Wood Burning, the Art of Shou Sugi Ban

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Travis 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) 😉

How-to Shou Sugi Ban. A century old Japanese technique to seal wood. Also giving it a beautiful, unique look. It’s said that burning the wood can preserve it for 80 – 100 years. #ShouSugiBan #woodburning

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 fireI 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.)

You’ll need:

How-to Shou Sugi Ban. A century old Japanese technique to seal wood. Also giving it a beautiful, unique look. It’s said that burning the wood can preserve it for 80 – 100 years. #ShouSugiBan #woodburning

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. #newbieshousugibanproblems

This was such an inexpensive, easy project for how amazing it turned out.

How-to Shou Sugi Ban. A century old Japanese technique to seal wood. Also giving it a beautiful, unique look. It’s said that burning the wood can preserve it for 80 – 100 years. #ShouSugiBan #woodburning

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.

How-to Shou Sugi Ban. A century old Japanese technique to seal wood. Also giving it a beautiful, unique look. It’s said that burning the wood can preserve it for 80 – 100 years. #ShouSugiBan #woodburning

It was very soothing to watch and Travis said he enjoyed doing it.

How-to Shou Sugi Ban. A century old Japanese technique to seal wood. Also giving it a beautiful, unique look. It’s said that burning the wood can preserve it for 80 – 100 years. #ShouSugiBan #woodburning

Of course he did, he got to play with fire.

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.

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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