Shou Sugi Ban: Japanese Wood Preservation Is A Hit In The US

Shou sugi ban is a wood preservation technique from Japan. Preserving wood to retain its natural beauty is not easy, but it’s also not rocket science. The Japanese wood burning technique is becoming more popular among US homeowners striving to reduce their carbon footprint.

Burnt Wood Finish

A burnt wood finish is a unique way to decorate wood. Charred wood offers visual appeal. If you want to create a rustic farmhouse vibe, shou sugi ban would be your best option. 

“Shou sugi ban” is the Japanese expression for “burning wood.” The original technique involved burning cypress wood to make it more sustainable. Its popularity diminished during the 20th century due to the development of the chemical industry.

As more people embrace green building technology, they’re discovering the benefits of shou sugi ban. In recent years. charred timber cladding has become popular. If you’re not familiar with the Japanese wood burning technique, we’ll show you what it is and how it visually impact your home.  

What Is Shou Sugi Ban?

The idea of burning wood to preserve it may seem ironic to most Westerners. Among the Japanese, the technique make sense. A burnt wood finish is applied to wood by burning the surface. There are many different ways to do this. You can use a torch, for example. The process darkens wood surfaces while also giving them texture. 

The result creates a contrasting look for wood surfaces. After, the wood can be stained, sealed, or painted.. To know more about charred wood finishes, you should learn about its origins. 

History Of Shou Sugi Ban

Shou Sugi Ban

Shou sugi ban is known as “yakisugi” in Japan. The ancient Japanese technique for preserving wood has been practiced for thousands of years. In English, shou sugi ban means “burnt cedar board.”

The wood was originally burnt with a wooden torch or flame. Today, a blow torch is used on the wood.  It creates an obsidian-like layer on wood. 

Benefits Of Shou Sugi Ban

Shou sugi ban offers many benefits. Here are a few characteristics of the wood burning technique:

  • Moisture-Resistant – when wood is burned, the charred wood has a protective shield that safeguards it against moisture. Add another shield of sealer and you have a well-protected moisture barrier.
  • Insect-Repellant – it’s an organic fungicide and pesticide to protect wood. The fire kills the nutrients that insects are attracted to. When the pH value of wood is increased, it reduces the threat of termites.
  • Fire-Resistant – shou sugi ban vaporizes the cellulose layer of wood. Then you are left with the less-flammable layers that can resist fire.
  • Gorgeous Contrast –  get the most out of the tones of your wood and add new tones that aren’t there naturally. 
  • More Texture – adding a layer of burned wood finish adds texture. 

Coloring Wood With Shou Sugi Ban In 4 Simple Steps

Colored Burned Wood Finish

You’ll need a propane torch or something similar. Any fire source would be sufficient, but a propane torch offers faster results. 

Step 1: Burning Wood

Shou Sugi Ban

The wood should be natural. When burning wood, make sure you’re in a safe place. Make sure nobody is near you. Gloves and protective eyewear will be necessary.

During the burning process, stand one foot away from the wood. Slowly work closer to the wood. You’ll need to decide which is the proper distance. Burn the wood using a zigzag pattern.  

Step 2: Brush The Wood

Shou Sugi Ban

Gently scrape the top surface with a wire brush. The purpose is break up the charred as on the wood’s surface. Do not scratch the wood. You only want to focus on the charred surface.

After you’ve brushed the char away, wipe the wood surface with a paper towel or soft microfiber cloth. You want to remove the remaining ash.

Step 3: Staining

Shou Sugi Ban

Staining is the most important part of the finishing process. Use a water-based clear tint stain. You’ll need to mix the stain with a clear base stain. This allows you to customize the color and transparency of your stain.

Apply the first coat of stain, and then wipe it off after a few seconds. Play with this until you discover color hue you want. A thin stain layer will allow the burnt wood to shine through.  

Step 4: Sanding

Sanding the wood burnt finish

For this step, you should use 220 grit sandpaper. This will get the best natural wood look without removing the stain. Be gentle and sand the spots that you want the natural look of the wood to shine through the most.

The goal is to create a contrast for your wood with colored areas that are darker, black areas, and natural wood areas. It isn’t rocket science.. Take your time and watch what you’re doing. 

Shou Sugi Ban Tips And Tricks

shou sugi ban tips

The following tips and tricks prevent accidents. They can help you get started with your project.

Test First

Before you begin your project do a test run on a piece that you aren’t going to use. This can be a sample or a scrap. Just anything that it’s okay if you mess up. 

In this case, you will burn a small piece of wood and then sand it. Do the stain or whatever it is you are planning on doing for the whole project. Make sure everything turns out well before beginning. 

Wood Grain

Wide grains will end up with thicker lines and less contrast because the grains will be thicker and blacker. When you finish burning the wood, you might find that the wood is darker if the wide grains are raised. 

For a more traditional look, medium grain is used. If they are too close together they will run together and not give a definite contrast either. You want a fairly equal amount of both raised and sunken grain. 

Tree Species 

Cedar is the original shou sugi ban wood because it is soft and the top burns easily and quickly. It is often used to create burned wood designs as well as stamped wood.

It works for this reason but it’s not the only option. Other options include pine and spruce, with more exotic species being great too. Check with the exact species you use in order to find out if it is a good option. 

Brush The Wood

Brush the wood with the torch when you burn it. Pretend that the torch has an invisible bristle brush that you need to use on the wood. Pretend like you are lightly painting it. This can help you get the right pattern.

Sand After

You may sand the wood lightly after you “brush” it with the flame, but you don’t want to do so before. This will eliminate the texture and the uneven grain that makes the burned wood what it should be. 

Instead, actually, look for wood that is texture and not sanded. Unfinished wood is perfect and the more imperfect it is, the better it usually is for shou sugi ban. 

Keep Flames Short

Even if you are a foot away from the wood, you want to keep the flame short. The short flame will give a more even and easier to control burn. Long flames are difficult to control and could leave you with accidents. 

Add Tung Oil

If you want a rough, rustic look then don’t do anything to your wood surface after you burn it. For a softer look that offers better protection, apply a linseed or tung oil.

The oils will give your wood surface a shiny glow and better protection. You should only have to reapply the oil once every ten years. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Are The Benefits Of Charred Timber Cladding?

Black burnt wood cladding doesn’t require the use of chemicals. After the wood is charred, it’s protected from wood rot and insects. Charred wood cladding will last a lifetime and also doesn’t require you to apply added layers of protection.

How Much Does Shou Sugi Ban Siding Cost?

Depending on the size of your home, shou sugi ban siding costs between $7,500 and $50,000. Contractors will charge between $3 and $27 per square foot.

Can Shou Sugi Ban Be Applied To Wood Furniture?

Shou Sugi Ban can be applied to any kind of furniture. The Japanese wood burning technique works great with outdoor furniture.  

Shou Sugi Ban: Wrap Up

There are many ways to preserve wood. The shou sugi ban technique is a popular method of preserving wood in Japan. It is used in the US and its popularity is growing. 

You can apply shou sugi ban to wood species other than Japanese cedar. The technique is good for exterior siding and wood furniture. If you’re looking for an organic method for preserving wood, shou sugi ban offers the best results.