As Narrated by long-time resident of New Finland, Albert Maki
One of the first buildings to appear on a New Finland homestead was a sauna; as the Finns believed that cleanliness was next to Godliness; a sauna was an absolute necessity.
The first step in building a sauna was a firm level square foundation of stone; 16 x 24. Then the search for suitable trees for the walls; they had to be about 10 inches in the bottom [the bigger the better] and as straight as possible. Bowed trees present quite a problem.
The green tree was limbed and cut to length then the straightest logs placed lengthwise on the long side of the foundation and another placed vertically on top with the bowed part down, to make a corner. Each log was then shaped with an axe to fit the lower one, then turned over 180 degrees with bowed part up and shaped again to fit.
This method was used all around the building, all four corners at the same time, alternating the narrow and wide ends of the log to made a symmetrical corner. Using a hand auger 1 - 1/2 inch holes were made the whole width of two logs and they were secured together with wooden pegs whittled out of poplar or willow, alternately along the log. The walls were ten logs high and openings were left for a door and small window using logs, not suitable for the walls, for the shorter areas.
The rafters and eaves were made with small logs [about five inch] to make a V-shaped roof; and 1 - 1/2 inch logs crosswise to rafters to form a foundation. Thereafter were covered with birch bark sheets found in the valley, to form a waterproof roof. Boards for the sides and door were made by hewing off the rounded sides of a log and secured with wooden pegs or nails if available. The floor was made of four inch logs hewed on one side to make it level for walking. Clay, re-enforced with straw, was used for chinking the walls, inside and out.
Inside, the heater, kiaus, was made with stones using flat ones for top and bottom to from a nest for the firebox. In later years old oil barrels and scrap iron were used. They were inventive and adaptable and used whatever was available. The firewood was laid and the sauna was heated until the stones were very hot. In early years they were called savu or smoke saunas, and a small open window was left at that end for the smoke to go out. Later one stove pipes were used.
Later on stove pipes were used. To catch the steam and heat, a platform was made with two or three steps, again with hewn logs, about three to four feet off the floor and against the back wall. When the stones were very hot, fire was allowed to die down, and it was ready for use. The hardiest citizens were the first ones in to get the most benefit from the hot steam, when water was thrown against the red hot stones. To open the pores and bring out perspiration, switches, vihtas, were made and used as the name applies. They were made out of oak or hazelnut branches, steamed to make them hot and pliable and keep the leaves intact. In the winter, for closing off pores tempering / karkaasemista, some would cool off in the snow not possible in summer unless close to water.