The burnt Cedar board is termed the Shou Sugi ban in Japanese. Although the initial origin of this technique is unknown however it is known to be used in the early 1800s. This technique was used to make the wood weatherproof. This treatment is used for interior and exterior furniture pieces, some architects also use it to create a master art piece.

This process involves charring the wood, cooling it, cleaning it, and then oiling it such that it finally becomes fire resistant. The blackening of the wood reveals clean and distinct lines and shows the textural beauty of the wood that it inherits. With the right set of skills, this technique can be accomplished at home following the must-to-do’s.

The first and most important task in this process is selecting the right wood. The Cedarwood is more porous and lighter in nature and thus becomes the most suitable wood for this technique. The fun part of this process is burning the word using a high-intensity flame which is effectively produced using an ice melting torch. The surface is expected to be charred enough so that it eats into the wood. 

The most important thing to remember while doing this is to take this entire process into a well-ventilated area and make sure that there are no flammable materials around, preferably in an open to sky space.

The next step involves brushing off the charcoal dust. We need to take care that this movement of the brush happens in the direction of the grains of the texture. After brushing the wire brush opens up the wood and makes it even more porous. To make sure that all the charcoal dust is removed we clean it furthermore using an air compressor or a wet cloth and allow it to dry.

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet1
Polishing the Wood ©

After the water is dried, we use oil to rub over the wooden surface, preferably linseed oil. After applying multiple coats, we leave the wooden piece to dry.

Now this wooden piece can be used to create any furniture of utility. If the furniture piece is kept indoors then it might require very little maintenance however a piece of outdoor furniture must be re-oiled about every 10 to 15 years.

Not many of us are aware of this brilliant traditional technique. Even if we do know about the same, there might be some questions or misbeliefs dwelling in our heads. 

Here are some important factual points explaining the ins and outs of this procedure.

1. This process is not a harmful finish to the user or the environment. Today Shou Sugi ban is an extremely eco-friendly way of preserving the timber, paradoxically and making it fire resistant. This cancels over the usage of any chemical preservative paints which are otherwise necessary.

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet2
environment friendly process ©

2. Nowadays most folks use this technique for decorative purposes. This technique of dynamic surface treatment is used either to create a toasted pattern on the wood or carbonize the entire wooden face

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet3
Furniture ©

3. There is a fear amongst users that if they touch this wood with their bare hands or brush the clothes against it, it might turn black. However, a white sweater test can be done to custom topcoat, so that the product does not cause any sort of untidiness and has complete encapsulation.

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet4
Sweater Test ©

4. If there exists a confusion that the furniture piece might smell like burnt wood, then yes slightly it might but the oil top coating minimizes this effect.

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet5
No smell issues ©

5. The selection of the wood is the most important step in the process. However, we might wonder if this process works on all types of species of wood. Yes, it does work. Even though some wood types are hardwood while some are softwood. This process is faster and more effective in softwood but a little time-consuming if applied on a hardwood.

6. Does charring weaken the wood? Well, no charing only affects the outer surface of the wood and it does not penetrate more than 1/16 of an inch into the material. Thus, these products are structurally very sound.

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet6
Charring of wood ©

7. The burning of wood is often a natural process thus the finish that is achieved on completion of the technique might fade away with time, but the aesthetic look of the furniture remains eternal.

10 Things you did not know about shou sugi ban - Sheet7
Burning of the Wood ©

8. The non-charred side of the wood may not be protected if the result of the product is for indoor utility. However, if used outdoors, then it must be safeguarded with a protective finish.

Charred wood ©

9. The burning of wood is an extremely tricky task. Using a short flame for a longer duration and using a high-intensity flame for a shorter duration, gives varying outputs. Smaller and finer details are visible in the former case, whereas larger textural cracks are seen in the second scenario.

Flame ©

10. The most striking feature of Shou Sugi Ban is that in the initial days when it was performed, the wood was just charred and hung up to dry. No further refining or oil treatment was given to it. As the timeline proceeds, its utility in the construction industry also increased. To achieve a long-lasting finished wood piece, the process got elongated.


Priyanshi Hiran is a perfectionist who has a confident and persuasive personality. She is an Architecture student currently in 4th Year of B.Arch. Time Management is the key to her work routine that helps her to achieve a balanced lifestyle.