What is it? Yakisugi is a Japanese word that means "burnt cedar". It is also commonly known in the western hemisphere by the name shou sugi ban. This technique of treating cedar wood by burning it comes from Japan and is hundreds of years old. Traditionally the wood used was from the cryptomeria japonica tree, a cedar native to Japan, but you can achieve a similar effect with other wood as well. There are many levels of charred finish that can be achieved, ranging from a 'tiger stripe' to a full 'alligator skin' charring. The process involves burning wood planks, brushing the top soot off, and, nowadays, sealing the wood with either an oil or urethane finish. What makes it so popular? The rich brown and sooty tones achieved by the burn are very attractive, and certainly stand out in their surroundings without overshadowing them. There are also practical advantages: charring the wood makes it fire-, water- and pest-resistant, so it is a great option for outdoor uses such as siding and in gardens. Since all the nutrients in the outer layer of the wood are burned away, the surface is unattractive to insects and slugs. This is also what makes it fire-resistant: there is nothing to burn in that charred layer. What is needed to achieve this beautiful finish? We recommend wood from an open celled species, with 12-17% moisture content (cedar, basswood, cypress). You can use oak, maple or pine as well, but your results, the maintenance cycle and the overall lifespan of the finish will differ. To gain the benefits of this finish, you must get a 2-3mm layer of char, which takes 7-10 minutes of burning with a good fire. There are buildings in Japan with yakisugi siding which has lasted over 100 years. The intense colour fades and takes on a patina over the years, but this is a natural part of the process.