I have recently discovered Shou sugi ban, and I must admit I am totally loving the look. For this project, I wanted to use Unicorn spit to add some colour to the wood. I only used a green stain for this project but with the Shou sugi ban burning I ended up with so many cool colours.
Unicorn Spit House Number
Find Suitable wood
Before I started my first Shou sugi ban project, I did a few tests on different scraps of wood to see how each one burnt. In my opinion, pine gave the most dramatic results for what I had in mind. I wanted to see the texture in the wood between the wood grain. For this project, I repurposed an old clock I made a few years ago. It got moved outside and eventually, the sun took all the colour out of the photos. So I wanted to repurpose it into a new number for my house.
Burning the wood
I used a propane blow torch to burn the wood. The idea is to burn the wood until it starts to form cracks on the surface.
You can always go back and burn the wood again if you are not happy with the results. You will also notice that the grain does not crack like the wood in between the grain.
If you have knots in your wood like mine, they do take longer to burn than the rest of the wood. You may also notice some sap coming out of the knots. This is not an issue it will just have a different colour once you add the unicorn spit.
Removing the charred surface
To take the first charred layer off you can use a wire brush. This step is super messy, so be sure to wear a respirator and safety glasses. Using the wire brush rub with the grain of the wood. Next, you can use a coarse nylon flap brush attached to a drill to sand deeper into the wood. You can still use the wire brush it is just hard work. The more you use the brush the lighter the wood will become and the more you will see the colour from the unicorn spit. It is also more effective to have some areas deeper than the rest.
Adding the unicorn spit
If you look closely at the image below you will notice the light wood is a few millimetres deeper than the wood grain. This is what you are aiming for. I used unicorn spits green which is called dragons belly.
When you buy unicorn spit it is very concentrated, so you can dilute a small amount with water. To apply the unicorn spit you can use a brush, cloth or foam pad. Paint it on like a regular stain going with the wood grain.
Using a paper towel you can wipe off the excess. If you have areas that you feel are too dark, you can spray some water on the surface and wipe it off again with a paper towel.
Sealing the wood
Unicorn Spit is a water-based stain and will be reactivated with water, so it does need to be sealed. You can tell the unicorn spit is dry when it get a powdery appearance. I added 2 coats of clear oil-based exterior polyurethane to both sides of the wood.
You can see straight away how the polyurethane makes the colours pop and brings up all the different colours. Once your polyurethane is dry you can add your numbers to your wood using a suitable glue. I used no more nails for this project.
Depending on the angle and light the colours will look different.
This photo was taken in front of our house and because of the difference in light, the colours look totally different. You can also see the cool texture in this photo.
This Elephant picture frame is also shou sugi ban but I did not add any coloured stain to the wood. You can not see it in this image but the frame has deep grooves which added beautiful texture to the frame.
These lamps were painted using Unicorn spit. This technique is so simple a child can do it.
Resources for this project:See all materials
BenFranklin methodologist on Apr 26, 2021
Yes! I have a love/hate relationship with that gremlin spellcheck!
Leslie on May 06, 2021
Hi Anita, a lot of Unicorn Spit tutorials I have seen were awful with the end results. I do not compliment lightly, and I found these and the projects on your site wonderful with how they turned out. Thank you for sharing your processes and projects. The lamps and house number plaque are beautiful. If you don't mind I would like to make a suggestion for the plaque. It needs a bit of bling and I thought an inside ring of scattered gold leaf or 2 or 3 painted gold lines encircling near the edge would add a cohesiveness to the design along with painting the numbers gold. So many possibilities. :)