Shou Sugi Ban Wood - the act to char or carbonize wood.
Shou Sugi Ban is a process that involves charring wood, cooling it, cleaning it, and finishing it with natural oil (though some choose to skip the natural oil step.) This process was originally started in Japan, and dates back as far as 1700s. Traditionally the Japanese used Sugi wood (which is Japanese cedar), but North American companies have adapted to use Western red cedar and Southern cypress woods. The charring on the outside serves many functions: it seals and protects the wood from the elements, makes it fire resistance, and also acts as a natural retardant for insects and rodents.
The process originally lost favor in Japan due to the rise of modern plastic and cementitious materials, and the decline of local Sugi. It again gained favor in early 2000s, as it was “rediscovered” in Japan, and began to gain attention in the western part of the world. It is a natural beautiful and non- toxic way to preserve wood, as one does not need to use chemical preservatives, paints, or retardants after charring the wood and it is said to last as long as 100 years, with minimal maintenance.
One important distinction in creating beautiful charred wood, results in the type of wood used. Open celled wood works best, as during the charring process the outermost cellulose burns off, which leaves a blackened lignin behind (lingin, is the term for a the cell walls within bark, that give a tree its rigidity and resistance to rot). This creates a very charred alligator type of skin on the wood, which can be left like this, or brushed off, and finished with a natural oil (traditionally, tung oil).
"Ochre Barn" By Cal Turner Architects.
Located at http://www.archilovers.com/projects/175541/blackbird.html
Granted, with most burned elements, there is an element of soot that comes along with it, so choosing the right flamed depth/look/wood, is important in choosing where this siding is appropriate. For an interior application, it is not recommended to use the heavily charred application, unless it has been properly sealed as required per the species.
From our initial studies, we have come across many people who have attempted to flame the wood to varying degrees of effect. One of our favorite manufacturers to date has been Delta Millworks (deltamillworks.com), they offer varying degrees of flamed techniques (on different wood substrates) that offer a truly unique and also sustainable flare to any siding. They are also stateside, which adds to this sustainable product.
SJJ came across burning wood through their travels through Japan, and find it to be a wonderfully beautiful technique. The Japanese once again have mastered an artistry of combining nature and man, in the act of preserving the integrity of wood, by burning it.
House by Terunobu Fujimori