From Shou Sugi Ban siding to paneling, Shou Sugi Ban is sweeping the nation. This rich, historical process has been gaining popularity steadily over the past few years, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer this unique wood finish to our customers. With its signature looks and captivating features, it’s no wonder why this piece of the past has come back to the foreground of modern design.
A Brief History of Shou Sugi Ban
While this unique style of wood may seem like a recent trend, especially because it’s gained a second wind since the early 2000s, the style has been utilized since the early 1700s. And while most think that Shou Sugi Ban is a type of wood, it’s actually a technique used to finish wood. Shou Sugi Ban originated in Japan in the 1700s and was born out of a combination of necessity and creativity.
Back in the 1700s, one of the most readily available sources of wood was driftwood. Woodworkers of the time were seeking ways to make this abundant resource more durable and desirable. While naturally weathered driftwood was highly sought-after at the time, the supply of tempered wood couldn’t keep up with demand. It turns out that finding wood that had been naturally tempered by the sun, rain, and the sea wasn’t easy.
It was the limited supply of weathered driftwood that forced carpenters to search for a way to weather wood using the tools of their time to create a finished product that would be desirable in the period’s market. The solution to their dilemma ended up coming from an unlikely source: fire. While the sea may not be beholden to any man, any man can work a torch, and so many men did in order to create this new style of wood finishing, later named Shou Sugi Ban. Not only did the Shou Sugi Ban method give the finished board a striking appearance, but it also had the additional benefits of both preserving the wood and making it more durable. Due to the aesthetic appeal and multiple benefits of the new style, Shou Sugi Ban wood quickly gained popularity and rose in demand across Japan and beyond.
The Shou Sugi Ban Process
Just how does one safely create burned wood on demand? At Manomin, it all starts with sourcing the right wood for each project. We only use the highest quality new cedar boards and reclaimed douglas fir for this spectacular application. Our reclaimed douglas fir is sourced from 19th-century structures found throughout the U.S. Due to the period the material is sourced from, the reclaimed douglas fir displays a remarkable vertical grain pattern, making it a superior choice for both quality and durability, and these traits are only improved with the Shou Sugi Ban process.
The 19th-century structures that we source our reclaimed douglas fir from include old industrial buildings, bridges, and barns. No two pieces are the same. Many of the pieces of reclaimed douglas fir that we use to create our signature Shou Sugi Ban timbers have historical “imperfections” such as saw marks, and peg, worm, or nail holes. And while they’re a little rough around the edges when sourced, by the end of the Shou Sugi Ban process, the finished timbers still maintain their original character while now being soft and smooth enough for barefoot living.
We decided to utilize new cedar boards for our Shou Sugi Ban timbers to provide our customers with an array of stylistic choices. The cedar boards used in our Shou Sugi Ban process were chosen for their rich color and historical accuracy. The practice of Shou Sugi Ban was originally done on cedar boards once the trend became popular to the mass market. In fact, Shou Sugi Ban translates to “burnt cedar boards.” With the cedar Shou Sugi Ban wood, we’re able to offer our customers a more contemporary aesthetic choice for their design needs.
Once we’ve sourced our wood, it’s time to get cooking. Well, burning, to be more exact. All of our Shou Sugi Ban wood is burnt under controlled conditions using our own signature technique to ensure the safety of our crew and to maintain the integrity of the wood. And through the burning process, the wood will still retain its natural feel, meaning that it will emerge from the flames with unique characteristics that make each piece impossible to perfectly replicate. During the charring process, the wood may develop some checks or splits; this is perfectly natural and an intended result of the process. Part of what makes Shou Sugi Ban wood so desirable is its rich variance from piece to piece.
Once our Shou Sugi Ban wood has been carefully burned to perfection, our team assesses the final product to account for any adjustments that need to be made before shipment to meet customer specifications. The wood has already been kiln dried, milled, and de-nailed before being fire treated, so these final steps are more to ensure the board’s structural integrity than to alter the final product.
Why Shou Sugi Ban?
Why has this charred wood become so popular? Aside from its natural beauty, wood that has been treated with fire becomes more fire-resistant. Ironic. But not only does the wood become more fire-resistant, but it also becomes more resistant to some of today’s most troubling household concerns such as insect infestation, rot, and decay. Designers across the country are turning to this unique material to deliver impactful and long-lasting beauty and function to their client’s projects. Shou Sugi Ban treated wood can be used for just about any application. Be it paneling or siding; whether your project is indoors or outdoors, this specialty wood can make all the difference in your next design.
Another significant advantage of using Shou Sugi Ban wood is the finished product’s dimensional stability. The Shou Sugi Ban process provides greater dimensional stability within your wood, making this an ideal choice for those who live in regions that experience a wide range of temperatures and environmental conditions. Dimensional stability refers to how wood shrinks or swells in relation to moisture loss or gain from changes in temperature and conditions. Shou Sugi Ban wood has a higher dimensional stability than that of regular wood, meaning that it won’t warp or bend when exposed to the changing seasons.
As mentioned above, the process of Shou Sugi Ban makes wood insect resistant. While the wood is burning, the same flames that are transforming your planks will neutralize the cellulose naturally present inside the wood. This process makes the finished product undesirable to bugs, keeping your home insect free.
The last benefit of Shou Sugi Ban wood is the lack of maintenance required to keep your finished project looking good. While some wall finishes or accent pieces require frequent upkeep, such as waxing, steaming, or oiling, Shou Sugi Ban paneling and siding can last up to 80-100 years without maintenance.
And while all of our wood has already been kiln dried to rid it of any pests, the Shou Sugi Ban process neutralize the cellulose inside the wood, rendering the material unattractive to any future pests. It is because of this that some experts estimate that Shou Sugi Ban wood can last up to 80-100 years without maintenance.
Bringing Shou Sugi Ban Wood to Your Next Project
No matter the size of your project, whether you’re adding a new feature wall to your space or you’re starting a project from scratch, implementing Shou Sugi Ban wood will take your designs to the next level. Using reclaimed timbers for Shou Sugi Ban projects is a great way to utilize natural, sustainable materials in your next project, making your completed design an asset for both you and the planet. Feel free to contact us to learn more about this hot trend and how Manomin Resawn Timbers can help turn your dream into a reality.