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2 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

Having said that, there are many lightweight synthetic materials suitable and techniques to minimize mass, area, conductive contact area.

True as that may be, market research proves sauna owners to be extremely averse to the use of synthetic materials in saunas, for better or for worse.

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Aside from the heat issues, if the ceramic piece was to fall and break, you've got a dangerous situation for anyone in the sauna. Ceramic shards and bare feet don't mix. For me it falls into the same

Given  the lack of any citeable research on this rather specific topic, the usual answer is to try it yourself and see.  Make a few different versions and test them. My inclination, if you think

My opinion, this material is not ideal It will hold more heat than a low mass handle and yes the users hand will remove that  heat nicely cooling the handle. I believe it is not ideal, but you could h

Having been alerted to possible risks: you seem to be comfortable with proceeding.  Terra Cotta seems best suited: but suspect you will have to engineer it for this specific use. In the world of ceramics: 200F is not that extreme. The more relative points would be absorption and expansion.  12-14% absorption is readily obtainable if talc and magnesium are avoided in the formulation: both would lower absorption. Spodumene would be the body flux of choice because it would lower the expansion properties considerably. Equally important: peak firing should not exceed cone 04 (1945F) to ensure higher absorption: firing above this would defeat your purpose.

Tom

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5 hours ago, cdub said:

True as that may be, market research proves sauna owners to be extremely averse to the use of synthetic materials in saunas, for better or for worse.

Definitely see your point. Lots of variety’s of wood (cedar, aspen, bamboo) lots of plastic liners, lots of aluminum, stainless copper. Tough to compete with these. https://www.saunaplace.com/store/Buckets-and-Ladles/
 

Edited by Bill Kielb
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3 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

Tough to compete with these.

I don't know if it is yet or not. Each of those materials have serious disadvantages: wood falls apart, metal feels hotter, and plastic is a synthetic.

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It doesn't surprise me that people prefer natural materials in their sauna, as the sauna process is very 'natural'. I also wouldn't be surprised that people who can afford a sauna can also afford to replace a $40 bucket every few years. I think that in order to market a bucket that's not wood, it's going to have to be better somehow, and not just because of durability.

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16 hours ago, cdub said:

Each of those materials have serious disadvantages: wood falls apar

It looks like wood and maybe metal is the tradition. The spas are basically entirely constructed of wood, do the wood buckets and handles fall apart much more quickly? Maybe a ceramic liner for the bucket instead  of a metal  or plastic one? 

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17 hours ago, Babs said:

Soundslike you just need to do a thorough trial in your own sauna!

I agree! I'm just trying to figure out what clays (and glazes, if any) are actually worth trying.

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16 hours ago, neilestrick said:

I also wouldn't be surprised that people who can afford a sauna can also afford to replace a $40 bucket every few years.

I can't say I know anyone who actually replaces their $40 wooden bucket every few years. Most people buy one, use it until if falls apart, and then use a plastic or galvanized pail to avoid the frustration.

I agree, though, that the design has to offer something more than just better durability -- and it will, but that's a design issue as much as it is a material issue.

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8 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

It looks like wood and maybe metal is the tradition. The spas are basically entirely constructed of wood, do the wood buckets and handles fall apart much more quickly? Maybe a ceramic liner for the bucket instead  of a metal  or plastic one? 

Wood is traditional, but galvanized steel is what most people revert to when their wooden buckets fall apart. Wood is generally a great material in a sauna, but neither coopered nor carved wooden vessels hold up. Wooden bucket staves expand and contract until the joints open up and they shed their hoops. The bowls of wooden dippers often split, but that's largely a question of design: they do pretty well if the grain is oriented correctly and the wood isn't too thick -- and they aren't left sitting in water for long periods of time.

Liners in wooden buckets have never made sense to me: if the bucket needs a liner to work, you don't really need the bucket. At that point, it's just a handle for the liner -- which is why I'm interested in making a ceramic vessel with a wooden handle. Same idea, just less redundant.

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1 hour ago, neilestrick said:

I agree, but they want the aesthetics of a wooden bucket.

Some folks do, for sure -- but given the increasing number of alternatives succeeding on the market, I think most people are looking for a good aesthetic, and not necessarily that aesthetic. 

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The issue that bothers me the most is ceramics breaks.The wood makes the most sense-the whole sauna is wood. Buying a new bucket now and then is part of the deal. terra-cotta is easily broken or cracked-thats the downside. You can try some sort of work around but you cannot work around that fact

 

 

 

 

 

i

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4 hours ago, Mark C. said:

The issue that bothers me the most is ceramics breaks.

Isn't that a concern for ceramics generally? But we still use them in all sorts of contexts, including bathrooms...?

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1 hour ago, cdub said:

Isn't that a concern for ceramics generally? But we still use them in all sorts of contexts, including bathrooms...?

In a sauna however don't usually have safe pathway out.....

Why risk take if not essential.

Testing time for you I think.

You seem resistant to some logical thought processes.

Would not the Scandis have used ceramic, renowned for high quality design work anbd ceramic have gone downthiis path?

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I agree with Babs, ceramics and saunas have been around for ages if the two were compatible I would hazard a guess it would have been thought of and tried by now. Just like using ceramics for use under a broiler or on a stovetop it can be done but it's not the safest nor best material for the job.

