Shou Sugi Ban’s rise in popularity isn’t surprising. The time-proven wood preservation technique leaves your wood projects stronger and more gorgeous. In addition, it increases pest and rot resistance.
Unfortunately, not all types of wood are ideal for wood burning. So, you may have to go shopping if you’ve decided to burn the boards for your next woodworking project.
Below are the nine best kinds of wood for Shou Sugi Ban projects.
Best Wood for Shou Sugi Ban
Cedar is the best wood for the Shou Sugi Ban process because of its natural chemical composition. Moreover, cedar is light and porous, enabling easy and fast burning. Above all, cedar easily withstands momentary subjection to high temperatures and looks stunning when burned. Besides cedar planks, consider Accoya, pine, and Siberian larch.
What’s the Shou Sugi Ban Technique?
Shou Sugi Ban is a traditional Japanese technique for preserving wood. It’s originally known as “Yakisugi” in Japan, though most westerners call it Shou Sugi Ban.
“Yaki means “to heat with fire,” while sugi is the Japanese word for the Japanese cedar (cryptomeria japonica). Meanwhile, “ban” is the Japanese term for “wood plank.”
First used in the 18th century, Shou Sugi Ban increases a wood plank’s natural resistance to weather and other external elements.
Additionally, it enhances the wood’s aesthetics and creates a pleasing alligator skin that looks stunning in contemporary exteriors.
The wood charring process begins with wood selection. Then the selected boards are dried and cleaned. After that, the planks are lightly burned using a propane torch.
This is the most technical part, as too little or too much burning can compromise the results. When done, the next step is to wire-brush the burnt wood to remove the outermost burned layer. Wire brushing also reveals the hidden grain texture.
You can also use coarse sandpaper. After wire brushing, use an air compressor to blow away the excess dust and wipe the surface with a wet cloth. Then coat the wooden plank with a wood finish like tung oil.
Charred Wood Benefits
The charring process has several valuable benefits to wood preservation and beautification. Some of the practical benefits include the following;
- Increased pest resistance
- Increased insect resistance
- Enhanced rot resistance
- Low maintenance
- Durability (burned wood can last 80+ years)
- It enhances the wood’s natural aesthetics
Factors to Consider When Choosing Wood for the Shou Sugi Ban Process
Unfortunately, Shou Sugi Ban doesn’t work equally on all types of wood. The following are four critical characteristics of the best woods for the traditional Japanese technique;
Shou Sugi Ban works best on highly porous wood because the molecular structure of these woods allows for easy char accumulation on the surface. Additionally, porous woods allow deep heat penetration and dry fast for the best results.
Low-density, lightweight woods produce the best Shou Sugi Ban results. Again, deep heat penetration and fast dry times are the main benefits. In addition, lightweight woods are easier to handle.
Beautiful grain pattern
Grain structure is not a deal breaker when selecting wood for the Shou Sugi Ban process. Nevertheless, wood types with beautiful grain patterns and distinct lines produce excellent surface patterns.
Natural chemical properties
High charring depth is critical to long-term wood preservation. Therefore, the best woods for Shou Sugi Ban possess chemical properties that enable deep burning. But, more importantly, you don’t want wood that produces toxic fumes during charring.
9 Best shou sugi ban wood types
Now that we know what makes the best woods for Shou Sugi Ban, it’s not difficult to identify a few excellent wood species for this process. They include;
1. Japanese Shou sugi ban cedar
Japanese red cedar is the best Shou Sugi Ban wood. Also known as Japanese rosewood or peacock pine, it’s a coniferous evergreen timber tree native to eastern Asia. It grows to 70m, with trunk diameters up to 4.0 meters.
Cryptomeria Japonica timber is lightweight, waterproof, and decay-resistant. The fragrant reddish brown wood also boasts beautiful wood grains and is highly durable.
2. Western red cedar
The western red cedar is a species native to the Pacific coast and North America. Also known as the western arborvitae, giant abortive, or Pacific red cedar, it’s the next best option for Shou Sugi Ban after the Japanese cedar. As such, many people call it the Shou sugi ban cedar.
Western red cedar is highly resistant to weather and other external factors. It’s also insect and pest resistant and provides an attractive finish when charred.
3. Accoya wood
Accoya refers to pine wood that has undergone acetylation, which involves permanently modifying the wood’s structure, with acetic anhydride as the main reagent.
As a result, Accoya wood boasts increased durability, rot and UV resistance, and paint retention. It lasts 50+ years without charring and a lifetime after burning.
The only downside is accessibility. Unfortunately, Accoya, a relatively new product, is not easy to find and, therefore, often expensive.
4. Shou sugi ban pine
Charred pinewood is one of the best choices for siding and cladding projects. A few people also used it for fencing projects with exceptional results.
