Shou sugi ban is burning wood to create a durable finish. At this time of year it is kind of perfect for a little Halloween ambiance because the finish is a gorgeous black that looks especially amazing on pieces with wood detailing. This isn’t your grandma’s Halloween craft, my friends. This is blow torch-style awesome sauce.
Actually, it’s a couple thousand year-old Japanese method, so it may well be your grandma’s craft. Shou sugi ban is a method of preserving wood by burning it that also produces some really cool artistic pieces. While it is by no means a Halloween thing, I am taking advantage of the upcoming holiday to break out this very cool style that I have been dying to try.
The verdict: This is one awesome finishing style that is probably the most fun method ever.
Whether you are here because you just learned about burned wood furniture (shou sugi ban), or because you were attracted to a different sort of Halloween craftiness, hopefully you will be tempted to give this a go. Because, seriously, it’s a kick in the pants.
How to use the shou sugi ban method on wood furniture
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A note on supplies:
You don’t need much to do this method other than a blow torch and some oil. I used a simple blow torch like this from Home Depot and some tung oil. Tung oil gives it a darker finish because it is a bit amber, but honestly I’m not sure what other oils would do since this is what I had on hand.
I really wanted to do a really ornate, Victorian piece for my first go at shou sugi ban, but Craiglist has been major failing me of late. So I went down to Goodwill and picked up the cheapest piece of wood furniture I could find.
At $5 this little ugly ducking fit the bill just right.
I sanded just the top a bit because it had gouges and wear that I didn’t want to show through the new finish. The rest I left as was, which made this a super simple project.
Because it needs to be said: Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t burn anything down. I did this out in our driveway with a hose right next to me as an extra precaution. Use caution, work slow, wear safety gear, and don’t go all Fahrenheit 451, okay?
I ended up burning this piece in two good layers because after doing the first I could see bits of light wood showing through. It needed a good charring all over to bring it to the level I wanted. In heavily grained wood you can also choose to use shou sugi ban to highlight the texture of the wood rather than giving it a deep char all over. Shou sugi ban was originally used on cedar, and that wood looks really neat burned.
After burning I scrubbed down the wood with a brush to remove the charcoal.
The finish at this point is dull with some brown showing through. You will want to go over it with a cloth as well to get the soot off.
I used oil to put some moisture back into the wood and seal it. With tung oil you rub it in, then wipe it down after about five minutes. The wood soaked it in like crazy, so there really wasn’t anything to wipe back. You can do a second coat after 24 hours or so. Originally I thought I might put some poly over the oil, but you can build up a couple layers and it really isn’t necessary. The tun oil will get a bit glossier with each coat.
Just to give you an idea of how the oil transforms the newly burned table, here it is in process.
Isn’t that awesome?!
And here it is all finished! I put this little table by the front door to use as a treat dispensary. It makes a fun Halloween table, but also one that looks great any time of year. It has the appearance of a dark stain to look at it.
I had so much fun doing this and am totally on the lookout for something hideously ornate to burn next. What do you think? Have you heard of shou sugi ban before? Would you try it?