Most folks in Tower, MN will tell you that February 4, 1996 didn’t feel much different than any other cold winter day. Yet for meteorologists and weather enthusiasts around the country, this day is marked in history as the coldest day in North America, -60f. To get a handle on just how cold this is, consider:
- 60 degrees f. – golf weather, maybe a long sleeve shirt.
- 0 degrees f. – f*** ing cold! Unexposed skin subject to frostbite in minutes.
- -60 degrees f. – UNFATHOMABLY cold.
A cold climate with lots of innovation.
Tower, Minnesota is the climate where three generations of Lamppa’s have been building sauna stoves. 3rd generation Daryl has spent countless hours and many years refining the design of Lamppa’s wood burning sauna stove, called, simply, The Kuuma (Finnish word for hot). During one visit, he showed me his “graveyard” of spent parts, bringing to mind Thomas Edison’s line:
"I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work."
Authentic and efficient.
Daryl Lamppa’s dedication to design and function is matched with his authenticity. He was building “green” before it was a marketing word. He understands exactly how wood burns, and the fact that 70% of a wood’s BTU potential is in the smoke. Further, smoke escaping up the chimney is dangerous. Smoke leads to creosote build up, a leading cause of fires. Facing this issue head on, Daryl kept working to maximizing gasification, the burning of smoke. His stoves are very safe and very efficient. Authentic wood burning sauna enthusiasts are amazed at how, with a few sticks of firewood, a Kuuma stove can throw so much heat for such a long time. Further, looking up at the smoke stack, it’s often hard to tell if the stove is on or off, as once the stove is up to temperature, there is no smoke coming out the chimney.
A factory set back in time.
Lamppa Manufacturing is a production facility set back in time. It is a no frills, purely functional production center. Raw steel comes in through one door, and Daryl’s staff of a few long standing employees manually cut each piece, welding, assembling, until what appears out the same door is a work of high quality with beautiful simplicity. This is how factories functioned through the industrial age. Lamppa’s factory floor boasts nothing shiny or new, just tried and true machinery.
Quality is easy to see.
One only has to look at the welds: straight, true, uniform, to understand the attention to detail and craftsmanship. The Kuuma stove is a beast. 1/4″ steel. Sure, thinner steel could work, but Daryl isn’t into maximizing gross profit, just wood burning efficiency. The stove will outlive most people. A Kuuma will never end up in a landfill.
Humble and unmoved by hype.
Like discovering a fabulous restaurant, one is torn with keeping it a secret, or sharing the enthusiasm with others. I am reminded of Joe Seliga, now deceased, a master canoe builder from Ely, MN. In his one stall garage just up the road a piece from Lamppa Manufacturing, Joe spent most of his life building hand crafted canoes of impeccable quality and design. I visited Joe one day soon after folks from New York Times Magazine ventured out to write a story about his craft. He got a chuckle about the photographer taking shots of his paint dripped cement floor. Joe Seliga was humble and unmoved by being “discovered” nationally.
These are artists and craftsmen. Folks dedicating their life to a skill. Perfecting their design. Working in a rural environment free from marketing hot air and noisy SUVs. Maximizing efficiency through excellent design. Building with their hands. Putting their name on their product. Standing behind their product, and proud of what gets shipped out the back door.