Building Smoke Sauna with Hand Tools / Mustajõe suitsusauna ehitamine

Building Smoke Sauna with Hand Tools / Mustajõe suitsusauna ehitamine


The sauna has two rooms, outside measures are 3,3 m x 5,2 m.
About 60 logs are needed. Straight pines with few branches are the best.
One tree makes 2-3 logs, we use logs with tip diameter 20-24 cm. Tips that are nice and straight are going to be rafters.
Undergrowth spruces are used for roof-laths. Front room is for clothes, back room is for steaming and washing. Today we are felling the sauna logs in Viljandimaa, nearby Tääksi village. It is January the 9th, the moon is waxing. We are in a 100-year-old forest – it is a drained peatland forest. Pines grow very slow in the wet conditions, the growth rings are very thin
and thus, they hopefully resist the rotting well. As the saw is harder to sharpen than the axe – the surface has to be as clean
as possible so that the saw is not dulled so easily. There! From the stump, it is visible how big the proportion of the heartwood is
and how fast or slow has been the growth. Here the heartwood makes about half and the outer sapwood is about 4-5 cm. The bigger the proportion of heartwood, the better is the resistance to rotting. Besides the heartwood we look also the growth rings – if we measure here,
we see, that on average this tree has grown about 2 mm in a year. It is safe to say that those trees here make excellent material for the smoke sauna. Go further a little bit! Logs are peeled before May in order to avoid the blue stain.
Last layer can partly be left on the stem. When using only hand tools, the building process should start right away,
as raw timber is softer and easier to process. For foundation, loose stones are used, placed in every 2,5 m for
strengthening the walls. First, the cornerstones are placed and levelled, and then diagonals are
checked so that the correct rectangle is formed. Here is our team: Mikk is working with the drawknife. Then we have a french-estonian guy Germain. Ahti is working with the shovel. My name is Andres. In addition, Palolill
is doing the woodworks. With five of us, we are going to make this project work. We will see how it works out. The potter will build the oven. Rest of the works we will be doing ourselves. It is going to be a nice and fun spring! We try to use only traditional hand tools and the whole building will be
fully hand crafted. Smoke sauna has a very simple foundation. We just peeled off the top layer of the soil, filled the hole with gravel
and put the stones loosely onto it. Did it go like this? Can we maybe lift it? Right! The logs of the first and the last round are hewn straight – this will ease
the ceiling and floor making. We use dovetail joint with wind lock.
Long grooves are at least 8 cm wide. Lower log is covered with warm pine tar. Birch bark is used for
hydro-isolation between the log and the foundation stones. For stability, the dowels are drilled into the logs – 3 pieces into the long
walls and 2 pieces into the short walls. A log can shrink up to 1 cm, the whole sauna up to 4%. Dowels must be shorter than the holes, due to shrinkage.
Shrinkage must be considered also in door and window bucks. We write somewhere the names and the year of the building. It is good to have short surname. One more tradition I encountered in South Estonia – I found coins in corner
joints in two old buildings. Usually the coin also bears the year number of the building. This is more
a South-Estonian tradition. The coin is placed in the eastern corner, related to religious tradition
to keep the praying and icons in the east. Hopefully this tradition brings luck also to this family here, whatever kind
of luck they are desiring. Door- and window jambs are 15×15 cm and serve in the same time the purpose
of bucks and frames. In back of doorjamb there is a 4 cm wide rabbet where the tenon of the wall
logs fit in. Window measures are 60×70 cm and windows are placed about 95 cm from the
floor level. Door- and window jamb rabbet is 2 cm in width and 4 cm in depth. For shrinkage,
space is left 2 cm above windows and 7 cm above doors. Peat moss must not be left hanging over the logs, as it causes the blue stain.
Pine is more sensitive to the blue stain. The log was quite curved, we sawed it almost through in order to ease the
curve – this was traditionally called „bloodletting“. To avoid the cold coming through, we insert a peg here. It works. Now it’s in pretty good shape. Rafters have diameter 10-12 cm in top. Rafters’ ends are shaped the same
way as the rafters in the main house of the farm. Rafters lean on plate log with about 4 cm joint. Roof laths are hewn from
