Charring timber has become a popular method of design and preservation. The accent Japanese art of preserving timber through burning has become a fashionable solution for architects and designers. With popularity of charring wood on the rise, we’re here to explore the best timber to use for the process.
Historically, the tree used for charring is Japanese Cedar , known as ‘Sugi’ in Japan. This is what gives the charring process the name Shou Sugi Ban, literally translating as ‘burnt cedar board.’ Japanese cedar is a quick growing coniferous softwood which usually grows to 45 metres in height and can reach a circumference of 7.5 metres. The timber is used in ship building and house building, which is then charred, to increase its longevity as a building material.
Cedar is a porous timber as a result of it’s fast growing cycle, but other timbers benefit from this quality too. Larch for example has a porous nature, lending itself to charring. The resin found in larch also helps it to easily burn. In the UK, many larch plantations have caught Ramorum disease. The Government has put orders on these trees to be felled, leading to a large supply, and therefore potentially cheaper timber to purchase for charring.
To find the best timber for charring you need to consider the final use of the wood, and the cost you have in mind. Hardwoods such as oak offer lasting durability compared to softwoods. Oak lasts a lot longer against the elements, and so often charring is completely unnecessary. It is also not as easy to burn and takes a considerable amount of time to do so!
Ash is a lighter timber, still as durable as oak internally, but when used outside is more susceptible to rot and damage. Used indoors, this timber can offer an effective alternative hardwood to oak. Ash chars easily and is a cheaper timber too. The grain of ash can be a lot smoother, and so if used indoors for cladding, or furniture, we would advise it over oak.
Ideally though, the use of Larch or Cedar is advised. It’s easy to burn, looks effective and is a financially viable option for lots of projects. It is worth sealing with a sealant, and if outdoors a UV protection sealant is best. Ask us for any guidance on charring your own timber by calling or emailing us, alternatively, we can provide you with the finished product for your project.