hewing) logs

Files, including saw files for sharpening his tools




Dick Proenneke Tools small auger H) Augers, for building furniture, the saw horse, and door latch (1 ½ inch wide auger and other large auger)





Dick Proenneke Tools 1 1/2" auger






Dick Proenneke Tools bow saw Bow Saw





Dick Proenneke Tools carpenter pencil and combination ruler I) Carpenter’s Pencil

Combination square (one-foot) 




Dick Proenneke Tools carpenter's hatchet Carpenter’s Hatchet





Dick Proenneke Tools Double Bladed Axe J) Double Bladed Axe, for everything





Dick Proenneke Tools draw knife K) Drawknife, for debarking, flattening and shaping logs and poles





Dick Proenneke Tools flat socket chisel L) Flat Socket Chisels he made the handles out of spruce for his various chisels





Dick Proenneke tools gauge chisel M) Gouge Chisel





Dick Proenneke tools hammer and wide bladed chisel

Hammer, framing claw hammer, for hammering nails and chisels

Thin Bladed Wide Chisel




Dick Proenneke Tools short hand saw Short Crosscut saw





Dick Proenneke Tools cross cut tree saw Large Crosscut saw (36 to 40 inch one man tree saw)

Handsaw (ripsaw) to saw logs into planks  (26” Disston D 8?)




Dick Proenneke tools panel saw short Short Panel Saw, approximately 12 inches long, and with an aluminum handle

Keyhole saw, to saw the elaborate latch and lock for his Dutch door; also likely used to saw the crescent on the outhouse door and wooden spoons.




Dick Proenneke tools folding ruler and pencil Folding ruler, used as a wood gauge

Level (24 inch?)


Tape Measure


Dick Proenneke Tools Oil stone Oil Stone (honing stone), and perhaps a Lansky puck, used on his axe, hatchet and draw knife





Dick Proenneke Tools small block plane Small Block Plane





Dick Proenneke Tools Bench Plane

Smoothing Bench Plane (number 4 Stanley?)





Dick Proenneke Tools splitting maul Splitting Maul





Dick Proenneke tools file, vise grip pliers, saw Vise Grip Pliers

Wide-bladed small cold chisel, used to tack moss between the cabin logs for insulation



Other tools seen in Dick Proenneke’s film

Crowbar, for un-boarding boarded up windows after winter.

Paint brush, to apply glue

Round Point Shovel, for gardening and cutting moss for his roof.

Snow Shovel

Bricklaying Trowel, for cementing the fireplace.

Hoe, for mixing mortar for his fireplace

Tin Snips, for cutting airplane fuel cans

Brace, for drilling (didn’t appear in the film, but he probably had one), with various bits.

Dick Proenneke tools

photo by Otts World

If you were wondering what tools you need to build a cabin in the woods like Dick Proenneke, now you have a good idea.


Tools of Dick Proenneke References

Alone in the

The Tools Dick Proenneke Used to Build his Cabin
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