We used to draw names at Christmas for an adult gift exchange. Two years ago, I drew my brother-in-law’s name. He is a contractor and carpenter. I gave him a coffee table-style photo book of Finnish saunas, along with a bottle of Finnish vodka to spur his imagination. After that we got a great deal from Finn Sisu on a Finnish wood-burning sauna stove, and, along with a pencil and a notepad, the process began.
Nestled outside my wife’s family’s cabin, our Finnish sauna is carved into the hillside going down to the lake. It took shape over the course of the year. Little by little, spare time, a midweek getaway, several weekends here and there, a variety of friends and family, and there it is. It is all done in tongue-and-groove cedar with an open, 4-by-4-foot cedar beam design, complete with a U-shaped bottom bench and an upper-level bench lining the back wall. It takes about an hour, in the winter, to get it up to a real sauna temperature of 125 degrees or more. This can be accomplished via dry heat or by adding filtered water to the stones atop our stove, raising the humidity for a real detoxifying sweat and rejuvenating feeling.
Needless to say, the sauna has become a gathering spot for many a conversation. If those walls could talk.
JIM DUFRESNE, MINNEAPOLIS