Its main advantage is versatility. Pinewood is a versatile softwood applicable to many projects. It’s also durable and rot-resistant.
Shou sugi ban pine is durable and resistant to external elements like weather, pests, and insects. It’s also strikingly beautiful.
5. Shou sugi ban Maple
Although softwoods are the best choice for Shou Sugi Ban processes, a few hardwoods make the grade. One example is maple. It boasts fine grains that look even subtler when charred, creating a stunning, uniform texture.
Shou Sugi Ban maple is durable and highly appealing. However, the specific qualities depend on maple species. Moreover, you must take precautions to prevent splitting and warping. Nevertheless, charred maple makes great sense for many indoor projects.
Another hardwood to consider for Shou Sugi Ban is hemlock. It’s a low-density wood (500kg/m3) readily available at most timber merchants. Moreover, hemlock is highly affordable.
Unfortunately, hemlock is difficult to treat with traditional wood treatment methods. So, burning is a great alternative.
It burns to a finely textured surface with enhanced weather and pest-resistance properties. Charred hemlock is also impressively water resistant.
7. Siberian larch
The Siberian Larch is a hardy tree native to Finland and Russia. It’s popular in Europe and other cold climates because it readily withstands the harsh winters. Moreover, the Siberian larch doesn’t shrink or warp with changing temperatures.
Many homeowners use charred Siberian Larch boards on residential sidings, where the wood’s deep texture stands out. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to find in other parts of the world.
8. Shou sugi ban oak
Oak is one of the most popular hardwoods in the furniture and flooring industries. In addition, its natural strength, hardness, and resistance to various conditions make it attractive for construction projects like paneling and decking.
Above all, oakwood boasts close grains and high tannin content. These qualities make Shou Sugi Ban oak a wonderful choice for construction projects. However, oak splits readily. So, take precautions to prevent overexposure.
9. Spruce wood
Spruce is a popular softwood easily recognizable by its strong resinous smell. The uniformly bright wood is almost white, with highly desirable elasticity and strength properties. It’s also a low-density wood, weighing about 450kg/m3.
The main advantage of burning spruce wood is that it’s lightweight and thus dries fast. Additionally, the low density allows deep heating penetration for a durable burnt appearance. Of course, spruce is also readily available and very affordable.
Finishing Shou Sugi Ban Wood
Finishing Shou Sugi Ban wood starts immediately after the wood cools down. First, use wire brushing to remove the top layer of the char, working in the grain direction. Alternatively, use coarse sandpaper if you wish only to remove a tiny layer.
Then remove the surface dust using an air compressor or by wiping it with a wet cloth. Allow the surface to dry completely after wiping before moving to the finishing step.
The best Shou Sugi Ban finish depends on the project type. For instance, is it an interior design job or a plank for exterior applications? Also, what type of wood is it, and why are you finishing it?
Nevertheless, natural wood oils are the best finishes for wood charring projects. These include linseed oil, teak oil, and tung oil finish. Hemp oil is another great choice.
Liberally apply the oil over the wood surface and rub it into the wood using dry, lint-free rags. Then allow the first coat to dry before applying the second coat and allow it to cure overnight.
What is the most durable wood for Shou Sugi Ban?
Cedar wood is the most durable wood for Shou Sugi Ban. It’s a naturally resilient wood that becomes even more durable when charred. Indeed, a charred cedar board can last 80+ years, whereas uncharred boards last 15-20 years. Oak and hemlock are other woods that can last many decades when charred.
What is the most affordable wood for Shou Sugi Ban?
Accoya is the most affordable wood for Shou Sugi Ban. It costs between $3.50 and $4.80 per board foot yet produces excellent results when burned. By comparison, cedar is more expensive, it costs up to $20 per board foot. Pine wood is an excellent alternative, costing $4 per board foot.
What is the best all-rounder wood for Shou Sugi Ban?
The Japanese red cedar is the best all-rounder wood for the Shou Sugi Ban technique. It’s strong, lightweight, and produces beautiful patterns when burned. The western red cedar is the next best option if you cannot find the Japanese red cedar. It shares the same physical and chemical properties, producing beautiful, highly durable charred boards.
Can you Shou Sugi Ban hardwood?
Yes, you can Shou Sugi Ban hardwood. Indeed, hardwoods like oak and maple are exceptional choices for the Yakisugi technique, producing durable charred boards that can last a lifetime with good maintenance. However, softwoods are better because they burn more easily and enable deeper char penetration. On the other hand, you need immense heat to get good results on hardwoods.
Shou sugi ban wood types summary
Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese technique for preserving wood. Its benefits include enhanced durability, weather resistance, and pest resistance.
Unfortunately, not all woods are good charring candidates. So, you must choose wisely when shopping for boards for your next wood charring project. Japanese red cedar, western red cedar, and Accoya are the best wood for Shou Sugi Ban.