There’s a new trend in the woodworking world that originated in Japan. It’s called shou sugi ban and it’s quickly making waves in the carpentry community. The process literally entails carefully burning a piece of wood until it is waterproof. The effect leaves a distinct and unique pattern to the wood once completed.

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” - William Butler Yeats

What Shou Sugi Ban Is

AN entire house with shou sugi ban wood
It adds to the lifespan and durability of the wooden structure. Source: Dwell

Sho sugi ban preserves the wood, as well as making the wood more water resistant. Furthermore, it’s less appealing to termites and it improves the lifespan of the wood. The type of wood used is usually cedar, but it works on some other kinds as well. A shou sugi ban torch is usually a normal blowtorch, most commonly of industrial grade. It’s applied to the wood in order to gently burn the surface. Once the fire has caused the wood to separate slightly, it is then wire-brushed to clear the ash off. The tools you’ll need are:

  1. A blowtorch
  2. A safe place to work
  3. A wire brush
  4. Wood arranged into planks
  5. A lighter
  6. Oil
  7. Stain or paint
  8. Cloth
  9. Optional: vinegar

Best Place to Work

It's also a DIY project. ...if you have a blowtorch
You can burn the wood yourself with the proper equipment. Source: NK Adventures

First on the list of shou sugi ban steps is a place to do the job. Obviously choosing the location for work is an important part of this project. You’re going to need a place where you can start a controlled fire without it spreading. Some good choices for this include:

  • Concrete foundation outside
  • Fire pit
  • Outside away from tall grass and trees
  • Sand
  • Asphalt
  • Dirt floor

Placing Torched Wood in the Home

Where does one place shou sugi ban plywood in the home? The short answer is anywhere lumber can go in your home. With shou sugi however, there is the possibility of creating unique decor in a room. The striking difference in looks can make for some interesting pieces. And because the wood is reinforced in flame, they can just as easily be placed around framing to form walls in your home. They look especially good in rustic settings. Here’s just a few of the different suggestions.

  • Shelving
  • Walls
  • Deck
  • Table
  • Nightstand
  • Bench
  • Wall art

What Types of Woods Work

Some of the classiest looking wood around
Try a combo to get the most out of the look. Source: Fastco Design

This technique is commonly applied to cedar, both as tradition and because “sugi” literally translates to “cedar.” But don’t despair, there are several other shou sugi ban wood types. It’s a safe bet with the following types of wood:

  1. Oak
  2. Maple
  3. Basswood
  4. Hemlock
  5. Pine

Practical Effects

You can really see the difference in the wooden boards
Truly the texture produced by the process is unique. Source: houzz

It does sound odd that before building your home you would set fire to it, but that’s the beauty of the shou sugi ban oil finish. It creates a rich texture and style that simply cannot be copied, and gives the wood a hardened benefit. Wood burned in this way is also physically stronger, waterproof, and will last for eighty years. When properly oiled once per decade, that wood can last lifetimes.


Originally Japanese artists were looking for a creative way to make new home structure and furniture with that charring wood finish. Once it was revealed that the process made wood more waterproof, it was then applied to shipbuilding. This was all the rage of Japan in the 1800s and it’s still practiced today. Now it’s starting to catch on in America.

Trying to improve your home with a unique look to wood? Or are you interested in prolonging a wooden structure for as long as possible? Hire a professional from homeyou and get a free estimate! Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more ideas!

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