Shou Sugi Ban
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Shou sugi ban (pronounced show-sue-gee-ban) is the ancient Japanese art of burning wood to preserve it. Used for thousands of years, this technique has exploded in the United States and worldwide as not only a wood-preserving method but also a popular aesthetic used in building and artwork.
The process starts by using a blow torch to char the outer layer of wood. Upon cooling the planks are brushed, cleaned and sealed using a natural oil. The carbonized outer layer of the wood now protects and preserves naturally. In addition, with the brushing that removes the residue of the charring, the creation of an alligator-like texture appears. The result is stunning.
hou sugi ban evolved in eighteenth-century Japan as a way to build housing using a readily available building material—Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica). Japanese builders had to consider the local climate, which can be humid with extreme temperature fluctuations between seasons. Additionally, homes lining Japan’s coastline contend with salty ocean spray, which can wear down a building’s cladding and decking. The shou sugi ban technique provided a cost-effective way of weatherproofing Japanese homes. Burnt cedar siding naturally resists destructive environmental elements, and its appealing matte finish and relatively simple manufacturing process have contributed to its lasting popularity.
The traditional Japanese technique for shou sugi ban, or yakisugi, involves Japanese red cedar, which grows natively on the islands of Japan. In the western hemisphere, sourcing Japanese cedar can be difficult, so builders often opt for western red cedar. Other wood species that can work include hemlock, southern cypress, pine, and basswood. Though softwoods like cedar are ideal for shou sugi ban, you can use hardwoods like oak and maple, though they may not prove as durable.
The most common species of wood used is cedar and cypress. The procedure holds the wood:
- weather resistant
- pest resistant
- rot resistant
- UV resistant
- Fire resistant
Videos are plentiful on YouTube demonstrating burning and brushing methods to achieve various finishes and can be a great DIY project.