Menushopping cart

BEN The Build-It Blog

Coloring Shou Sugi Ban

06/17/2021 By Joe Samalin

My favorite look is curly or heavily figured grain such as this.
My favorite look is curly or heavily figured grain such as this.
)

One of the outcomes of my recent journeys into shou sugi ban was exploring different ways of coloring wood that has been burned. While not necessarily a part of the traditional Japanese method of wood burning for house siding, as it developed into a more aesthetic practice in the US and elsewhere people began experimenting with colors. For the patio furniture I built we played with how it looked, and decided against it for that project.

I have been primarily first burning the wood and then applying coloring. I haven’t found anything on doing it the other way around yet, and am curious, but am too wary of the chemicals used in most coloring to try it without doing some more research first. Any input here is welcome! (For a really cool and unique take on coloring wood check out The Art of Coloring Wood). I have been using a light burn that colors the grain but leaves unburnt places as well. For smaller wood I have switched from my usual tool - a small propane torch and camping canister of propane - to a new fun tool I found - a multi-function butane torch! It works as a heat gun, soldering iron, pyrography tool and more as well as a fine mini-blow torch that easily and evenly burns wood.

I picked it up for about $40 at a local tech store.
I picked it up for about $40 at a local tech store.


I also played a bit with doing deeper burns followed by brushing off the char, but it doesn’t give as clean a look (I can be somewhat lazy and the less steps the better). I have found best results with an even consistent burn, whatever the amount. With a deeper level burn you do want to brush off the residual char/burn. Otherwise coloring can get messy. There are numerous ways to brush and they all give a different look - nylon, wire, brush, sanding flaps, etc.



Different types of grain burn differently and take color differently - straight even grain and curly figured grain will give very different looks!
Different types of grain burn differently and take color differently - straight even grain and curly figured grain will give very different looks!



You can get different burns and looks even in one piece of wood.
You can get different burns and looks even in one piece of wood.


So far I have used Osmo Wood Wax and Lockwood Dyes to color the wood I have burned. Wood wax comes in two types - Intensive colors and Transparent colors. Intensive colors (better for coloring shou sugi ban than transparent) can be darkened by using more than one coat. Similarly Lockwood dyes can be lighter or darker depending on the concentration used to mix the dye. I also plan to try with a less concentrated milk paint wash in the future.


I mixed Lockwood dye to create a lighter coloring
I mixed Lockwood dye to create a lighter coloring, like this red.



Different grains
Different grains, burns, and blues. 4” x 4” Spruce on top with light concentration of Lockwood dye, 1” x 2” pine in the middle with Wood Wax, and 1” x 2” with different grain and Wood Wax on the bottom.


All the wood I used here has been pine or spruce lumber left over from various projects, with clear figured grain that burns cleanly and easily. I love the look of the burn alone, but it also takes the color well. A lot of fun with scraps, palette wood, and more. Play with burns and coloring on scraps and you can make beautiful creative small projects as gifts or for sale, including tea light candle holders, picture frames, small boxes, and more. As I get better at coloring shou sugi ban I plan to make projects incorporating it into the design.



Have fun!
Have fun!


Share any questions below, and would love to hear suggestions on different woods, methods of burning, and coloring to try!
Join the conversation
06/17/2021 Laurence Pylinski
Have you tried any other species of wood, ie Oak, Poplar, Maple….?
I would be interested in the outcome using other species.
Name:
Email (will not be published):
Website (optional):
Please enter your comment (HTML is not allowed):
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
Subscribe
JOEL Joel's Blog
BREN Video Roundup
EVT Classes & Events
BEN Built-It Blog
WORK Work Magazine
Newer Entries...
BENIs it Humid? or is it just me... - 09/06/2011
BENKing Kong and the Gramercy Custom Shop - 08/04/2011
BENReal (small) Shop, Real (small) Antlers - 06/30/2011
BENPuerto Rico Day Planing - 06/15/2011
BENGandalf Part 2: Trickery - 06/01/2011
BENGandalf Part 1: Joinery - 05/25/2011
BENKaraoke Dovetails - 05/13/2011
BENRedemption and Vice - 04/25/2011
BENWax On Wax Off - 04/11/2011
BENSpring is Always a Little Chile - 03/21/2011
BENThe Trash Gods Giveth - 03/09/2011
BENLucky Bench - 02/28/2011
BENWho Cares (R.I.P) - 02/21/2011
BENA Tree Falls in Brooklyn - 02/16/2011
BENIntroduction - 02/15/2011