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Burnt to Perfection: The Shou Sugi Ban Technique

Feb 14th 2022

Yakisugi or Shou Sugi Ban is a traditional Japanese wood preservation technique that involves charring it. Over the years, the popularity of charred wood has been increasing in construction, furniture making, and general woodworking. It's attractive because of the grain patterns that get exposed by the burning and can be used for cladding, siding, fencing, or flooring. Charred wood can be combined with other materials such as concrete or iron to get creative designs and effects.

The Shou Sugi Ban Technique Process

There are four steps to the Shou Sugi Ban technique, including scorching, burning, washing, and finishing.

  • Heat Treatment: The outer layer of the plank undergoes scorching by a propane torch or inside a specialized kiln. The burning results in a carbon film on the board's face which helps protect it from decay. The Yakisugi Shou Sugi ban technique requires expert execution to prevent turning the wood into ash.
  • Burning/Charring: You then burn the top layer of the timber, exposing the distinctive grain pattern and transforming it into a well-decorated material.
  • Surface Prep: It is crucial to remove the excess soot by brushing it (we recommend nylon wire brushes) to remove soot and ash from the wood surface. Next, a high grit sandpaper gently smooths the surface and preps it for staining.
  • Finishing: The last step involves polishing the wood into your required design. You can use natural oil or decide not to oil it and instead enjoy its natural look. Applying the finishing oil polishes the wood's look and enhances its properties.

The History of the Yakisugi Shou Sugi Ban Technique

We can trace the origin of the Shou Sugi Ban to Japan's philosophy of life centered on nature. The way of the ancient Japanese man was to be in close contact with nature and take delight in its gifts. However, people eventually discovered ways of improving upon what nature provided to find more efficient means of doing common daily tasks such as starting a fire or building structures.

Yakisugi Shou Sugi Ban artwork dates back to 17th century Japan, where artisans created masterpieces using a truly remarkable technique, which flourished during that era. To create Yakisugi wood, one begins by erecting a small wooden frame structure and lighting a fire underneath it. Within minutes, the structure burns down but leaves behind a piece of charred wood that resembles black concrete and has distinctive charred-wood grain patterns in it.

Benefits of Japanese-Style Burnt Wood

Many people are starting to go for Japanese-style burnt wood as it adds a unique touch to the house and creates a calming, cozy atmosphere. Here are more benefits:

Durability

In construction, designers often avoid wood since it is prone to fires, pest infestation, and other issues that impact its reliability and durability. The Shou Sugi Ban technique leaves behind a naturally protected barrier against any number of outside conditions, such as moisture or wood-destroying insects. So while Shou Sugi Ban wood may require some upkeep (or not, depending on what type you choose) to keep its aesthetics in good shape, it certainly won't require nearly as much work and polish as regular wood materials!

Prestigious appearance

When you use a Shou Sugi Ban roof, it provides an aesthetically striking appearance that you're sure to love resulting from the natural beauty of raw timber. Styles are limitless as every piece of timber has a unique quality that the Shou Sugi Ban process can exploit.

Cost-effective material

Charred wood will help you save money because it's a low-maintenance material. You can oil it every 10 to 15 years to enhance its polished looks and protective qualities. Additionally, it is environmentally friendly because it does not contain any hazardous chemicals.

Cons of The Shou Sugi Ban Technique

Safety is a must when discussing setting things on fire. The Japanese wood-burning technique is quite dangerous and requires experienced hands. The preservers must be extremely cautious to avoid any injuries.

Labor intensive

The Yakisugi Shou Sugi ban process requires multiple procedures that only turn out well when done by hand. It can be messy, time-consuming, and tiring.

Inconsistent finish

The wood preservation technique provides something relatively unique in that there will never ever be two identical pieces of wood. The big disadvantage is that it can be tricky to achieve a uniform finish.

It can be dangerous

Shou Sugi Ban technique is dangerous because the wood surfaces can flake off and cause injury to those nearby. Also, the charred bits might be trapped in the building or even breathed by the people around.

The Best Woods for Shou Sugi Ban Technique

The following are the best woods for Shou Sugi Ban:

Accoya

Accoya is acetylated pinewood processed before the pine tree reaches maturity. After the tree is acetylated, it does not absorb moisture, and its durability resembles that of a hardwood tree. When burnt, this tree species can last a lifetime, and it is perfect for framing, cladding, and decking.

