A guide to building an off-grid rocket stove straw-clay sauna


Click 1 to 7 to see the build steps


This straw-clay rocket stove sauna by SunDog School of Natural Building takes its design from the traditional sweat lodges of the Lakota people (below).

The sauna is possibly the only one of its kind with an integrated rocket stove replacing the traditional hot stones placed in the middle of the lodge. The whole structure sits on a stone (or urbanite) stem wall with no foundation directly on the ground [see picture No.1].



The rocket stove fire brick chamber stands on a stone slab [see No.2] which was later buried in pea gravel [No.3] forming the floor of the sauna. This will allow water poured on the stove, to make steam, to drain out of the base of the sauna to the ground.

Just as flexible branches were used by the Lakota people to form the dome of their sweat lodges so too does the SunDog sauna [No. 4] but rather than using skins this lodge uses woven straw dipped in clay slip (a clay paste with the consistency of thick cream). The straw was woven [No.5] rather like a wattle to create insulation and a substrate to add layers of cob [No.6] and finally clay plaster [No.7].

Below (left) you can see how the door frame was built into the structure of the cob using a simple T joint. The whole sauna is protected from the rain by a simple roundwood frame with roof. Below (middle) is a picture of one of the many stove tests made during construction which also helped to dry out the clay. With a few small ventilation windows to regulate the temperature the sauna takes about 45 minutes to get up to heat. Much faster than the several hours it takes to heat rocks in an open fire for a traditional sweat lodge. You can see even more steps with more detail and tips on construction on SunDog's Facebook Page.