Shou Sugi Ban Barn Quilt

7 Materials
4 Hours

Recently, I tried a new technique called Shou Sugi Ban (Japanese wood-burning) and I have to admit I am totally addicted to the look. My Idea for this project was to combine Shou sugi ban and a barn quilt. This unique wall hanging will look great on any wall and can be coloured to suit your home decor.

If you have never heard of a wooden barn quilt here is a basic description. It is a wooden design made up of small wooden pieces cut to shape and put together like a jigsaw. The wood can be coloured in different ways to create a unique pattern. To look at, some people may feel it would be too hard to make, but this tutorial will show that you just need basic woodworking skills.

I try and make all my projects using recycled materials, here is how I find my material if you want to do the same. When I first tried wood burning I tested it on a few different types of wood to see the results. My conclusion for this type of project is that pine works the best. I had some old drawers from a broken dresser that was beyond repair and some knotty pine which worked perfectly for this project. Most types of wood will work but pine got the most dramatic effects. I would also recommend using thinner wood so the finished wall hanging is not too heavy.

Burning the wood To burn the wood you will need a blowtorch, I have used a smaller butane blowtorch in my trials but it took so much longer. I like to burn the wood before cutting because it is less time-consuming. You will need to make sure your environment is clear of flammable items before burning to prevent unwanted fires. I used metal plates on my workbench.

There is no special way to burn the wood, the burn just needs to be deep enough to charr the surface. Because my wood was fairly thin this only took about 30 seconds to burn.

The burnt wood above is how the wood should look after burning.

Next, I cut the wood into 50mm pieces using a table saw. I would recommend that you burn the sides so the pine colour does not stick out like a saw thumb if you have a slight gap.

Sanding the wood This step is very time consuming and very messy, but the results are worth the work. Start, by brushing the charred surface with a wire brush brushing with the grain of the wood. The wood will now look like the image above after the surface has been removed.

Next, you need to remove some of the softwood in between the wood grain. You can keep using a wire brush but it is very time-consuming. Alternatively, you can use a drill and a coarse nylon brush and the work will be done in half the time. For this step, you will need to use safety glasses and a respirator. To use the drill and brush you need to hold it over the surface going in the direction of the woodgrain. The coarse nylon brush will remove all the softwood.

The idea is to sand deep enough so that you can see the light pine wood coming through. For some reason that I can’t explain, the woodgrain lines stay dark with sanding. The deeper you sand the lighter the wood will become and the more vibrate your colours will show up. If you want to see more dramatic textures on the surface you can burn the wood a second time. I have also found by leaving a few random darker patches, will add to the effect when adding the colour.

Adding the colour When I did my last Shou Sugi Ban wall art I used Unicorn spit and stain, which had to be sealed with oil-based polyurethane. When I sealed the wood it did make the raw light wood go a darker colour. This was not the look I wanted for this project, I wanted the lighter wood to frame the blue star I was adding to the middle. So I use teal acrylic paint because it did not need to be sealed.

To get a good distribution of colour you need to wet the wood first. I used water in a spray bottle set to fine mist and wet the surface. This is also how the wood will look if you add polyurethane to seal the surface.

I used a sponge brush and added a spot of colour and wiped it across the surface. You can let the colour sit for a couple of minutes to soak in.

Next, take a dry cloth and wipe the surface dry. This will remove all the excess water and colour. If you want a darker colour you can just add more paint until you get the colour you like. If you are not happy with the colour at all you can burn the surface again and repeat the process.

You can see from this image below how you get so many different colours in the wood caused by the different depths of sanding.

Making the base I wanted my final wall hanging to be 400mm square so I cut it to 450mm square. This will leave a couple of millimetres that can be cut away at the end to straighten up the sides. To keep the design straight you need to draw some guidelines on the surface. Divide your board like the image below.

Cutting the wood If you want a simple design, you can cut all the wood pieces the same size using a stop block attached to your mitre saw. Don’t rush in and cut all the wood the same way. For this type of design, you will need half of the wood cut painted side down. And the other half painted side up. This will allow you to make a “matching arrow” later with the pieces. All the wood must be cut using the same angle so that they can all slot together. I cut all mine using a 45-degree angle, but you can use any angle.

Creating the design Start, by putting two pieces together to form an arrow and line it up with the guidelines on the board.

Repeat this step covering the middle. I don’t glue my designs until I have created a design I am happy with. It will also make your design more interesting to put the different colours and textures next to each other.

The idea is to keep adding “arrow” shapes until you have covered the base. Keep all your small offcuts, for now, you will need them at the end to fill in the gaps.

If you are a beginner doing barn quilts you can cut all the pieces the same size and shape and you will end up with a design like the one below. You can create a design by staining the wood.

This was the design I came up with, you can see at this point all the wood used is still the same size and shape. The design was created mainly by colouring the wood. You can now slide the design off the wood ready for glueing. You can also take a photo so you know how the design goes back together if the pieces get mixed up. Here is another basic design to create.

Glueing the design I have made a few barn quilts over the years and found hot glue and wood glue work the best. You can use a nail gun but it will leave a small white hole which does spoil the look. Add some wood glue to the wood with a dot of hot glue on either side. Next, push the piece down firmly onto the base. The hot glue will hold the wood in place while the wood glue dries. You will find at the end you will have pieces of wood hanging over the edges from filling in the small gaps.

Trimming the sides I would advise that you leave the wood glue to dry completely before you trim the excess. In the past, I have had the jigsaw rip them from the base.

I am really crap at using a jigsaw and I always end up with an edge like the image below. This is the reason I make the base slightly bigger than the size I want. I now use a circular saw to straighten up the edges. You can use a piece of straight wood as a fence and trim the wood to get a clean straight edge.

Framing the shou sugi ban barn quilt I used offcuts of pallet wood to make the frame. I cut the wood 5mm higher than the wall art.

You can have a basic frame by glueing the wood directly to the sides after it is cut to size like the image above. Or you can cut them at a 45-degree angle so they slot nicely together.

I cut mine at a 45-degree angle. You can see from the image below how the 5mm gap makes the wall hanging stand out better. I used the blowtorch again and lightly burned the wood on the frame. To attach the frame I used wood glue and a nail gun.

If you are a beginner in woodwork here is a very basic but effective wall hanging.

Do you have lots of small scraps of wood laying around. This project will show you have to use them to create this unique mirror that looks like art.

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