Spruce

Spruce is the first choice for most people because it is durable, lightweight, and elastic. Also, its light color and patterned grain make this softwood radiate a blue-grey fog-like color. Spruce is mostly used in sturdy constructions, and it is the perfect material for roofing, fencing, decking, and making furniture.

Larch

Larch trees have chemical properties that make them insect and mold-resistant. Fire aesthetically alters this tree, creating a clear contrast between its alluring grain patterns and the surface of the wood. Scorched larch has a bold appearance making it a favorite material for building floors, walls, stairs, and roofs.

Pine

Pine is a durable tree species that doesn't swell. It has anti-fatigue properties, making it ideal for decking, stairs, and floors. Pine has a heavily saturated grain pattern with decorative elements when charred.

Cedar

These trees do well in damp climates and adapt well to moisture. They are naturally resistant to rot and decay for almost half a decade. Cedar trees smell great, repel insects, and are excellent for thermal and sound isolation. You can use burnt cedar trees for decking, blinding, and gardening projects.

Where to Use Charred Wood Products

Charred wood products are suitable for interior and exterior design projects. Here are a few areas to use Shou Sugi Ban wood:

Fence

Do you need something that stands out in the neighborhood? You will have a fashionable, waterproof, insect-resistant fence with burnt wood.

Façade

You've probably already heard that charred cedar is an excellent option for cladding, but did you know it's also perfect for the facade of an elegant and well-kept home? Cedar is authentic and traditional and will give you the look you want if your building projects must live through time.

Floor and Deck

Flooring is something you'll use every day. But after a long stressful day, we doubt anyone will want to relax on anything except their deck. Burnt wood offers durable flooring and deck boards that are the perfect surfaces to lounge on when you're ready to have some fun relaxing time.

Furniture

The beauty of a shou sugi ban wooden furniture is unbeatable. The waterproof properties also make it an excellent choice for tabletops.

FAQs

Does shou sugi ban technique wood require regular maintenance?

Yes, it requires maintenance because any timber exposed to weather elements requires maintenance at one point or another. However, charred timber lasts longer without maintenance, and maintaining your charred wood involves recoating it with natural oil.

Which timber species are the best for charring?

The type of wood you choose determines the level of durability. Different species of timber burn differently depending on their density. Hardwood trees take longer to char while softwoods char much quicker, resulting in a thicker char layer. The best species for charring are softwoods such as cedar and pinewood.

How long does shou sugi ban wood last?

Shou Sugi Ban has higher durability because of the carbon layer on the charred timber, which tends to be much thicker than the normal coatings and oils. The timber species determine how long charred timber lasts and the environment where the cladding is installed.

Are there alternatives to the shou sugi ban technique?

If you want to avoid potential safety hazards and achieve a consistent finishing with no hard work involved, there is an alternative method to at least get a similar look. Some products have been designed to replicate the appearance and feel of Shou Sugi Ban. Specially painted metal panels are just one option in many that allow you to emulate burnt wood's exact look and feel.

What oils are best for shou sugi ban?

The Shou Sugi Ban technique is not complete without applying the best oil. The best oil for this process varies according to the user, but as long as you apply a natural oil to allow it to soak in and dry, you will be good to go. Applying a second and third layer of oil coat is advisable to ensure that the entire woodblock has absorbed enough oil.

Can I DIY the shou sugi ban technique as a beginner?

Yes, you can. With the right equipment such as a propane torch, favorable timber species, and natural oil, you can do this process at your home. Do not try executing the complex projects alone as they are dangerous and are better left for professionals.

Are You Fired-up for Beauty and Excellence?

The Shou Sugi Ban technique is an art form perfected over the centuries to protect wood against damage caused by insects, weather, and moisture damage. However, if not executed with care, it can ruin the natural beauty of a piece of wood.

If you are not acquainted with this technique you can hire an experienced party to create Shou Sugi Ban wood designs on their behalf. It's also worth investigating reputable providers of these materials who are doing their very best to ensure that the timeless Japanese technique remains alive and supported in the modern world!