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  • Address: 605 N 3rd St | McCall, ID 83638
  • Mailing Address: PO Box 350 | McCall, ID 83638
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By April Thomas Whitney


Nature and art have always enjoyed a close relationship. Nature can be the subject of a work of art, or what inspires the artist to create in the first place.

Nowhere is this more evident than in a remote perch above the East Fork South Fork Salmon River. Here, nature provided the motivation, inspiration, and even the raw materials for a work of art that few people will ever lay eyes on…a Glass Forest.

But this stunning installation had a humble beginning built on the curiosity of 63-year-old master craftsman Brian Schafer.

“Even at an early age I took notice of architecture,” says Schafer. “When I saw something in the shape or style of a building that obviously took extra effort, it sparked my curiosity.”

Brian Schafer

Starting in the 1980’s with a log exporting business based in Lewiston, Idaho, Schafer found the spark that would ignite his imagination. His insatiable curiosity about log and timber frame construction led him to explore every aspect of the design and building business. He studied under carpenters, builders, and architects in the Mountain West, and traveled frequently overseas to study under a master craftsman in Japan.

“I spent a lot of time in Japan and was exposed to the finest carpentry I’ve ever seen. Incredibly functional and simple at the same time,” says Schafer, “there’s a timelessness in that simplicity.”

Perhaps the single most impactful lesson Schafer learned from his time abroad was how to honor the landscape and use the natural features to work with a structure, not against it.

“The most important aspect of Japanese architecture is blurring the line between interior and exterior space,” says Schafer.

In time, that focus on nature, with Schafer’s artful designs, innovative construction processes, and meticulous execution built his flagship company, Edgewood Log Homes, into one of the most in-demand design/build luxury log home companies in the world.

Schafer’s dual focus on form and function makes him the modern version of a renaissance man.

“I can be really artistic and have a lot of fun with that, but I find just as much fulfillment from figuring something out from an engineering perspective as I do from being artistic,” says Schafer. “And the blending of the two is a wonderful space to live in.”

Which is how his signature Glass Forest was realized. From a practical perspective, Schafer starts with the raw materials.  “If I’m going to design a home that is unique, then I need to go to the forest and I look for the resource first. If I don’t have the right logs to build the home with, I’m not ready to start building.” Schafer hand-picks the trees that will be milled and hand-scraped into the logs used in his homes.

Then the artistic side kicks in. It was in 1998 that Schafer yearned for a way to build larger, more seamless window features into his log structures. He envisioned a trim-less floor to ceiling window installation that would honor the landscape and help bring the outdoors in. With this in mind, he meticulously designed what is now his signature feature, the Glass Forest® building process. A true work of art that perfectly blends aesthetics and engineering.

Motivated and inspired by the success of the Glass Forest, Schafer continued to explore specialty building technologies that could bring something new to the industry. In 2005, he started Big Cabin Log & Timber, a supplier-based company for his growing repertoire of patented building technologies including Glass Forest, Thermal Blanket, SchaferWall, and Schaferwood (learn more at


The Next Generation

Today Schaefer is turning his attention toward the future. And that future is at a historic sawmill site just south of Lake Fork. This location will act as an experimental, creative space for himself, and as a venue to help generate the craftspeople of the future.

This year, Schafer and his long-time colleagues have undertaken writing a curriculum for a two-year apprenticeship program that he plans to launch in McCall in Fall 2025. Sixty percent of the curriculum will focus on log and timber crafting, with 40 percent of the time spent understanding other foundational aspects of construction. Apprentices will finish the program as journeyman log crafters and timber framers, but Schafer hopes his hands-on, top-to-bottom approach will also give participants a broad view of everything that’s possible in the construction industry.

17-year-old Van Schafer-Vinson works with builder Bryce McTavish on a construction site in Grand Lake, Colorado


“If we can get more enthusiasm and energy from this next generation of young people into the trades,” says Schafer, “then everybody will be better off for it.”

The vision for this type of program is not a new one for Schafer’s. Over the last decade, Edgewood has hosted a handful of three-week log building workshops and welcomed motivated young people to start learning aspects of log crafting at Edgewood’s Coeur D’Alene log yard. And while Schafer didn’t create these programs with the hope his own son, Van, would follow in his footsteps, it has been a satisfying side effect.

The apprenticeship program and passing along his passion for construction is the next step in what Schafer hopes is the next phase of his professional life…a way to make space for a masterpiece. His vision is for Big Cabin to share his innovations with the rest of the construction world, while Edgewood shifts focus to designing and building one signature project at a time. That will allow him to liberate himself from his grueling travel schedule to spend more time in the woods and immersed in the creative process.

“That’s really the next stage of my life, being able to have the free time to create….and give back,” says Schafer. “To me, giving back is a form of creating,” he says. “Creating an environment where quality, intelligent, driven, unselfish, unentitled people are going to learn the value of working with your hands and creating and building something that you can stand back at the end of the day and appreciate.” A true masterpiece.