young spruces with thickness about 5 cm. In three-layer shingle roof the roof laths are placed in every 19 cm. Between first and second roof lath there is 10 cm distance because the
shingles are protruding 9 cm over the first roof lath. Outbuildings usually had two layer shingle roofs and dwellings had three
layer shingle roofs. Here there are three layers spruce shingles. A shingle is about 5 mm thick,
10-12 cm wide and 60 cm long. Shingle master Jüri made the shingles here in nearby village. Thank you! Thank you! Well, guys, is that enough? Sure! It’s a little sauna, it works. When we get the crown down, then we can consider it done and we wish a long
life for this sauna. Thank you! Cheers! When rafters are finally placed, a still vivid old Estonian tradition
requires the celebration of rafters. Placing the rafters requires some heavy lifting and more men are needed than
in other tasks. When you ask people to come over and help, you should also properly thank
them. This is how the rafters’ celebration was formed. Stove is made of old bricks. Inside there is an arch made of firebricks above
which the stones are loosely placed. Shingles reach 1,5 cm over each other and are attached with one nail. Nails are placed so that the next layer of shingles is covering the nail holes. First layer of shingles is placed upside down. Important thing to look here
is the direction of wood fibres. All other layers are placed so that curve is up and wood fibres are looking down. First layer is placed the other way around so that its curve supports the eaves. The eaves tend to slump because of gravity but if you place the first shingle
upside down then it holds the eaves so that it cannot slump. First row of shingles is somewhat shorter; sometimes there are plenty of
defective shingles, so that you do not have to cut them especially. Once you have completed the first row,
you always turn back with the second row. Into second row you put half shingles. Now you start checking that the fibres in the shingles run always conformal
– so that the rain would not get through but glides over. I start from here, wouldn’t get till the end, the other guy takes over. First shingle here, I leave it open from this side, so that from here it
can be continued. We put a temporary board here – it helps to nail the shingles. We attach it with the same small shingle nails so that it would not harm
the shingles. Ceiling is made of alder that does not contain the resin. In coniferous trees,
the resin warms during the heating and starts to drip. Ceiling is placed as board-on-board siding. A batten nailed to the lower log supports floorboards in the front room.
Floorboards are attached to each other with a wooden spline. We are in the attic of the sauna. Sand loam insulation has two good characteristics: first, it is quite heavy,
about 2000 kg. It adds pressure to the log walls. And secondly, it is not flammable. In order to stop the sand falling from the ceiling we put a layer of
tarpaper beneath. Today is May 22nd and we are collecting the hydro-isolation. It means we collect the birch bark for isolating the foundation stones from
the logs. May is good time for taking the birch bark, when the leaves are small,
then the bark is loose. When the leaves are fully-grown, the bark is already tight. Today it comes easily. You just peel the top layer smoothly. If taken carefully, the beach tree survives it easily. However, usually we take it from the prospective clear-cut areas, where the
trees will be felled anyway. In about 6-7 years, the bark is fully re-grown. This forest here belongs to Mikk, so we are lucky to have a forest owner
in our crowd. We take about 40-50 pieces. We might not use it all in this sauna but as we are here already, we take
enough to keep it in reserve as well. Maybe there will be another small building in near future where we can use it. That’s enough now. The birch bark cannot be left lying around, we must put it under the pressure. A simple board with stones will do. Otherwise it will roll itself when drying and then afterwards when you want
to use it, it will break. If it is drying under the pressure, then it is ok. Steam room floor. Simple ventilation under the floor. Floorboards are placed with a centimetre gap between them so that the water
can run through, directly to the gravel. The floor stands independently, afloat, the floor beams are supported by
the stones. The floor stands apart from the building. If in 30 years’ time the floor needs to be replaced, then you don’t need
