The traditional Russian carpenter (plotnik) believed that cutting with an axe preserved the grain of the wood, whereas saw-work opened the grain, exposing it to the brutal northern climate. The Russian craft developed in relative isolation amid the world’s largest forest and the results were spectacular. Pyramidal roofs and onion domes speak to the Russian carpenter’s skill with his axe. Wooden architecture begins with the farmhouse or izba, that was based on the srub, a rectangle of logs jointed at each corner. The logs used were usually between eight to ten inches in diameter and would protrude from the corner no less than six inches. The house would seldom exceed 20 feet in width, but some were 50 feet across. Longer courses could be achieved by joining logs end-to-end in a simple butt-joint, or by a scarf- or finger-joint.  The izba was always of two storeys, to leave access in the long Russian winter via an outside staircase. The lower floor was generally used for storage and stables. The roof was entirely log built. Horizontal roof purlins, called slegi were overlaid with vertical fir logs, or kuritsi. These rafters were ingeniously harvested to preserve the curving root, which was used to support the oshevnevo, a gutter-beam. The ridge beam is a hollowed-out log called shalom, or ‘helmet’, that caps off the roof. In Russia, izba means ‘heated building’. It is a refuge in the cold vastness of the forest and a traditional place of hospitality, like that of a Bedouin’s tent in the desert. Russians are immensely proud of their hardy survival skills including carpentry and can display what James Billington calls a bitterness towards more sheltered and domesticated people in the proverb “to drink tea is not to hew wood”.