Backyard Shou Sugi Ban





Introduction: Backyard Shou Sugi Ban

Shou Sugi Ban is a beautiful ancient Japanese siding technique that preserves wood by charring it. Here I will teach you how to create this look yourself simply without a propane torch.

Step 1: What You Will Need

- wood planks (traditionally cedar is used but I used pine which is cheaper)

- heat resistant gloves

- heat resistant jacket (optional)

- a small portable grill or fire pit

- combustable materials - wood, newspaper, etc

- matches

- metal fireplace tongs

- wire (copper is ideal but regular metal wire works just fine)

- wire cutters

- boots or closed toed shoes

- bricks

- a garden hose or a large bucket of water

Step 2: Prep: Make a Pyramid With Your Wood and Set Up Base

Position your wood planks on the ground with the three faces you wish to burn facing upwards. Then fold the two on the outside upwards so you create a triangle shape. Take your wire and wrap it around the wooden triangle, one on top, middle and end to secure the wood pyramid.

Make a non combustable base close to the grill using bricks to place your burning wood once you take it off the fire. Get the hose out or bucket of water and have it ready to use.

Step 3: Build a Base for Your Wood and Get Your Fire Going!

Build a non-combustable base for the fire on the grill. I recommend using bricks. Make a gap in the middle where the fire will be slightly smaller than the width of your wooden triangle.

Get a fire going in the grill.

Make sure to have your gloves handy!

Step 4: Get Ready to Burn!

Place your wood on top of your base.

Over a few minutes you will see smoke coming out of the top of your triangle. If your triangle isn't too tall, fire will soon shoot out from the top. Leave it on for another minute if that happens.

Step 5: Remove the Wood

After you behold the beauty of fire, remove the wood using your fire tongs (pictured above).

Step 6: Cool Down

Place your burning wood on the brick base and hose it off with water to stop it from burning. Once the fire is out, cut the wire, let the steam evaporate, and take a look at your wood!

Step 7: Shou Sugi Ban Complete!

Now you have created a beautiful finish for your wood that may last up to eighty years! If there are areas that didn't burn well you can run it along the fire again.

If you like a less charred look, take a metal brush and run it along the wood. Wear a dust mask to prevent from inhaling the dust.

And you're done! Thank you!



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15 Discussions

How well does this wear? I have seen another instructable on using this technique that leaves the wood with more surface integrity (less charred and smooth) and the wood looks like it would be fit for building furniture out of, which the author made a table with it.

I am curious if this would be suitable for making a deck with. You used a less expensive wood, ideal for the scope of project I am planning.

1 reply

I think it looks great on furniture, but I have noticed it 'wearing off' rather quick. I don't think it would be suitable for a walking surface.

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In 1960 I lived on Okinawa and they used this technique on some buildings. I loved the effect. It wasn't quite as charred as yours. I think I saw them use a low flame and it smoked and lightly charred the wood. Anyway, I never knew what it was called... and wanted to do that for my railings, but ended up painting them black instead. I may be replacing some of the wood, and will keep this technique in mind. Thank you for posting. I sure love how the internet makes knowledge so much easier to obtain.

Does the charing come off when yo touch it? Do you seal it, or use as is?

2 replies

Yes. Charred wood is carbon, which will transfer to other things like clothes, shoe soles, carpet, etc.

The worst of charring is normally scrubbed off with heavy brushes, but never to the point of actually exposing the uncharred wood. The charring acts as a barrier to bugs, rain, pretty much everything you don't want on your wood house. It is usually sealed with a light natural oil of some kind after the removal of the charring.

I suggest doing some web searching and Google work with this if you plan to use this for something. I think they went a little too deep with the charring on this. I have seen other videos of this, and they use a number of techniques to char the wood without burning too deep.

Traditionally the Japanese wet the charred wood and scrub it to remove dust. They then put Tung oil on it or another oil. It seems you could seal it with poly or shellac after it dries, but I've not tried it. On my list...

This was a popular finishing technique for DIYers in the early 70's and for nautically themed restaurants in the Seattle area. We used torches on 2X fir, then smoothed them w/ a steel brush. Covered it w/ poly or oil. Made a great table top. Be careful--cedar burns quickly

I've done this with cedar, cypress and pine, but I use a torch and don't burn it quite as much as you seem to. I've cleaned it up with brushes (both metal and nylon), sandpaper, and steel wool. I like steel wool the best. I like to reveal the grain a little for contrast. I have finished it with tung oil and polyurethane. Both have worked well for me.

Kent dvm Don't put Poly or Shelac on it will be a waste and will simply flake of! Only Oil makes any sense at all !!!! Stick with the traditional they knew what worked and why !!!!!!


10 months ago

Great, simple idea for preserving wood

Great instructable! Fun fact, this also makes the wood fire resistant, odd though that may seem.


10 months ago

Great way to make wood last longer and pest-free. Thanks for sharing!

think I'll stick to using a torch for better control

Great technique, thank you so much for sharing this. I will certainly do this someday!

I love that effect :)