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Building sauna benches: when finding and affording long clear boards is a challenge

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Those of us building our own sauna benches know that finding and affording long clear boards is often a challenge.

We can “pony up” and pay the premium, yet there are a couple alternative solutions.

The Pyzyk Plow Through

As of this writing, 2x4x8′ knotty cedar is under $10.00 each at big box stores. And for those following the tried and true sauna bench design in the Sauna Build ebook, we know that we need 6 clear boards to make an upper bench. For upper benches, clear material is critical. For low bench layovers, as Forrest Gump would recognize, because low benches do not get as hot as upper benches, a few smaller knots here and there will not brand the buttox region.

To find 6 clear 2×4 cedar boards at a big box store, one has to humble themselves enough to want to start picking through the bins. For many, the activity can be like fishing. It takes some work. Yet it is rewarding to find a “keeper.” As we plow through the bins at big box, keep in mind that success may be had in bins holding longer boards. In this case, it’s perfectly reasonable to use the knotty remnant section of a 12′ board, for example, for bracing or lower bench decking.

The Pyzyk Plow Through can take some time, but it can surely save you big money.

24″ wide sauna benches with clear material procured via the Pyzyk Plow Through Method
Sauna benches set to performance standards, with material purchased via the Pyzyk Plow Through method at big box.

The Simpson Short Cuts

Before throwing in the towel from not finding long enough clear runs, consider the Simpson Short Cut. In this case, we can build our sauna benches with a center seam. The center seam will then only require clear boards at half the length of the length of your benches. The same principles apply from the sauna bench design in the Sauna Build ebook, yet with the introduction of a center board.

Some like to build their benches with all the decking running in the short direction. And this can work. But Forrest Gump likes the other direction. He claims it feels better on his buttox region, with decking going across the buttox vs. along side it.

Shorter runs of clear 2×4 aspen that make up Liam Simpson’s Short Cut sauna benches

Many thanks, Glenn! Faced with a dilemma when my supplier could only provide 1.8m lengths of aspen, and I required precisely 2m, the solution came as a true bench lifesaver. The alternatives were either a four-week wait for 2.1m lengths or adopting the ingenious brace technique to expedite the construction. Opting for the latter, I was able to enjoy that much-anticipated first sauna session sooner than expected.

I’m thrilled to hear you’ve found the center cross interrupt not just useful, but a “double bonus hot tip” for sauna benches. The idea of branding this method (and I agree, not on the buttox!) sounds fantastic. Your title suggestion for the SaunaTimes post has a nice ring to it, and I’m all for sharing this approach with others who might be wrestling with the same challenge.

Wishing you many blissful moments of warmth and relaxation. Happy sweating!

– Liam Simpson

More sauna bench linkage for your review:

Check out these 20 year old sauna benches (and time for a makeover).

old sauna benches

And here’s another view of a 1,000 session sauna bench makeover. Photo below shows benches built with material procured at big box via the Pyzyk Plow Through method:

Sauna benches prior to installation
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2 thoughts on “Building sauna benches: when finding and affording long clear boards is a challenge”

  1. Hi Glenn, I’m in the final furlong of my sauna build race… building the benches! OMG, clear cedar is so expensive – thanks for the above tips. Oh and BIG thanks so much for your eBook, I would be lost without it!
    Quick question for you… in your experience, what is been the best wood treatment oil for the inside of the sauna? We were lucky to have found an old sauna door, that I have sanded and now need to treat. What has been your experience with “Paraffin (wood treatment) Oil”, not the lamp oil type! I am reading online that it is the best choice for internal woods such as the benches. Thanks a mill.

  2. Don’t treat the inside of your hot room with anything, Wayne. Those suggesting treating the wood are those selling products to treat the wood.

    My cabin sauna, 1996, all natural. The material is in really great shape. Yours will be too.

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