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2 hours ago, cdub said:

Isn't that a concern for ceramics generally? But we still use them in all sorts of contexts, including bathrooms...?

I think you missed my context-its not about the sauna its about the material-terracota is fragile and used in areas that fit that use best -planters for one for example.

Sure it porous but it super fragile and unfit for that situtaion with any chance of longevity.The wooden bucket has amuch longer life span.-if water is kept in the bucket iot can gor for many years as it swells and stays swollen like a wooden water tank.

If you want strength go with high fire porcelain.Tougher than terra-cotta 

The swedes have been at this a long time-sauna -wood-ceramics-still they use wood and buckets-its for reason

Babs has a very compelling point

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4 hours ago, Babs said:

In a sauna however don't usually have safe pathway out.....

I have a single door into my kitchen and into both my bathrooms, and I use ceramics in all three rooms. On the rare occasion that something breaks, I clean it up and go on with my day. They're ceramics, not explosives.

 

4 hours ago, Babs said:

Why risk take if not essential.

I can't think of many contexts where the use of ceramics would be considered "essential."

 

4 hours ago, Babs said:

You seem resistant to some logical thought processes.

I'm not resistant to logic. I'm resistant to dismissing a material out of hand, only because it has limitations. All material have limitations, and the process of design is  largely one of accommodating them.

 

4 hours ago, Babs said:

Would not the Scandis have used ceramic, renowned for high quality design work anbd ceramic have gone downthiis path?

I haven't found any evidence that they have. If I do, I'll add it to my research.

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4 hours ago, Mark C. said:

The wooden bucket has amuch longer life span.-if water is kept in the bucket iot can gor for many years as it swells and stays swollen like a wooden water tank.

I don't think it's necessarily true that wooden buckets have a longer lifespan that a ceramic vessel in the sauna environment. I've studied cooperage and made a number of wooden sauna buckets myself, and they've failed like all the others I've used.

The advice to keep water in a wooden bucket is generally sound, but not for sauna buckets. When the moisture content in the staves becomes too high, the wood fibers compress against the hoops and permanently deform. When the outer portion of the staves later dry in the sauna (temperatures as high as 220°F, relative humidity as low as 5%) the hoops become loose and the bucket fails. For that reason, most manufacturers of sauna buckets recommend that they be filled only during use.

 

4 hours ago, Mark C. said:

The swedes have been at this a long time-sauna -wood-ceramics-still they use wood and buckets-its for reason

They largely don't use wooden buckets, for the reasons I've just described. The best-selling sauna buckets in Scandinavia currently are plastic and aluminum.

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5 hours ago, Min said:

if the two were compatible I would hazard a guess it would have been thought of and tried by now.

Dismissing an idea because you haven't seen anyone else try it leads directly to the death of all innovation.

 

5 hours ago, Min said:

it's not the safest nor best material for the job

That might very well be the case here, which is why I'm also researching  a number of other materials -- and every single one of them has limitations.

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2 hours ago, cdub said:

Dismissing an idea because you haven't seen anyone else try it leads directly to the death of all innovation.

Just my curiosity, you have been working through this for some time (two years I think). What  materials have you discovered as acceptable? What properties make them so, what materials  are considered traditional by most and what segment of the market do you anticipate the application (Home /private, commercial/ private, institutional / public .....)?

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6 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

Just my curiosity, you have been working through this for some time (two years I think). What  materials have you discovered as acceptable? What properties make them so, what materials  are considered traditional by most and what segment of the market do you anticipate the application (Home /private, commercial/ private, institutional / public .....)?

The main criteria are low conductivity, thermal and moisture stability, low tooling costs, and "naturalness." The market is predominantly home saunas.

Wood is most traditional, and that's where my expertise is, so I started there. In addition to coopered vessels, I've looked at different reductive processes (CNC shaping, mainly) and laminated veneer. Laminated veneer holds some promise, but it's more reliant on adhesives and sealants than I'd like (it's a bit like building a cedar-strip canoe: once you've fiberglassed the whole thing, the wood is largely redundant).

I'm also researching thermally modified wood, toughened glass, ceramic-filled nylon, aluminum, stainless steel, copper, polymer modified gypsums, natural rubber, plastics (mostly HPDE and polycarbonate) and bioplastics. Nothing is off the table, yet.

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27 minutes ago, cdub said:

I'm also researching thermally modified wood, toughened glass, ceramic-filled nylon, aluminum, stainless steel, copper, polymer modified gypsums, natural rubber, plastics (mostly HPDE and polycarbonate) and bioplastics. Nothing is off the table, yet.

Interesting - lots of wood, plastic, stainless, aluminum, copper presently out there from perusing the local websites. It will be interesting to see what you can come up with.

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2 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

Interesting - lots of wood, plastic, stainless, aluminum, copper presently out there from perusing the local websites. It will be interesting to see what you can come up with.

Thanks! I appreciate the feedback. I'll post more if/when a come up with a ceramic prototype. I've done a bit more testing in the last couple of days with unglazed terracotta, and I think durability (impact durability, specifically) will be the main hurdle. It performs really well, otherwise.

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@cdub Have you looked into Richlite or other compressed paper/pulp products? Do the resins hold up at sauna temps? It has become an acceptable and even preferred material for use as fretboards on stringed instruments, as a substitute for ebony, in a market that is incredibly picky about using natural materials. Might be worth trying it. 

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