Scorching wood, a modern approach to Shou Sugi Ban


Orlando Dominic Gualtieri

Artist and maker in wood

Charred wood

Originating in 18th century Japan, Shou Sugi Ban is a striking method of preserving wood by charring it with fire. This practice was traditionally used with Japanese Cedar in order to weatherproof it.

The wood is burned until the surface is charred, then coated with a natural oil. The end result is a scorched surface with an amazingĀ  charcoal black color.

I’ve been incorporating charring into my work for some time now. Like all techniques, it need to be applied with thought given to the overall effect on the work.

The effects vary with the degree of charring, from a subtle darkening of the wood through to a full black surface with a cracked appearance.

Scorching green wood is particulary interesting as the deformation that occurs as a result of the intense heat being applied is not totally predictable.

With respect to finishing the piece, I remove the sooty surface deposits with a stiff brush and the work is left as is sometimes, or on other occassions, oil or wax is applied

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