Where does Shou Sugi Ban come from?
Shou Sugi ban is a term used to describe the ancient Japanese art of charring timber with fire. It is also known as Yakisugi and it is currently taking the design world by storm. Already huge in the States and Australia, its popularity is spreading like wildfire through Europe. (See what I did there?😉).
Architects as well as designers are keen to incorporate Shou Sugi ban into their projects. If you saw anything from Milan’s international furniture fair recently, some prestigious design houses as well as some of the greatest global brands showcased charred pieces including Armani Casa, Riva and Roche Bobois. Their carbonised wood pieces use the same techniques that we use here at Toasted.
There are actually two types of Shou Sugi Ban:
Sumi-Tsuki – this is the more traditional coarse, rough gator finish.
Migaki – this is being seen a lot in western design now and is the more refined version of traditional Shou Sugi Ban with a more sleek, contemporary, smooth finish.
What are the main benefits in the Shou Sugi Ban Wood Process?
Well besides the obvious-staring-you-in-the-face-gorgeousness of toasted timber there are a lot of more practical advantages to it as well.
Firstly, it’s fire proof! I know weird right? Have any of you have experienced the dread of going camping and letting the campfire go out? Well, try relighting that blackened charred kindling fellow campers!! Go right ahead. It doesn’t matter how much lighter fuel you saturate it with…that thing’s dead! So a completely practical side effect of this beautiful burning process is that the fire, fire proofs it!
Next up and something us Irish love discussing is the weather. We recommend a heavier char on your exterior toast as a certain depth of char is necessary to form a sufficient protective barrier on your cladding. The oldest wooden building in the world is still standing in its Shou Sugi Ban cladding (since 711AD)!!!
Insects can really cause problems to your home if they decide your cladding is their equivalent to Michelin star food heaven. Luckily they can’t stand the taste of charcoal! Another plus.
Lastly, your toasted timber is resistant to mould and spores and so it won’t green up like you may see on painted or stained wood. Take a minute to do a quick google search ‘when cedar goes bad’ and you’ll see the devastating effects of decomposing cladding. It’s not pretty.
What is the Best Wood for Shou Sugi Ban?
Hardwoods do burn but they don’t allow a suitable depth of char to fully protect the wood. They’ll work fine for furniture or indoor projects but here at Toasted we stick to trusty softwoods that really love to be burned and give the most beautiful textures. We focus on 4 species here:
Douglas Fir – chunkier, knottier wood with wide cascading grain. Rustic in appearance with some big patterns.
Siberian Larch – native larch is too weak (it grows too fast) so we only use Siberian Larch. A beautiful elegant grain, smaller and tighter in appearance, and with smaller knots than Douglas. Very versatile with lots of different burns available.
Western red cedar – stunning variety in the grain. Some will ripple and ribbon through the board, whilst others are much more linear. A very light weight wood due to having lots of air capsules which makes cedar such a great insulator. Smells amazing.
Accoya – a very strong, robust wood that takes the burn phenomenally well. This is the only wood we offer a truly beautiful full alligator finish on. It’s a very sophisticated, sleek finish.
How does it compare to natural timber cladding, with regards cost?
There is no getting away from the fact that you are investing in a luxury product that has been tailor made to your exact specifications. We start with sustainable wood of the best quality that we hand pick from our friends at a fantastic family run saw mill.
We finish all of the wood by hand and take a lot of pride in our attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship. Each project is completely bespoke and some of our finishes require up to 7 different procedures for every single board.
However, in saying all of that we are confident that charred timber is much less expensive over time than the maintenance costs required to stain or seal regular cladding. Our charred timber can last long into the future with very little attention.
We encourage you to do the calculations and think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Our toasted timber starts at £80/m2.
Does it have to be sealed after the burning?
If you don’t seal your toasted timber you will find that the char will wear off over time. It will blacken your clothing with charcoal dust and is pretty messy.
The Japanese used tung oil to seal it, but after many experiments in the toasted lab with countless products and many high tech experiments (rock throwing included) we discovered a beautiful matt sealant from America that is completely toxin free and instead of sitting on top of the wood it actually penetrates into it.
We are so thrilled with it and now ship it over as we won’t use anything else. It gives a completely natural finish but with superb protective qualities too including a UV filter. All of our toast gets two coats of sealant lovingly applied front and back.
Is it only used externally?
People are toasting up their furniture, doors, feature walls, signage, bars…. it’s something that can make a real statement inside or out.
Is it something you’d recommend trying yourself?
Sure you can try it yourself. Mind you, you could cut your own hair, butcher your own meat, you could even do your own facial tattoos if you liked.🤔?? (And if you do I am certainly not going to be the one to dissuade you. Especially if you are holding a blow torch with a clutch of dead rabbits fondling your lopsided mullet and a spiderweb tatt on your forehead!)
But seriously there are tons of you tubers out there doing diy videos so yes it is certainly something you could have a go at. What I would say is that without having the knowledge and techniques of the pros, you may get a more ‘rustic’ and perhaps diy look? Also it’s worth mentioning you shouldn’t underestimate how slow and dirty it can be.
If in doubt ask 2020s Gareth if he ever wants to see another shingle in his lifetime after he finishes number 10000….
If you do have a go, please be careful with fire+gas. It is a combo not to be trifled with.