Shou sugi ban – Japanese technique of preserving wood

Shou Sugi Ban 焼 杉 板 (or Yakisugi) is an ancient Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood by charring it. Traditionally, Sugi, (Cryptomeria japonica or Cupressus japonica L.f.) commonly called Japanese cedar, was used. It is still a popular tradition in the Okayama Prefecture of Japan.

Nowadays, designers and architects use other species of wood like western red cedar, douglas fir, cyprus, pine and oak. The process involves charring the wood, cooling it, cleaning it, and finishing it with a natural oil. Although time consuming, the final product is not only gorgeous, with its rich, silvery finish; the charred wood also resists fire, rot, insects, and can last up to 80 years.

Today Shou Sugi Ban is an environmentally friendly way to preserve timber and (paradoxically) make it fire-resistant. Chemical preservatives, paints, and retardants are therefore unnecessary. In addition to exterior uses, the popular technique is now found in interior rooms, furniture, and artwork.
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So what do you think about this wood preserving technique? Maybe you already have some experience – feel free to share it!
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This article has 4 Comments

  1. Back in the mid’70’s I built a Western Red Cedar door in a garden wall for friends using this technique and the wood is still in great shape after all these years of weathering. At the time, I did it for the color and to enhance the surface by raising the grain but I also knew by my own observation that there was some preservative action after seeing partially burned stumps out in the timber, still rock hard under the char but decayed where not charred. The Northwest woods are full of examples.

  2. My Brother refinished an old wooden rocking chair ,, he used a torch to burn the wood grain ,, its absolutely gorgeous !!

  3. We just charred our fence posts before they go in the ground……instead of placing in concrete or on metal spikes like they do nowdays. Its an old tradition here in Europe as well, and we wanted to return to using natural methods.

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