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What is Sugi Ban?

What is Sugi Ban?

December 1, 2020

Sugi Ban / Shou Sugi Ban is a traditional Japanese method of wood preservation which involves charring wood with fire. It is also know in Japan as Yakisugi (Yaki meaning to heat with fire, and sugi meaning cypress), and may be referred to in the West as burnt timber cladding. 

Sugi Ban originated in Japan in the 18th century primarily as way to treat cedar siding in order to make it weatherproof. It has become somewhat of a trend lately and is now used in a variety of modern day products - in some products it is used to provide weatherproofing qualities (as traditionally intended), and in other products it is used purely for aesthetic purposes - in which case the level of charring on the surface may not be as intense.


Traditionalists prefer Cryptomeria Japonica (Japanese Cedar) wood species for outdoor use as it can take the heat for a deep burn which results in pest, rot, and fire resistance as well as becoming a natural water repellent and sun shield. However, if aesthetics rather than wood preservation is the intention, the Sugi Ban charred aesthetic can be achieved using many different species of timber such as pine, oak and maple.

For products that require weatherproofing qualities (e.g. exterior products such as cladding) the wood is burned until the entire surface is charred, and then coated with natural oil. The result is a scorched finish with a magnificent charcoal black color. The surface of the wood can take on a crackled or alligator skin look depending on the wood species and the burn intensity. 

For products where Sugi Ban is used purely for aesthetic purposes (e.g. interior wall panelling) the wood can be burned to varying degrees, and the product may or may not have a finish on the surface. The finished product can vary from very lightly burnt with the original wood colour and texture still showing through, through to deeply charred with the wood surface taking on more of a crackled or alligator skin appearance. 

Overall, Sugi Ban wood is a practical and environmentally friendly material, that looks visually appealing and does not utilize any chemicals or toxins that could leech into the environment. At the end of its useful life it can be recycle or disposed of without any environmental concerns.

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