Barrel Sauna Guide

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Build Plans:

I made a quick high-level video for some visual aid (first build): 


Staves video (second build): 

Walls video (second build): 

Cradles, benches, assembly video (second build): 

NOTE: this guide is mainly based off the sauna build from the video. New "UPDATE" text has been added for adjustments I have made on later builds. New videos are in the works.

Step 1: Size and Planning

Unless you think multiple people will consistently want to be using this sauna at the same time or if you really want to be able to fully stretch out, I would go with a four-foot deep, two-person sauna. I am 6’4” and I feel very comfortable in the space. Additionally, I created a bench that lays perpendicular across the two side benches that I can stretch out on. I still can’t lay completely stretched out, but with my knees bent it works just fine. Most of the time I like to sit up anyway. 

Other factors to consider are the time to heat, heater size, sauna footprint and electrical bills. A smaller sauna requires a smaller heater and may take less time and money to keep heated especially in the winter. It will also take less space in your yard and you will have more flexibility in its placement.

My sauna setup takes about 45 minutes to be at maximum heat on an average temperature day. This will vary based on the temperature outside the sauna, the size of the sauna, the size of the heater, and the consistency and fit of the routing joints. 

When you have determined your sauna size, take a piece of paper and start drawing out the dimensions. This will give you a guide as you build your project and help plan for materials.

Step 2: Materials and Tools (2 person sauna)

Make sure to get the appropriate sizes. I used .5” radius and recommend .5” shanks to avoid snapping them. I snapped two 1/4" shank radius cove bits before going with the .5” shank rounding over bit. UPDATE: With my latest build I used 1 1/2" bits (see below)

Step 3: Routing

Step 4: Front Wall (entry)

caused an angled and uneven cut around the circle. This wasn’t a huge deal since the dados in the staves covered it up nicely, but I recommend going very slow to ensure a better edge and ultimately a better seal among the staves.  

Step 5: Back Wall

Step 6: Staves 

Step 7: Cradles

Step 8: Assembly

Place the two cradles a little less than four feet apart. Place one stave in the middle with a label to ensure it is level. I used wedges to adjust the level of the cradles. 

Step 9: Benches

Step 10: Heater

Step 11: Accessories

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New method

Old Method