Shou Sugi Ban - Fire and Wood

There seems to be a resurgence of a wood finishing technique called Shou Sugi Ban which essentially is charring wood to waterproof it. Shou Sugi Ban (焼杉板) originated in Japan in the 18th century primarily as a way to treat cedar siding to make it weatherproof. The finished result (called Yakisugi) creates a unique texture and colouring that cannot be achieved with stain.

What is old is new

I’ve just recently started applying this finish to a few different projects and I am absolutely in love with this technique. After brushing away the charred wood, you are left with a texture of the harder grains that give the piece a textured feel unlike sanding a finished product to 220 grit. The colouring on woods such as pine is something you cannot achieve with stain, it has it’s own unique colour.

Over the last few weeks it seems to me that this method of finishing is being rekindled and is showing up more and more on sites like Instagram. When done properly, this can bring a unique characteristic to any piece of furniture or wood product.

Process

Below is a quick video I did on Instagram of the process. It is a simple process yet I’m finding people are not completing the whole process and calling wood they’ve just burnt “Shou Sugi Ban”. Wood burnt and left on is just that, bunt wood. It’s important to brush away the charred soot that’s left on the piece so that oil can be properly applied to the wood and allow the real texture to shine through.