Q: I’ve heard of a Japanese method of preserving outdoor wood that involves charring the surface. How is this done?
A: “Shou Sugi Ban” is a traditional Japanese method of preserving Japanese cedar siding by charring it. These days, architects and designers use other species of wood like western red cedar, Douglas fir, cypress, pine and oak for such applications. The process involves charring the wood surface with exposed flame from a propane torch, then cooling it, cleaning it with a wire brush, rinsing, and then finishing it with natural oil. Although time consuming, the final product has a rich, silvery finish, and the charred wood resists fire, rot, insects, and can last up to 80 years. This technique can be used for siding, outdoor benches, and all sorts of creative applications.