With our wood burning sauna stoves the fuss is the muss

Some back away from installing a wood burning sauna stoves, in favor of the more convenient electric sauna stove option.

And this is ok.

But for those of us who choose the wood stove option, we:

  • Enjoy tinkering with the fire. (much like making beer or cooking a meal from scratch).
  • Appreciate knowing where our heat comes from (vs. plugged into an electric wire on the grid).
  • Embrace the DIY aspect (cutting, splitting, stacking wood, is much like gardening).

Why does wood fired pizza taste better?  Why does wood heat feel better?  Why do all chefs use cast iron frying pans (vs thin metal).  Why is the University of Minnesota collaborating to create SaunaShoes with thermal mass in the sole?

We ask ourselves these questions whilst “ember-izing” on the sauna bench.

managing our wood burning sauna stove
Jim Willis’s wood burning sauna stove (photo: Jim Willis).
Mark Babson’s wood burning sauna stove (photo: Mark Babson).
Entering Michael Furlong’s wood burning sauna (photo Michael Furlong).
Michelle Mark’s wood burning sauna stove (photo: Michelle Mark).

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19 thoughts on “With our wood burning sauna stoves the fuss is the muss”

  1. If you have the means… nothing like a traditional Finnish Sauna that is wood fired. It’s the whole process from gathering the wood to feeling the löyly creep across your body that cleanses the soul…Life is good!

  2. Chris: Agreed, savusauna is the pinnacle of experience, yet for me, the quality made wood burning sauna stove hits on an optimized level of both wood consumption minimization as well as clean burning.maximization. But dangerous to compare the two saunas, of course.

  3. Agreed, Tom. We have a lot of switches and dials in our life. It’s nice that we leave these behind with our wood fired saunas. And another thing: with the efficiency and clean burning of these new stoves, it’s amazing how 1) little wood is needed and 2) how hot it gets, meaning 3) our wood pile lasts that much longer.

    And I agree with you, the whole process is cleansing of the soul. Well said.

  4. Good afternoon I made my donation this morning. I do believe the email is not working at this time could you send me the book at this one thank you.

  5. I have come to believe the laying and tending of the wood sauna stove is as much of the sauna experience as the loyla. I lay the sauna fire with care, using the top down fire build. Once started I make sure it well started, and then visit and tend it frequently until it is sauna time. I love it.

    And of course you have to obtain the firewood, split it to size, and then stack it to dry properly. Being a bit OCD I have separate wood racks for kindling, one for rounders or large split long burners, and yet another for mid-size to make sure the long burners get going, and to add to the stove if you need a little quick temperature surge in the sauna. If you use anything other than a wood burning sauna stove, you miss half the fun.

  6. Hi Glenn, I’m in the process of designing a mobile sauna. I really want to use wood. Are there any stoves you would recommend for a mobile situation that can be fed from the outside? Any things I should be wary of if I’m leaning toward this style? I’m looking for any info I can find especially on how to heat proof the area where the stove penetrates the wall in such a small structure. Are there any stove brands better suited for mobile situations ie: lighter?

  7. Joey:

    Feeding wood stove from the outside. You can do this. It will be tricky, however, to align this wall with non combustable and framing (aluminum) so that when you’re bouncing down the road, the shell of your unit doesn’t bounce and bend and crack your wall. I can explain more if you like, but this is primary concern with mobile sauna and outside feed. Try this for more biased reading: https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/wood-burning-sauna-feed-from-the-outside-or-inside/

    Stove brands: The Kuuma stove is a 400# beast. But we are driving them all over Minnesota right now (and with great success). If you’re looking for a lighter stove the Helo is featherweight by comparison and should work fine for your mobilization. This stove (from memory) was used to heat the Traveling Sauna. https://www.saunatimes.com/sauna-talk/sauna-talk-traveling-sauna-tours-the-united-states-to-help-celebrate-100-years-of-finlands-independence/

  8. Still Confused: I’ve downloaded the ebook and read through it. I’m now considering wood burning instead of electric heat, which I may regret…we’ll see. But, I’m still left without actual measurements for adequate placement of the stove from the walls. Hence, if I go to all the work of cement board placement (double wall on the back) and buy the heat shields from Kuuma, (for all 3 sides) what are the appropriate distances I’m to be working with? Kuuma states some incredible distance of 18″ per side (even with heat shields). Not sure how this is suppose to fit within the 8’x6′ hot room design.

  9. I didn’t mean to sound negative above. I love the book and am looking forward to designing my own (second) sauna using several of these ideas.

  10. All good Brent. There are dimensions as prescribed by UL certification and dimensions that most people go with. If I were to show photos of my two saunas, as example, well, “cobblers kids shoes” come to mind. I built these saunas in 1996 and 2003, and use extensively.

  11. Glen, Are there reasonable measurements that most folk go with? I plan to use the heat shields on all three sides. Does 8″ sound reasonable. I understand there may well be a liability issue at stake here…I’m not looking to sue anyone, just get a reasonable feel for what has worked for others. In fact, I’ll consider your answer to “be at builder own risk” and “builder beware”. That being said, I’d still love ballpark measurements of what others have successfully used.

  12. Glenn I have to go electric. the Kuuma is $1800- a bit more than I want to spend. Do you have a 2nd place option for closer to $1000?

  13. My husband and I are in the planning phase for an urban outdoor sauna. For cost concerns and green-ness we’re trying to source used material for as many of the elements as possible. I know you are a serious fan of Kuuma stoves. Can you speak to the pros and cons of a traditional wood stove with rocks applied to the top? Maybe create an add-on welded basket?

  14. Heather: Appreciate the resourcefulness of trying to source used material wherever possible. There are lots of used stoves out there, so I get the appeal. With my friends bent upon deploying traditional wood stoves, i’ve generally stayed quiet and let them figure it out for themselves, as a sauna is a good thing (and the adjacent possible to a really good thing).

    When the money allows, most trade out to a real sauna stove. The pros are a very long list.
    heat up times.
    quality of heat.
    control of hot room temp.
    great loyly (steam)
    lampomassa, etc.

    We build our saunas one time, and the good news is you can start with your used stove and look to trade out when the spirit moves.

  15. Hi Glenn, I just downloaded your ebook. Thanks for all the info. I am planning to build a sauna with a dimension of 7’2″ by 7′ (heated room), not including changing room. Would you go with the Small or medium Kuuma stove? The Kuuma site indicates the small is big enough but I am leaning toward medium. I also have the same question asked above – If I have cementboard with masonary, is 8″ clearance enough? I saw that on the Kuuma site but did not see that in your info.

  16. 7’2″x7′ is a very good hot room size, and ideal for a small Kuuma. A small Kuuma is like a pickup truck: perfectly capable for many applications. The medium Kuuma is like a dump truck: more fuel and more of a monster, overkill for many applications, but exactly what you need for some applications (larger hot room).

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