For an Englishman like me, toast is a national 'treasure.' It takes a simple slice of bread and through charring the surface brings it to a whole new level. It used to be our Sunday supper after a roast lunch. Toasting similarly reimagines the basic slice of wood. It creates a visually and texturally beautiful surface rich in tone and pattern. The wood grain and carbon content metamorphasize when flames lick and burn the surface; an ancient Japanese technique known as shou-sugi-ban (burning cedar).
Farmers in Japan discovered many centuries ago that the burning of the outer surface of their cedar wood barns had a preservative effect, making the walls weather and insect-proof. The charred wood not only enhanced the wood’s durability by making it resistant to insects, fire and the elements but also brought out its inherent beauty and character in a striking new way.
Shou-sugi-ban technique entails burning the wood, sanding and applying a natural oil finish to polish.
Ebonized wood is often achieved through staining but the burning method creates a stronger tone and surface as the charred powder is ground into the grain of the wood and the resiliant grain-wood rises up from the softer sapwood (which is burnt away). The process continues through copious hard sanding and cleaning the surface before re-burning and finally applying many layers of natural oil to finish.
This timeless technique is shown at our Central Embassy Bangkok shop where the burnt wood shelves subtly reveal themselves below the works that sit on them. We have also used this technique for the diamond shaped box that contains our parchment and eggshell lacquer coasters. Unique, slightly dangerous, sublime to the eye and touch and full of character – shou-sugi-ban is a process that fits well with our company.
Close up of the shou-sugi-ban shelving in the Central Embassy shop in Bangkok.
The wood's grain and organic pattern is showcased with this sublime Japanese technique.