Introduction: Shou Sugi Ban Pine Cutting Board

I previously worked in a furniture factory the management of which was thrilled with us spending a few hours per day with our own projects, especially if we used their wood and did it in the night or weekend shift when they weren't there and didn't know; so our wives ended up owning more jewelry boxes than jewelries, had more picture frames per square feet than the Louvre (fewer paintings unfortunately) and there is no known number for how many cutting boards we made.

After a while I started making cabinets for the cutting boards, then we moved to a bigger house so we could fit more cabinets, still we couldn't keep up: if the table was rocking we used a cutting board to put under the leg, if the kid was misbehaving we slapped him with a cutting board, we even threw cutting boards at the birds that were eating our cherries.

Then we started giving them away, wedding gift: cutting board, Christmas present: cutting board, we even buried uncle John with 23 cutting boards; whenever we visited friends or family we brought a small gift:

- Look honey, a cutting board, how sweet! Just put it in the collection with the others - wink wink - you know, by the fireplace!

Gradually people stopped inviting us over, even worse, they stopped letting us in, when we showed up anyway, so we had to leave the cutting boards on their porch and run away.

But the factory eventually went bust, for unrelated reasons of course, and regardless of how much we tried to spare them over the years since, we're slowly but surely running out of cutting boards and our last chance is: 焼杉板.

I don't always get carried away on an introductory text, but when I do... on a serious note from now on:

If you had ever used a cutting board made out of pine wood you surely noticed that it's cheap for a reason: it's far inferior to those made of hardwood (or plastic) in regards of durability and hygiene. The main problem is that the wood being so soft it wears away easily, and even worse, it can quickly absorb a lot of moisture and besides bending, warping and cracking this poses serious health hazards due to the fact that it's impossible to properly clean and dry. Moisture and food residue are the perfect breeding ground for the nastiest bacteria, but wait, before you throw out your cutting boards, there's a simple and inexpensive solution: Shou Sugi Ban.

Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese wood preservation technique that consists of charring, cleaning and finishing the wood with natural oil. It's mostly used for exterior projects but it also works wonders on cutting boards (soft and hard wood alike) because: the surface becomes tougher, waterproof and if you finish it with beeswax it will have antifungal and antimicrobial properties; so without further ado, let's get to it:

Tools and Materials:

  • Cutting board
  • Propane torch
  • Wire brush
  • Lint free cloth
  • Beeswax

Step 1: Charring and Cleaning the Wood

It's best to do this outside or in a well ventilated place (with no smoke alarms) because it involves a fair amount of smoke.

Start by charring the wood with the propane torch until you completely burn the entire surface, welder's gloves are a good idea at this point as you need to handle hot wood.

After the board has cooled take the wire brush, ideally a medium-hard one, and brush off all the top layer of brittle charcoal, then use one side of the lint free cloth to thoroughly clean off all the fine dust, use a dust mask, maybe.

You may even wash the board with water at this point, but then you'd have to wait until the wood completely dries off, which can take longer than a day and ain't nobody got time for that!

Step 2: Applying the Finish

As a personal preference, I finished the cutting board with beeswax, mostly because I don't feel comfortable with mineral oil, natural oils may go rancid over time and beeswax is 100% edible, natural and has scientifically proven antimicrobial properties; I'm going to eat off of it, so why not?

You need to gently melt one side of the beeswax block over the propane torch and smear the molten wax over the whole surface of the cutting board.

As the wax cools it hardens in place so you'll need to use the torch to melt it again, hold the torch further and gently hover over the board, try to keep the wax liquid for a couple of minutes so that the wood can absorb the maximum amount.

Then use the clean side of the lint free cloth to wipe off all the wax you can - while heating with the torch, there shouldn't be any white spots (a.k.a. hardened wax) left on the board and you're done.

Maintenance wise: you can reapply the wax anytime you see fit.

Don't forget to visit my website: stvn.eu and check out my other projects.

