In the midst of the Edo period, Japanese cultural flourish gave birth to an ingenious wood preservation method — the Shou Sugi Ban. This technique emerged after Japanese craftsmen realized the benefits of charred wood as a cladding material. The method turned out to be so useful that it managed to withstand the ravages of time and find a place in contemporary architecture.
The application of Shou Sugi Ban is limitless, with the method turning both interior and exterior home elements into durable, state-of-the-art structures. A faithful companion of imagination, it allows everyone to decorate and protect their dwelling as they wish. With its mesmerizing history and technique, the method’s emotional undertone breathes through the strong structures of your home, giving it a unique charm.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Shou Sugi Ban Technique?
- The History of Shou Sugi Ban
- Benefits of Japanese-Style Burnt Wood
- Best Woods for Shou Sugi Ban
- The Difference Between Yakisugi and Shou Sugi Ban
- Degmeda’s Take on Shou Sugi Ban
- Our Shou Sugi Ban Products
- Where Can You Use Our Charred Wood Products?
- Floor and Deck
- DIY Shou Sugi Ban Projects for Beginners
- How to Order
What Is the Shou Sugi Ban Technique?
Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese method of preserving wood by charring it (feel free to read our blog post “What is Shou Sugi Ban” to find out more). Charred wood is particularly appealing because of the grain patterns that get exposed through the burning process and is mostly used for cladding/siding, decking, siding, fencing, or flooring. The wood also protects your home from fire, moisture, and insects. By combining it with materials like iron, cement, and glass, this wood turns your final woodwork results into elaborate ones.
This technique of preserving wood and bringing out its inner beauty involves four consecutive steps:
- Scorching the plank’s outer layer with a propane torch or inside a specialized kiln. This forms a carbon film on the board’s face, protecting it from decay. The delicate technique could turn wood into ash if not properly done.
- Burning the top layer of timber will also reveal its exceptional grain pattern, transforming it into a decorative material. Before the grain graces your eyes, however, you’ll need to remove the excess soot by bristle-brushing it. The longer you brush the plank, the lighter and smoother it gets.
- Washing the wood to cool it down and clean it.
- Optionally finishing the board with natural oil. Not oiling the board helps you celebrate wood’s natural look. The finishing oil, however, polishes wood’s look and enhances its properties.
Defining Shou Sugi Ban sheds light on the method’s broad application. While its initial purpose was to introduce benefits to the Japanese façade, burnt wood today is the go-to option for engraving art into both simple and complex projects.
The History of Shou Sugi Ban
Shou Sugi Ban’s history is the fruit of Japan’s nature-praising philosophy of life. Kindled by the need for practical improvements, the idea of using trees for house-making was the way of the common Japanese man to stay close with nature and find happiness in its gifts.
A tactful play between wood and fire, this Japanese method of charring wood dates back to the 18th century. The 1700s were Japan’s golden age, with people excelling both intellectually and culturally. However, villagers were still able to influence these fertile cultural grounds, and Shou Sugi Ban was the tool they used.
In the beginning, craftsmen burnt wood by erecting a tipi-like structure made of partially dried planks. At its bottom, they’d start a fire. As the fire burned, temperatures within the timber tipi would rise to over 400˚C, charring the boards in minutes.
It will take years before the method gets industrialized and performed as today. However, thanks to its benefits, charred wood manages to stand out from other construction materials even today.
Benefits of Japanese-Style Burnt Wood
What the wood loses to the fire, it gains in benefits (read our blog post: “The Benefits of Charred Wood Siding“). It becomes a product worth a spot on the market only when it’s brushed, washed, and optionally finished.
Properly preserved charred wood is waterproof because of the effect that charring has on its pores. As the plank burns, its pores shrink to the degree that makes it impossible for the wood to absorb moisture.
Mold thrives in moisture and feeds on the carbohydrates in the wood to survive. Since fire is detrimental to both moisture and cellulose in the timber’s top layers, there is zero chance for mold, termites, and insects to find food and a nurturing environment within charred timber.
