Thermal mass rocket stove steam room suana

UPDATE July 2019 – The stove that used to heat the sauna crumbled after about 2 dozen runs. I’m embarrassed to say that I had not done my homework properly, and that what I built was hardly a rocket heater. I built a properly sized heater out of the correct materials in 2019. Here is the link: LINK!

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After several years of the manual labour involved in building two rustic abodes and doing all that was involved in the rustic lifestyle I have occasionally tracked at this blog, my body took strain – especially my hands, which often feel swollen and arthritic from serious over-use, as well as my right shoulder, which inevitably takes a lot of train when I do just about any of the manual labour I do.

Yoga and Pilates/body-conditioning have been my saving grace in keeping me supple and able to keep up with the labour demand placed on my body. However, sometimes a steam room is just what I need to sooth and soften me, especially after ruthless bouts of digging and building.

In order to have access to a steam room, the first option was to join a gym. I would never use anything but the steam room at the gym though – I do way too much manual labour, and I already frequently do yoga and Pilates/body-conditioning. So I would have had to pay the high monthly gym fee, which was not possible considering various factors relating to my finances, and then drive a considerable distance to the gym and back again just to use the steam room.

So instead I built a steam room. The wood is yellow gum from a local saw mill. Yellow gum is extremely hard and, untreated, will last for years, unlike pine and other more-readily available woods. The wood must remain untreated because the heat of the steam room would cause the release of the chemicals contained in paint into the air.

Here is a picture of the inside of the steam room before the hole for the thermal-mass-heater was cut:


The markings indicating where the rocket stove mass heater will enter the structure:


Structure and initial row of fire bricks (cement is ‘fire cement’ or ‘furnace cement’, not ordinary cement; first three courses of furnace are fire bricks; rest of chimney ‘common’ bricks; see THIS POST for a better idea of the construction of the rocket-stove-mass-heater, keeping in mind that the one used for the steam room is considerably bigger):


My friend Gareth and one of his kids overseeing me doing the fire-cementing of the inside chimney. Note the metal flu at the back left – the flu is the main initial steam generator as it gets hot quickest. I pour water onto the flu and the water explodes into steam. Later, as the bricks warm up, the chimney provides a more constant source of steam as water is gradually poured onto the bricks:


Here the crucial insulating foil barrier is most notable. A few reclaimed corrugated sheets have been applied.


And here I am, holding the 18 volt cordless drill that I used to build so many things now. This drill comes highly recommended:


That’s where my pictures end. Since the final picture was taken, I finished the reclaimed corrugated sheet cladding and painted it green. The structure blends into the surrounds perfectly. I have used it approximately eleven times and wow! The room takes 30 minutes to get warm; an hour to get hot. By 1hr30mins a person can go in and start pouring water over the flu and brick chimney, and 30 minutes thereafter the person will usually have to exit. Thereafter, the steam room is absolutely pumping! If I let the fire die after this point, room will still be warm (and completely dry) 12 hours later.