to harm the building. You can just take the floor apart and build a new one. Here are the beams, and birch bark between the beams and the stones. Now we also put the birch bark here, so that the water would not fall onto
the beams. Hydro-isolation here is also birch bark. Now we just put the boards over it and then it is done. Nail spots marked. Doors and windows were made by Palolill in his home workshop.
He was using dry pine wood. It is best to use heartwood for the windows to keep them from rotting.
Before the glass is placed, the rabbet is coated with linseed oil. Simple plank-board door has spline between every board. Ledges are made with dovetail joint and have a small taper in order to keep
them tight. Hinges are made by Peeter Reemann – a blacksmith from Rõuge. Doors have
traditional strap hinges; windows have corner hinges. Peeter is also the author of most of the axes and chisels we are using here. Like ceiling, the sweating bench is also made of alder that does not contain
resin and is not getting that hot. Bench boards are leaning on wall logs and to keep the moisture out of the
logs, there is birch bark between them. The height of the sweating bench is measured from the ceiling
and it is about 110 cm. It is good to have the ceiling beam in front of the bench – then the heat
spreads more evenly. It is said that for the stove the best are fine black seaside stones. As they have persisted in the sea for long time, they will also persist the
heating here. Regular stones from the fields are going to crumble soon. We have experienced that those dark stones from
the seaside are very persistent. Biggest stones are placed within the stove – onto the arch and smaller are
put loosely on them. In smoke sauna, the stones are heated first and therefore there has to be
quite many of them. The heated stones must last after the fire is gone, only then
the sauna starts. And only the stones give out the heat for many hours. Today we make a little test heating as well. The stove has been drying for a week now and we have made little fires every
now and then. You cannot make big fire straight away, you must dry it step by step. For drying, every day a small fire is made and so it must go on like
couple of weeks. When the weather is cool, this must go on even a bit longer. When the weather is warm, one week is enough and hopefully we can have first
little sauna time here in a week already. It is done now. The sauna is heated – it is smoking. We hope it has a long life! It took about 130 person-days – 20 days in forest and more than 100 days
were for building work. We started the building process in the end of March and today is June 11th. The building is done, hopefully we will have first sauna here in about
two weeks. Then we will hand the building over to the family here. We hope this sauna serves well and we would like to come to sauna here at
least once. All things worked well and the company was really cool. Everything worked
out exactly how we planned to. Smoke sauna is preferably heated with alder trees as they grime the least.
Heating starts 3-4 hours before sauna time. After the last handful of wood is gone, the coals are stirred well and
the sauna is ventilated for an hour. Best time for making the whisks are before the summer solstice, in waning
moon, like now. You can also make them up to two weeks after the solstice. After that, the leaves are turning older and the stem of the leave is harder.
Young birches are softer on the body. Bath whisks are made from the branches of young birch trees, we take
the lower branches and make a fair bunch. Bigger men make bigger whisks and smaller men make smaller whisks. We take rather thinner branches as they are softer. A new old style smoke sauna was built in the border of Põlva and Võru county,
in the village of Mustajõe to the farm of the old Mustajõe pub. The previous smoke sauna here fell apart in the mid-20th century. But a sauna existed here from at least 1870-ies, because on the map of
Tilsi manor, there is marked the sauna of Mustajõe pub. With this sauna, these men made every detail more beautiful than we expected.

2 thoughts on “Building Smoke Sauna with Hand Tools / Mustajõe suitsusauna ehitamine”

  1. Thank you guys! You are amazing! I hope I will attend your log building course once. Great work 👏🏻💪🏻 can you provide us subtitles in English? And how many days you spend on the site building the sauna?

  2. Happy to see you here Andres;) perhaps that we could come a days with some of students in carpentry to do something with you. Ronan (from Honleur-calvados France 😉 ) Ronan Lechevallier. Sorel section bois on FB.

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