Experimenting w/ Shou Sugi Ban/Yakisugi – Bernzomatic Torch

 In Tool Reviews, Wood Projects

I am going to be working with Sho Sugi Ban on a few projects this year.  Shou Sugi Ban is the Japanese art of burning Sugi (a Japanese cedar.) It adds both beauty and utility to the cedar as it increased the already considerable resistance to bugs and rot that cedar already has.  Lately, Shou Sugi Ban has come to be used to describe any burning of any wood to blacken the color.

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I am going to be building a workbench for my shop out of a cache of red and white oak I have been acclimating for a few months now.  I am not sure if you have kept up with my goings-on across social media but I am not a huge fan of the weed that is Missouri red oak.  I plan on burning the heck out of it to get that gator skin effect, but I have never tried this on red oak and I wanted to see how it all came together.  

Recently I was sent the TS8000 torch kit from Bernzomatic and I wanted to give it a test drive with figuring out the ins and outs of Shou Sugi Ban.  I used some offcuts I had laying around just to test drive the torch and figure out what’s what. In the past, I have used a propane weed torch to do any Shou Sugi Ban in my shop (like the one in the boring company flame thrower.)  This is a lot of fun but, it’s a crude and imprecise tool. The TS8000 gets ALOT hotter and it is also easier to get more nuanced colors in the wood you are working with. I am still a little apprehensive about doing the entire undercarriage of my workbench but little tests like this help me to build confidence. 

Check out these results, I was going for a finish known as alligator skin finish where the wood is so burnt the caramelized sugars start to bubble up the surface of the wood.  I had some red oak, white oak, and pine laying around I wanted to check out. I was happy to find out that the red oak looked the same as the white oak after burning it. I have seen some stuff my buddy Jonny does with pine shou sugi ban, but I am not so bold.  

I burnt each piece to a crisp right up until the point it started to flame up.  After it had cooled for a bit I hit each sample with a wire brush attached to a drill to knock off any wood grain loosened by the fire.  After brushing I blew off each piece with compressed air to make sure there isn’t anything left to ruin a finish. After I was pretty confident the piece was clean I rubbed it down with an oil and polyurethane mix.  The oil probably wasn’t necessary but I do think it adds a little richness to the final color. I can’t wait to get this workbench put together and see how this finish looks on the entire chassis of the bench.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress…

Remember, Keep your tools sharp and your mind sharper


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