Wood Burning, the Art of Shou Sugi Ban
My husband attempted Shou Sugi Ban for our front patio light posts (before we even knew what the technique was called) and oh my, isn’t it stunning?
Shou Sugi Ban on the left, untreated post on the right. (Obviously) 😉
The pattern of the wood grain shows through so beautifully.
Why did we even attempt wood burning the posts?
Honestly it wasn’t on my radar at all. Travis and I were headed to the treated wood area of our local Home Depot when Travis got the idea.
He asked, “Why don’t we get untreated wood and try to burn it?”
Thinking his idea sounded like an excuse to play with fire I rolled my eyes and said “Really? You want to burn the wood?”
“Yes, I think it could turn out cool.”
Then I remembered back to visiting my cousin’s house and seeing her little girls bunk bed, that her husband had made absolutely stunning by burning and distressing the wood.
“Okay,” I said, what’s the harm. We’re all about DIY, so let Travis take on this project!
WHAT YOU NEED FOR SHOU SUGI BAN
Honestly the whole process was extremely easy! You’re literally working with fire though, so take caution and understand there is risk involved. (aka: if you burn yourself it’s your own fault.)
WHAT IS SHOU SUGI BAN AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Shou Sugi Ban is a century old Japanese technique to seal wood while also giving it a beautiful, unique look. It’s said that burning the wood can preserve it for 80 – 100 years. While I can’t personally attest to that, it did make me excited to see how well it will hold up over time compared to the treated boards we’ve been purchasing for years. It is recommended to oil the wood once yearly.
We went ahead and stained it before burning, which looking back on Travis said he wished we hadn’t. He said it seemed like it was harder to burn because it had to work through the stain first.
This was such an inexpensive, easy project for how amazing it turned out.
HOW TRAVIS BURNED THE WOOD
He went ahead and lit the propane torch using the striker, and holding the torch away from his body and a few feet away from the wood, worked his way closer until the wood began burning.
This is going to be personal preference. Some people love a more black, charred look, versus we really wanted to just accentuate the wood grain. This is another reason I’d recommend oiling the wood once yearly. If you don’t do a heavy burn, it’s not going to be sealed as well as if you use a heavy burn.
It was very soothing to watch and Travis said he enjoyed doing it.
A FEW TIPS
If you burn to heavy you can always sand the area.
Keep a hose or water near by. Just in case!
Find wood that has a nice, pretty pattern to it. One of the posts we purchased didn’t have much grain showing and didn’t turn out as nice as the first piece we did. Lots of wood grain and knots make it look amazing and really add dimension.
Once Travis burned both posts we cemented them into our front flower bed we are turning into a patio!
What started out like this:
Turned into this:
And the burned posts were the cherry on the top of this project!
Evenings spent out here have been my new favorite!
Have you attempted Shou Sugi Ban or even heard of it before? We can’t wait to try it out on more projects in the future!
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Sandra L Warren on Aug 09, 2021
It looks nice however, Shousugiban is an ancient Japanese technique used to preserve wood. It resists moisture. The charring process leaves behind a two- or three-millimeter layer of char on the surface that shields underlying wood from water and water vapor, keeping it from eroding or absorbing moisture and swelling, warping, or rotting. This ability to waterproof wood is particularly useful for structures in moisture-prone spaces, such as garden benches or poolside lounge chairs.
It is completely and thoroughly charring the entire surface leaving a total charcoal finish. Doing a light burning that highlights the grain is not the same as Shousugiban.
The photo below shows how it looks when completed properly.
- See 1 previous
Jeanne Martin on Aug 09, 2021
Yep, Sandra is correct. Afterwards alot of the char is wire brushed off (very dirty work!). However, doesn't really matter, we knew what they meant. I love the look of the grain better myself. Love this patio!
Terry Sturtevant on Sep 07, 2021
a lot 🙂😉
Cindy Brown on Aug 16, 2022
I've been doing alot of things with wood and Unicorn Spit, and this is a technique they suggested trying. Thanks for the inspiration Eryn!!!✌
Could you use this technique on the swing and bench also?
What species wood did you use? What kind of oil treatment do you use?
When this type wood burning come out? In the early 1970 my brother made furniture in the early 1970 made our parents furniture like this. I loved it.
Came out very nice! A totally transformed space.
Love the barrel accent; maybe stain or burn that wood as well?
May I suggest adding a 'cap' of some sort (metal, wood,etc) to the top of the 4x4 for a more finished look? (My OCD kicked in lol)