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Bekkala builds barrel sauna
Dec. 26, 2016

By Jennifer Von Ohlen
Staff Writer

In the Dassel-Cokato community, saunas have a greater importance than their known health benefits of cleansing and relaxation. They are a cultural tie to much of the community’s Finnish roots, and are commonly owned and used year-round.

Wes Bekkala of Dassel is just one of the many DC individuals who enjoys his time in the sauna, and has been building ones for himself and friends “for years.”

Deciding to combine his love for sauna, construction, and challenges, Bekkala swung his hammer at the thought of building a barrel-shaped sauna, a style that is less common and more difficult to construct.

“I get ideas in my head, and I can’t let it rest until it’s built and done,” he stated.

One month later, Bekkala completed his vision, and even had a customer in Brooklyn Park waiting for its delivery.

Throughout the process, from conception to completion, Bekkala posted pictures of his progress on craigslist and facebook, and knew from other’s reactions that there was a market of interest.

On craigslist alone, he received about a dozen responses.

“Those who have [saunas] love them, and those who don’t have them wish they did,” said Bekkala.

The barrel

About a week before its completion, Bekkala’s Brooklyn Park customer drove out to see the sauna himself, and complimented Bekkala on his work.

“He said it was a little nicer than he thought it was going to be,” Bekkala noted, well pleased.

The sauna stands at 7 ft. tall, and is 8 ft. long and 6.5 ft. wide.

“I wanted it to be as small as possible, so you’re not wasting heated space,” Bekkala explained. He added that since people typically sit while taking a sauna, the barrel’s height does not interfere with the user’s comfort.

Bekkala constructed the cedar barrel “the slow, hard way,” locally sourcing to build every piece of it (other than the wood-fired stove and chimney).

The wood framing the glass door is glued together, with a peg running through it to provide extra strength and prevent the wood from warping. It was also laminated for the same effect.

The sauna’s strength comes from the three steel bands encircling its exterior, which also completes the classic barrel look.

Two moveable backrests sit on the benches inside, while another two seats rest on the sauna’s add-on porch.

Bekkala also made a “king’s chair” upon customer request, which is a movable, raised seat that gives access to more steam.

“I was happy to do that little extra detail,” said Bekkala, continuing to say the customer’s interests are fun to work with, such as stain color or certain builds or add-ons. “There are so many ways to build this kind of structure.”

No matter how the sauna is constructed, however, keeping it safe is always important to Bekkala. He referred to local experts about how to keep the stove and chimney safe, and received expert advice from several people concerning the sauna itself.

One gentleman he met in northern Minnesota, who also builds saunas, even came by his workspace to see the barrel and give his advice.

“You definitely need to ask the right people certain questions,” Bekkala commented, “so you don’t come up with something that’s going to fall over, or last for only a week. Even [what type of stain to use] is a research project all by itself.”

His labor paid off, however, as he stood looking up at his barrel.

“I’m happy with the way it’s turned out,” he stated smiling. “I’m very happy.’

Interested in a barrel sauna? Contact Bekkala at (320) 333-1209 for more information. Leave a message if prompted.

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