Fish Out of Water
Spray Foam Magazine – Originally from outside Baltimore, Maryland, Travis Skinner lives on Lummi Island situated in the San Juan Island chain north of Seattle. He’s a skilled woodworker, metalsmith, and sculptor who used a combination of his skills and talents along with his friend, colleague and fellow metalsmith Travis Conn to build the “Anglerfish.”
In 2017 Travis Skinner and Travis Conn embarked on their first collaboration, a journey to design and build what would turn out to be a sauna on wheels. The Anglerfish Sauna is a wood-fired sauna and sculpture stretching 17 feet from front deck to tail.
The final result was a beautiful combination of woodwork, sculpture, and metalwork as well as a working functional sauna on wheels. The Anglerfish, also known as a lantern fish, due to the long pole-like structure that extends from the head over the mouth, uses a bioluminescence light to lure its prey. Travis’s design ingeniously incorporates the same feature, a glass lantern hanging by a pole luring prospective bathers into the sauna. The sculpture is menacing yet uniquely attractive, but unlike the deep blue sea, the sauna bathers’ experiences are all pleasure looking out the glass blown orange/blue eyes from the inside.
The Anglerfish was built from the inside out on a two wheeled trailer that the two Travis’s modified. Exquisite care and thought was put into the whole design, from the exterior metal work with hundreds of scalloped scales coating the body to the tail where a wood burning stove is situated behind a tail-hinged door.
Interior of Anglerfish displaying the uniquely crafted cedar boards.
Closed-cell foam applied to the exterior of the sauna adds structural strength.
The build started with the spine and skeleton frame. Inside green cedar was used to create the walls. Once the walls were up, Travis moved on to the outside. At this point he was able to apply SPF to protect and insulate the sauna. Travis explained to the Spray Foam Magazine team how and why he used spray foam. “We used Froth Pak 650 closed-cell polyurethane foam for the project. I chose it because it was fire resistant, which is important on a wood-fired sauna, and the rigidity of the foam added strength.”
Cedar boards were bent and then furring strips were put on diagonally. The rigid spray foam filled in the cavities adding a structural component to the shell of the fish. Travis says, “It binds everything together so when transporting, the foam deadens the vibration. Functionally it was the ideal material for what I needed.”
Not forgotten in all of this is of course the waterproofing factor for choosing closed-cell foam. Travis tells the SFM team, “When we’re steaming that thing up, it’s going to be an especially wet environment. A lot of insulations lose their R-value when they get wet. The foam was waterproof, so it would perform well even if moisture got through the cedar level.”
Travis used two 25 gallon Froth Pak tanks, similar to propane tanks, and a mixer. Travis told us about the ease of use, “There’s a wand that you spray with and then open the valves. You get one shot at it. It drains those two tanks. Once it hardens, it’s done. It’s really quick and easy to apply.” Travis noted that there was a lot of off-gassing of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) but since he was working outside, wearing a respirator, and wasn’t going to be spraying long, he wasn’t too concerned.
If you’re ever in the Great Northwest keep an eye out on the open road. You might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of this fish out of water, better yet, an opportunity to have a seat inside what Travis affectionately calls “The Belly of the Beast.”
Travis Skinner documented this project in a book, Anglerfish Sauna - Material Based Design & Deep Sea Sculpture. The Anglerfish Sauna is available for sale and is listed at $85,000 or best offer.
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