What Is The History Of The ‘Charred-Burnt-Scorched-Cladding’ Charred Wood Treatment?
- Charred Wood FAQ, Traditional Japanese Burnt Wood (aka. Charred-Burnt-Scorched-Cladding or Yakisugi)
The term “Shou-Sugi-Ban” is Japanese (焼杉板) and literally translates to “burnt cedar board”. The term is commonly used to describe the centuries old Japanese technique of charring “Sugi” (cedar) planks used for residential siding, fencing, and decking projects. A wide range of wood species of wood types are now more common and readily available for use in the Charred-Burnt-Scorched-Cladding process. You also see a wide range of timber profiles e.g Tongue and Groove, Square edge, Shiplaps etc. Charred timber is used for both internal and external applications common for restaurant and bar fitouts to give the shabby chic look.
Originally, Japanese carpenters looking for an artistic and unique finish that also improved durability used recovered driftwood from the coastlines of Japan. Because of the weathering process wood undergoes when it is subjected to the harsh environment of saltwater, surf, and sun, Japanese driftwood was prized for its unique appearance and durability in many different carpentry mediums.
Driftwood that had undergone the appropriate weathering process was in short supply while demand in Japan for such a product was high. So the Japanese turned to another weathering process to achieve the durability and aesthetic. Fire in this case provided the preservative, and the unique and artistic dimension Japanese homeowners and craftsman were looking for.
The practice of charring Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) commonly referred to in the United States as Japanese Cedar has been commonplace in Japan since at least the 1700s, and likely earlier. In the last 50-100 years the practice has fallen out of favor in Japan due to the advent of modern plastic or cement based siding, decking, and fencing. Additionally, wood in Japan has been in short supply for quite a while, and most wood has to be imported, increasing its cost. These factors caused Charred-Burnt-Scorched-Cladding to become a “lost” technique.
In the early 2000′s, Charred-Burnt-Scorched-Cladding was “rediscovered,” first in Japan, but then it quickly gained the attention of architects and designers in Europe and North America, and started showing up in custom designed houses and buildings. In the last few years its use has really exploded, for all the same reasons that it was popular in Japan hundreds of years ago.
Japanese Cedar has been traditionally the most popular species to char or burn in American but in other continents we have seen other more popular species such as Siberian larch, SetriWood, Thermowood, Accoya due to their natural durability and also being commercially readily available especially in the UK.
Japanese Architect Terunobu Fujimori Creating Charred-Burnt-Scorched-Cladding the Traditional Way in Japan