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The technique of Shou Sugi Ban / Yakisugi

Recent days have brought a heatwave, devastating fire and storms. In the article about Shou Sugi Ban, we would like to show you that the destructive element of fire can also bring such extraordinary effects as it is in the case of fired boards. Shou Sugi Ban, or Yakisugi, is a technique of treating wood with fire, leaving a charred surface on it. Seems a little extreme? Well, it’s an old Japanese therapy that has come back to the present day and sets new trends in architecture.

It can be used for many types of wood and in various forms, most often as facade boards, cladding, fencing and terrace boards. Shou Sugi Ban uses the Yakisugi method to carbonize the wood. Yakisugi is a traditional Japanese technique for preserving wood. Yaki means using fire and sugi refers to traditional Japanese cedar (soft wood native to Japan).

Yakisugi has become a popular technique in Japan as a way to treat cedar siding to make it strong and waterproof; there is evidence to suggest that the practice dates back to the 18th century. The technique has been extremely popular as a way to create beautiful, durable wood. Shou Sugi Ban fell out of favor in the 20th century with the advent of plastics and the rising cost of wood. 21st century architects and designers have picked up and revived this centuries-old practice that has once again become popular in exterior and interior cladding designs due to its aesthetic, durable charred finish.

The Shou Sugi Ban / Yakisugi technique

The right choice of wood is crucial. The best type of wood to use for Shou Sugi Ban is open cell wood – in keeping with the Japanese tradition. This is partly because there must be a minimum notch depth during application to contain the burned effect due to weather conditions. This depth is more difficult to achieve on hardwood. However, Japanese cedar – as an example – is a lighter, more porous wood, which makes the charring process much easier.

The wood is charred using burners which generate a temperature of over 1800 ° C. Additionally, for proper protection you will need a brush, oil and rags to complete the task. Depending on the wood species, profile, finish and oils used, the end product can vary considerably. Charred wood can be finished with oil to improve its appearance and durability.