Comments

author
obillo (author)2017-06-01

Very good! The ancient Romans used fire-=hardening on the piles they drove to support bridge abutments, and the process is undoubtedly even older. But will this pine really survive as a cutting board? As for mineral oil, I love it so long as its pure, but I will try the beeswax. I've used Vaseline or other petroleum jellies (totally edible) on knife handles, and that works well too. And I really enjoyed your long intro, even if you did use 'less' instead of 'fewer.' I'm familiar with a similar situation in which once-trustful folks now lock their car doors on Main St lest they come back after shopping to find the back seat filled with surplus zucchini.

Having read all the comments I'd say almost everyone wants more long intros, hoping they'll be as good as this one.

author
stvnishere (author)obillo2017-06-02

Thank you for your comment, I corrected the less/fewer thing but there might still be other mistakes, English is not my native language (it's my third actually). As for petroleum products: they're not very popular in these parts, so beeswax was an obvious choice, not only because of my phobia of crude oil derivatives, but because of availability.

author
obillo (author)stvnishere2017-06-02

Thanks, I will continue using both beeswax AND petro stuff and let you know what I come up with.

What do you think of teak as a possibility--either 'burnt' or not? I ask because I happen to have a supply at hand.

author
stvnishere (author)obillo2017-06-02

I see no reason why teak wouldn't work, probably better than pine (being a hardwood), but I have no experience working with teak, so I'm only guessing. You should give it a try, maybe make two: burn one, but leave the other as is just to see how they compare.

author
SusanS337 (author)2017-05-23

I had seen this technique used for lots of building projects, as you had mentioned, but didn't realize how useful it could be for such creative and constructive uses as a cutting board. Since I live on the small side and don't have a home of my own, this is such a doable project for me. My foodie friends will be so jealous. Thanks for curating an easy to follow tutorial.

author
stvnishere (author)SusanS3372017-05-23

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

author
NikyN2 (author)2017-05-23

awesome!

I was totally thinking on building an end-grain cutting board with some spare wood I have laying around, but alas, all I have is pine, and I was kinda concerned about the durability... (though my store-bought board IS pine. just, not end-grain. it's... not exactly new, at this point).

now I just need to think how to improvise a torch, 'cause I don't have one of those.

PS: oh. I loved that intro. ;)

author
stvnishere (author)NikyN22017-05-23

I'm glad you liked it!

You can do it over a gas stove or any open flame, it might take a bit longer but you can achieve the same results, just be wary of any smoke detectors and wear protection. Don't forget to post pictures.

author
mikeA135 (author)2017-05-23

Great short tutorial! The beeswax is a good idea hadn't used it before for kitchenware but will now. Sugi means cedar so I guess that makes this shou matsu-no ban?? or just yakisugi haha.

author
stvnishere (author)mikeA1352017-05-23

I went with the Shou Sugi Ban term because it is the one mostly used and it's recognizable even for "laymen" and "Charred Pine Cutting Board" doesn't sound too exotic, but yes, you are right. Thank you for your comment!

author
jeanneambro (author)2017-05-23

I've been wanting to try Shou Sugi Ban for quite a while now and you have inspired me! I was afraid I'd need a huge propane setup to do this. Thanx for sharing.

author
stvnishere (author)jeanneambro2017-05-23

Actually a small torch is better because it's easier to control and you can direct the flame exactly where you want it. Thanks for your comment!

author
LeslieGeee (author)2017-05-23

You have a GREAT sense of humor and the tutorial was interesting also lol. Thank you for sharing :)

author
stvnishere (author)LeslieGeee2017-05-23

Thank You!

author
florindgis (author)2017-05-21

Thanks for sharing!

It is very easy and anyone can do it, I will surely do it.

author
stvnishere (author)florindgis2017-05-22

I'm glad you found it useful, don't forget to post pictures when you do make it.

author
asaadbobby (author)2017-05-21

This is hilarious!

author
stvnishere (author)asaadbobby2017-05-22

Thanks for reading!

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