Shou Sugi Ban

Shou Sugi Ban is the Japanese method of protecting wood against fire, wind, rain, rot and insects by…setting it on fire.  WC STUDIO is always looking for interesting methods to use recycled materials and Shou-Sugi-Ban seemed like a good option for a fence project we had going on at the Chicago 3-Flat Renovation.  

After researching all the stains and sealers that are necessary to preserve wood from insects and rot, we started looking for a finish that was a little more natural.  We came across a traditional Japanese method of burning wood to char the outside 1/8″, Shou-Sugi-Ban.  The char protects the wood from weather and insects and gives it a crocodile scaly texture.  We decided to alternate the charred boards with natural boards to really highlight the difference between them.

Pay attention to your choice of wood species, a softer, durable and stable lumber works best like cedar or pine.. Traditionally, cryptomeria japonica was used for Shou-Sugi-Ban. You’ll want to get a good char depth on the surface, aim for 1/8”. After you’ve charred the wood, you may want to clean the surface with a wire brush to open up the grain. You’ll notice the character of the wood will change to a dark brown color. If you feel that it needs a coat of oil, use boiled linseed oil. You can use a rag to work a few coats into the wood.

When Shou-Sugi-Ban is exposed to weather and UV rays, it will naturally wear. There are many projects that have held up against the elements for 50+ years.


Here is the process we used:
Step 1: We used the traditional Japanese method of binding three cedar boards together forming a triangular tube.
Step 2: We started a fire at the bottom of the boards with newspaper and coaxed the flame up the inside for 5-7 minutes.
Step 3: Once the fire reached the top of the boards, we laid them down and sprayed the fire out with a garden hose.
Step 4: After allowing the planks time to cool, we mounted them to the garden fence gate alternating between charred and natural finish.

Cady Chintis