The Shou Sugi Ban Guide

Modern building practices frequently utilize materials and designs that cause destruction or detriment to the surrounding ecosystem and use resources that might be cheap to purchase but are costly to the Earth.

Fortunately for the Earth, a plethora of jobs out there are after the “usage and value renewable resources and services” principle together with construction techniques and materials.

One common all-natural source to use is timber. Timber products are renewable in the sense that you could plant more trees, or by recycling wood. But can we build wood in a pure way, which also means the building will continue?


…The brief answer is ‘yes’, although a number of those methods used could be surprising. Among those things you most likely want to safeguard your wooden structure out of would be the destructive power of the flame. However, fire is also utilized, paradoxically, to protect the wood.

I discovered a technique that entails charring the wood to the outside of your building from Kentucky-born Mikale De Graff, who states that a few conventional buildings on his hometown in the USA has been seen using this technique on their architectural timber beams and claddings. I worked with De Graff in Pak Chong, Thailand, who had been living in Asia for the past couple of years and what he showed me is adapted in the Japanese traditional Shou Sugi Ban (焼杉板), which literally means “burnt cedar timber”, by “Yakusugi” which means “cedar”.


Originated in Japan, Shou Sugi Ban has been used for centuries, traditionally used for cedar timber, though this kind of wood has its own history of issues in the nation, concerning the production of economically-viable large population of cedars following World War 2 that caused the disturbance or destruction of several ecosystems.

But if you should pay a visit to Japan and visit Nara prefecture you might come across the Horyuji Temple, the pagoda that is constructed entirely with shou sugi ban and that is widely regarded as the “oldest wooden building in the world” — dating back to 711 AD. A good illustration of the efficacy of the technique!

What I heard differs from the early artwork in the instrument I used for its real charring was an oxygen and propane-powered blowtorch — not that common back from the 8th century.

Although Shou Sugi Ban has become rather popular with architects throughout the world and there’s quite a great deal of internet info about it, I haven’t been able to detect the initial technique, even though it probably entailed directing fire at an identical way to a blowtorch. Its applications, however, can be seen from buildings such as this art hotel in Hobart utilising these industrial looking timber on their interiors.

Below is a step-by-step guide of exactly what I did. A number of the steps could be altered in accordance with your materials or tastes so don’t hesitate to experiment.


Here are what I used along with suggestions for options:

Planks of wood these could be any form. I utilized rectangular planks that were rescued from a demolished home. It is suggested to cut the wood into the size you need before participating in the charring as it is possible sawing will hinder the charred components and you might have to take action *

A blowtorch — the one that I used has two pipes that combine together in the head of the flashlight, the pipes resulting from different gas canisters, one for oxygen and one for propane.

A fire lighter — obviously, to light the flame. Matches could do the job too but your run of the mill gas lighter is simpler.

A brush for cleansing the timber after charring

Oil and a fabric to use it you are able to use most oil with this. Concerning utilizing sustainable and natural sources non-fossil-fuel-based oil is more powerful. We’re using canola oil since it is economical and widely available in my local area. Some natural wood-finishing oils that are commonly used are tung and linseed oil.

Vinegar to combine with the oil (optional) — that will be to repel pests while the finish dries. The vinegar we utilized was home-made starfruit (Averrhoa carambola) vinegar since there was a good deal of it at the area we live; nevertheless it would appear that the sweetness of this starfruit counteracted the insect-repelling qualities because there were still rather lots of these around.


1. Establish your workspace

You have to have sufficient room to maintain the blowtorch about 5-12cm over the wood and also to guide the flames across the entire length of the board, or whatever wood you’re using. It’s highly advisable to site the location at which you can perform the charring at a location where there aren’t that many avenues of electricity crossing it, by way of instance from an immediate breeze.

It is a fantastic idea to establish the blowtorch ahead so that you can check the amount of the pipe and ensure you put out the pipe in a manner that there’s minimal danger of setting fire to it. You can also check the head of this blowtorch is at a comfortable place that you maintain it over the timber, in which the pipe isn’t being stretched.

2. Lay out your planks prepared

In case you’ve got a high number of boards for charring, and you are likely to cover an entire wall cladding with wood, it is more energy efficient to put out them prepared so you are able to move quickly from one to another. Remember that after 1 plank is completed it’ll be warm to the touch and requires a few minutes to cool until you are able to pick up it; if you’re wearing gloves you might likely nudge it out of the manner or make use of your own foot.

3. Light the flame

Take the head of this blowtorch on your hands. Twist the dial of the toaster so that it is marginally open- significantly less than halfway. Afterward, pointing the blowtorch from whatever it may damage (for example your own face!) Simply take the lighter and light the fire. The blowtorch will exude a big, orange fire. Carefully turn the flow of this oxygen just a little way open.

The fire will turn from big and orange into a focused blueish jet. It is possible to fine-tune the jet to receive a fantastic balance of oxygen and propane: whenever the hissing noise is down to some minimal level this is most likely a fantastic location. You would like the fire to be focused, blue and powerful enough to burn off the timber from approximately 12cm away. You could always fix these settings as soon as you start burning off, but it is well worth spending a time fine-tuning the jet in the start to get you started at a successful setting.

4. Locate a space and begin charring

As previously mentioned, the elevation over the timber that you wish to maintain the blowtorch is most likely between 5 and 12cm away. It is dependent upon your tastes, for instance, if you would rather focus the flame at a more compact area or want to distribute it out but with less power.

You can tell when you have the blowtorch from a distance and when you hold it over the timber the fire comes as a jet and spreads out connected with the wood, making a sort of orange star-like impact by which you may see the sparkling orange charcoals forming.

As soon as you’ve discovered this sweet spot, simply start moving up and down the board, systematically charring every component of it. When the boards will be touching each other once you set them in your wall you do not have to char the border; it is just the components that will be exposed to the external elements which you have to focus on. If, however, you are planning it for a timber beam (such as this accommodation in Hobart Waterfront which uses rough hewn wooden beams in its hotel rooms), you might have to char all sides of the timber piece.

When the components that are exposed to the exterior are black, that is enough. From time to time, particularly when you’re only starting, you might char a bit too much and generated burnt ash stains – that is fine since it is possible to remove them once you brush the timber.

5. Permit the wood to cool

Prior to transferring the completed charred boards it is suggested to leave them for a few moments to help make them easier to deal with.

6. Brush

Take the brush and then rub the charred planks vigorously in order to eliminate the surplus burned components. It is suggested to do this to the ground or to put on a mask so you don’t inhale those components. When the grain of the timber becomes visible the planks will all be set to be oiled.

7. Oil

Before oiling, be sure to have the oil in the right container and, even if you feel it’s required, add about 1 teaspoon to 5 parts oil. Take the cloth and dip it in the oil, then squeezing it out, then rub it on the boards. This will produce a subtle sheen, based on the sort of wood and also the sort of acrylic, can make some quite impressive color effects. As soon as you’ve coated all the planks with a single layer, make them dry then apply an additional coat.

8. Put in place

Now your boards are prepared to be set in place. These shou sugi ban boards could persist for a great hundred years before requiring any type of servicing — in which after that time period you (or your descendants) might want to replicate the procedure to extend the preservation.

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