Once fire-treated on the surface, it is nearly impossible for burnt wood to reignite again. Burning is a chemical reaction that is unlikely to happen if a layer of carbon coats the plank. Charred wood is, therefore, extremely fire-resistant.
The former benefits of Japanese-style burnt wood make it a long-lasting material with a lifespan of 100 years and more! If properly sealed, this wood is immune to rotting and decay, protecting inner building structures from spontaneously decomposing as well.
Not screaming ‘protection’ is what makes charred timber the ideal façade solution. Thanks to the variety of grain patterns between softwood species, timber can help you personalize and stylize your home’s interior and exterior.
Charred wood is a bang for your buck, not a bang in your buck. It’s a low-maintenance and cost-effective material that needs oiling every 10 to 15 years to preserve its polished looks and protective qualities. Since it contains no chemicals that are hazardous to the environment, charred timber is also incredibly environmentally-friendly.
Best Woods for Shou Sugi Ban
Shou Sugi Ban works best on the following types of softwood:
Accoya is acetylated pine wood, processed right when the pine tree enters adulthood. After it’s acetylated, the wood can no longer absorb moisture and becomes similar in durability to hardwood. This wood lasts for about 50 years and is ideal for cladding, framing, garden constructions, decking, and doors.
Lightweight, durable, and elastic, spruce is the first choice for many. It’s light in color and heavily-patterned with a bright, semi-accented grain. Once charred, the wood radiates a blue-gray fog-like hue, which is awesome for a calming ambient. Spruce is irreplaceable in sturdy constructions and is a suitable material for your floor, deck, roof, fence, and furniture.
The insect and mold-resistant larch gives the woodwork a personality. Its chemical properties let fire aesthetically alter it, deepening the contrast between the larch’s alluring grain pattern and the wood’s surface. Due to its bold appearance, you usually see it on floors, stairs, walls, roofs, and façades.
Pinewood is durable, and it doesn’t shrink or swell. Its shock resilience makes it a smart material to use for your floor, deck, or stairs. With a heavily-saturated grain pattern, pine is perfect for spaces that need refreshing decorative elements.
Cedar trees grow in damp climate conditions and adapt to moisture. Their origin makes them rock-solid and resistant to rot and decay for 40 years. These trees also smell great, repel insects, and are great for thermal and sound isolation. Decks, blinds, garden projects, and even entire façades are often made of cedar.
The Difference Between Yakisugi and Shou Sugi Ban
The relationship between Shou Sugi Ban and Yakisugi is peculiar.
Back in the day, Japan didn’t have its own written script, so they adapted the Chinese kanji to the Japanese language. The kanji were pronounced differently in Japanese and Chinese, depending on a word’s linguistic origin. The sounds that didn’t have a kanji symbol had a hiragana or a katakana one. Because of the complicated language situation, Yakisugi (which means ‘burnt cypress’) was mistranslated to ‘Shou Sugi Ban.’
To avoid confusion, we at Degmeda consider Yakisugi and Shou Sugi Ban to be two names of the same method. We also understand that Yakisugi is the more traditional variation of the two. However, even though we practice Yakisugi, we use the two pronunciations interchangeably, as does the rest of the world.
Degmeda’s Take on Shou Sugi Ban
Tradition is essential for the flawlessness of Shou Sugi Ban. It’s at the core of everything we do at Degmeda.
The way we practice Yakisugi shows our uttermost respect for the wood charring teachings of the Far East. With the help of modern technology, we can meet clients’ needs faster, without altering the centuries-old Yakisugi method. We craft our products from responsibly-traded wood and offer a variety of beautiful Yakisugi products. Our professional services can help you develop your project plan and give you a clear picture of how you’d like your home to be stylized. We also offer assistance with finding wood installation teams and are available for any questions you might have.
