Introduction: Shou Sugi Ban American Flag

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I've always thought the Shou Sugi Ban method (An environmentally friendly way to preserve wood by charring it) gives a look that can easily* fit into any deco theme. This is the first project I've ever made with this method and was greatly pleased with the outcome of this incredibly simple technique.

Everyone who's seen my new flag wants one now! It's a great way to show off your American patriotism on your front step. It also makes a stirring memorial to war veterans who have served our country.

*Just because it can be easy doesn't mean we can forget safety! Make sure to be safe when using fire on a flammable surface and use necessary skin/eye protection.

Step 1: Tools:

  • Regular Household Torch
  • 15/32 drill bit
  • 1/8 drill bit (optional although I would suggest it)
  • Drill
  • Small Nail Gun

Step 2: Materials:

  • (6) 35''long x 1 1/2''wide strips of whatever wood you have on hand, (I used a 3/4''x4 piece of pine and ripped it to the exact measurements needed.)
  • (7) 21''long x 1 1/2 ''wide strip of the same whatever lumber.
  • (4) 3 1/2''wide x 10''long pieces of lumber
    • (3) 18" long strips for the back
    • (3) 12" long strips also for the back
    • (3) 9" long strips also for the back
  • 50 empty 5.56 brass bullet shells (which I found for very inexpensively on ebay )

Step 3: Assemble Your Pieces So You Can Get a Picture of Whats It Gonna Look Like

The 10"x3 1/2" pieces go in the top left corner. This is whats usually blue on the American flag.

The 21"x1" pieces go right next to that these are the top 7 stripes.

And the 35"x1" pieces go on the bottom, these are the bottom 6 stripes.

Step 4: Mark the Pieces That Need to Be Charred and Put Aside the Rest.

I put an X on all the pieces that need to be charred. Since this is an american flag its just every other piece and the 4 in the top left corner.

Step 5: Start Burning!

Now that we have selected the pieces that need to be burned, we can start burning them.

The goal is to char the wood to the point where the char starts to look like alligators skin...just starting to break into little shapes.

  1. Lay your wood in a place that nothing around can catch fire (safety first :)
  2. Use the torch to do passes, about 4-6 inches above your wood, much like spray paint.
  3. Do a few passes until the top is evenly charred, and is just starting to look like alligators skin (or crocodile or whatever I always forget the difference :)
  4. Then use a wire brush to brush off the char that easily comes off.
  5. Then use a broom or air compressor to clean off char dust.
  6. For a cleaner, more in-depth look, I do a second char, just repeat steps 2-5.

Step 6: Assemble All the Pieces

It should be easy enough to figure out; the top stripe is dark and so is every other one. You should have 7 charred stripes and 6 plain ones.

Step 7: Nail All Your Pieces Together

Now keeping it in the same layout as in the last step, flip over all the pieces and use a few stripes or maybe scraps to nail together all the pieces.

I used 3, 18" long pieces at 7" apart to hold together the pieces on the left.

For the top right I used 3, 12" long pieces at 3" apart

And for the bottom right I used 3, 9" long pieces at 4" apart

I nailed these in with a nail a little bit bigger than a trim nail...but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Step 8: Adding the Stars

Now to make all the stars fit, I made a 1"x1" grid with a pencil and ruler, then placed all the bullet shells on where the stars would be.

The holes will be on every other cross of the grid lines, as in the picture above.

I suggest using the 1/8 drill bit first, so you can have the hole right where you want it. I left the bullet shell on until I had to drill right under that one, so it helped me keep the holes aligned.

Once you drilled all the holes with the 15/32 bit, I did another a couple quick torch passes to cover up the grid line and the wood that was exposed from the drilling.

Put the bullet shells in just to hold them in place.
Than once all the shells are in the holes, use a strip of wood or or something 1/2 thick and lay it next to the bullet shells to make sure they all stick out the same length. Use a soft broom or air compressor to clean off the saw dust and other little pieces.

If you would like you can put a seal or neutral colcored finsh to clarify the grain on the un-charred pieces. If you are going to put this outdoors, I suggest using a sealant such as boiled linseed oil or Thompsons waterseal.

Step 9: Be Safe and Have Fun !

I hope this project turns out as good for you as it did for me!

Be safe when using fire or any power tools !

If you have any questions, comments or modifications I'd love to hear them in the comments !!!

Have fun, Be creative and Happy Woodworking ;- )

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