Introduction: How to Make Charred Wood Siding (without Propane)

About: I'm Chris, a thirty-something British bloke with a ton of passions: sailing, travelling, DIY, adventure, climbing... I love making YouTube videos about these passions. Check out my videos on my website or YouT…

In this Instructable you'll see how easy it is to make charred wood siding, without using propane. Charring wood protects it from, ultraviolet light, insect attack and, paradoxically, the resulting wood is also more fire resistant....

Why paint wood when you can burn it instead?!

I wanted to make some charred wood siding, and during my research I stumbled across a Japanese-language video on YouTube, where I saw this really simple, yet very clever technique (in Japan this technique is called Shou Sugi Ban or Yakisugi).

Shou Sugi Ban is becoming very trendy these days, and by making it this way, you don't need a propane torch or any other specialist tools.

I made a YouTube video to accompany this Instructable - you can watch it here: Shou Sugi Ban - charred wood effect. A DIY tutorial

Step 1: Tools and Materials Required

Apart from the wood, you almost certainly have everything you will need in the house already... Hooray!

You will need the following:

  • Wood siding - traditionally the Japanese use Cedar but I used the cheapest redwood shiplap siding I could find, and it worked perfectly!
  • Combustible materials - wood offcuts, newspaper, or best of all: junk mail!
  • A lighter - or small blow torch
  • Wire - I didn't have any bare wire but I pulled some copper wire out of an electrical cable and it worked really well.
  • Fireproof gloves - you could use old oven gloves for this, I used a pair of leather gloves.)
  • Water - I used a bucket - you can use a hose if you like.
  • A thin metallic object - such as a steel bracket or an old butter knife.
  • Some kind of fireproof 'fire pit' - I made something out of some loose bricks. You could use a barbecue grill, or even dig a small hole in the garden.

Step 2: Preparation

Make yourself a small fire pit. This took me a couple of minutes with some bricks I had lying around in the garden. If you don't have any bricks or rocks you can dig a small hole in the garden. Make sure you leave some room for air to get into your fire.

Get three sections of siding and place them into a triangle shape. The faces you want to burn need to be facing inwards.

Tie the siding together in this triangular shape with your wire. Three pices of wire worked well for me. You only need a couple of twists on each wire for it to hold the siding in position.

Stuff some twisted paper inside your triangle - one piece at each end. You want air to be able to pass around the outside of the paper so don't make it too thick.

Put some combustible material inside your fire pit so that you are you're ready to start your small fire.

Get a bucket / hose of water on hand before starting your fire. Clear an area free fom anything combustible, including pets and children!

Step 3: Burn, Baby, Burn!

Set fire to your combustible materials. Put on your fireproof gloves - we don't want burnt fingers now do we?!

Place your 'chimney' shape of siding on top of the fire so that the paper sets on fire inside your triangle.

Soon enough the whole of the inside of your chimney will auto-combust and you will have a roaring fire in there. You can play around with the amount of air getting in by inserting your metal tool in a gap between two lengths of siding and then twisting the tool (you can see this in my video).

It's amazing how well this works and the wood burns really well.

After a couple of minutes, spin your siding around 180 degrees and burn it the other way round to get a nice even burn throughout.

After a couple more minutes, lay the wood down on the floor and quench it with some water.

Step 4: Check Out Your Charred Wood!

Untwist the wire, and open up your triangle. Now look at how great it looks!

Ther are several different options now. You can leave it very burnt with a crocodile skin effect, like you see in my video.

If your wood has some less burnt corners, you can easily pass it over the fire like I did with a couple of pieces.

If you want a less burnt finish, this is really easy, just get a hard-bristled brush and brush your wood siding. The carbonised wood brushes off, and you are left with a really beautiful 3D-textured finish (caused by uneven burning of the growth rings in the wood). This gives the wood an absolutely stunning finish and I have used this on another project I made - a copper pipe / charred wood designer clothes hanger.

With any of the above finishes, if you want, you can apply a sealer to the wood.

Some options include: linseed oil, shellac and polyurethane varnish (these are all amazon links).

However, it is not necessary to add a wood sealer - and you can leave the wood untreated, like I did. The carbon layer protects the wood underneath.

That's it! You have created some charred wood siding and now you can use it to make something really cool!

If you enjoyed this please check out my YouTube Channel or my website

Please let me know what you make with your charred wood and post your pictures too. :-)