First, an apology for not posting for so long, but we have had no internet for two weeks. When you have rural wireless internet, a long driveway and more snow than you know what to do with - well it takes a while to get a repair person. But we are back in business now....
shou sugi ban... what is this you may ask?
It is an ancient Japanese wood preserving technique. Translated it means ' the burning (or charring) or Japanese cypress'. It is also sometimes called yakisugi. Sugi is the term for Japanese cypress, or cedar. This technique preserves the wood, makes it fire retardant (really!) and looks beautiful. Under different names a similar technique is used in Finland, and apparently Wales, and probably other places as well.
We are using white cedar as a siding material for Refuge House.
In this post I will take you through this amazing process, and we will also be making an instructional video which we will post on vimeo next week.
First, the white cedar.
Add fire, char, it seems counter-intuitive to do this to wood, but it doesn't just burn up, it chars and gets an alligator skin pattern along with making a crackling noise when it is just right.
Once the boards are charred then dirty work begins. This definitely wants to be done outside, in a place that can get filthy. Be prepared because you will also look like a chimney sweep. Taking a scrub brush you brush the charred wood off the boards. Do not do this near any clean boards, wear a dust mask, and use elbow grease. The good news is the soot washes off easily!
Next step, after brushing, is rinsing down with water, and then letting the boards dry.
The last step, once the boards are dry is applying an oil to help preserve the wood, stop it drying out, and to enhance the colour. Refuge House will be oiled using hemp oil, but you could use tung oil, the traditional oil is rosewood, and we have heard you could use safflower, too. In the picture below the left half has been oiled the right left without so you can see the difference.
I'm not going to lie - this is a time consuming process! But if preserving without the use of chemicals is important then this is a wonderful idea. The finished product is gorgeous, fire retardant and does not have to be maintained.
We are also starting to put up the ceiling inside, it is a beautiful locally cut and milled clear spruce, so stay tuned for more pictures.