Shou Sugi Ban or Yakisugi is the woodworking branch we’re most involved in, and our projects gallery can witness that. Here is a list of the services we offer:
Our Shou Sugi Ban Products
Our skilled professionals use the Yakisugi technique to process softwoods best for charring. In our shop, you can find Yakisugi-processed Accoya, spruce, pine, larch, and cedar planks and wood corners with unique chemical and decorative properties.
Our Accoya charred wood has an unobtrusive tone and texture to inspire a relaxing scenery. The wood’s grain appears sunk within its layers, and one can note subtle transitions between the soft colors on the surface.
Fire-treated spruce comes in soft brown and gray. The planks have simple, earthy colors that resemble those of trees and nature.
Our dark Shou Sugi Ban pinewood has a nicely-textured body with a tactile feel to it. With these qualities, pinewood brings the aesthetics of 3D texture into your home.
Charred Siberian larch is attractive and stylish. If you want to make a statement of elegance and boldness, larch and its elaborate grain patterns won’t let you down.
In most cases, cedarwood keeps its grain pattern even after charring, but you can also find boards with their pattern greatly underscored. The surface of this durable wood is always hypnotizing regardless of its planned appearance.
Installing charred timber corners will help you accent the contours of your woodwork and make it stand out. Our corners prioritize the shape of wooden structures and protect their most sensitive spot: their edges.
When entrusted to professionals, Shou Sugi Ban results in an abundance of burnt wood styles. It’s all a matter of choosing how accented the grain pattern should be in relation to the board’s texture and color. From burning the wood ever so slightly to cracking its surfaces into deep-char textures—a board’s transformation can take different directions and inspire many creative design solutions.
Where Can You Use Our Charred Wood Products?
At Degmeda, we make long-lasting products that could become the basis of your next interior or exterior design project. Our current product assortment can help you materialize your planned wooden façade, deck, fence, or floor.
Our products will give you an elegant, elements-resistant, and low-maintenance facade that will express your unique take on style. Cedar is the most popular wood for cladding, but you can also choose spruce, pine, or any other wood that we offer for your facade.
Floor and Deck
You use your floor every day, and when it’s time to relax, you very likely do it on your deck. Degmeda offers durable decking and flooring boards treated with hybrid water-based oil to support you in your activities inside your home and in your yard.
Your fence guards you and your home, and we believe that it should do that with style. Fashionable, waterproof, and insect-resistant, our products will make your fencing everything it should be outdoors.
DIY Shou Sugi Ban Projects for Beginners
Making interesting additions to your home with Shou Sugi Ban is fun and fulfilling. Woodworking enthusiasts that are starting to dip their toes into woodworking could try making one of these pieces of furniture and see how it goes:
You’ll do a better job with these projects if you follow these tips:
- Dry your boards before you scorch them to char them faster.
- Move your torch over the board slowly to avoid uneven fire patterns.
- Hold the torch three or four feet above the board to avoid concentrated burns on the wood, which could distort its smooth look.
- Use a propane torch to control the intensity of your flame.
- If you don’t have a proper ventilator, always char your planks in the open air to prevent a fire outburst and inhalation of hazardous fumes.
- Use safety goggles and gloves for protection.
- To not hurt yourself, avoid using the method on windy days.
- Always have a fire extinguisher around.
- Test how the wood reacts to fire before getting started to know how to best use your torch on it.
- If your plank is painted, remove the paint first so you don’t inhale it.
Even though these tips might be great for simpler woodworking ideas, they will not be of much use for complex projects. These types of projects are not suitable for experimentation and skill-building through trial and error. In fact, trying to become better at Yakisugi this way can stress you out and hurt the structure of your woodwork. Therefore, leave complex projects to experienced professionals like the ones we have at Degmeda and enjoy the final result’s guaranteed quality and beauty.
How to Order
To order a product from Degmeda, go to the Products page and check out our catalog. If you have any questions about our products and services, please contact us and we’ll gladly answer. We also have a gallery with ongoing and finished projects where you can see what we’ve done for other clients. You can access all of these sections from the top of our page.