Fire can make wood more durable and more fireproof, but our interest was in the aesthetics.
Centuries ago, driftwood recovered from the coastlines around Japan was highly prized for its appearance and durability, but demand was high and supply was short, so the Japanese discovered an alternative weathering technique: fire. Shou Sugi Ban is Japanese for ‘burnt cedar board’ – cedar being a commonplace wood – and these charred planks became popular for residential sidings, fencing and decking. As timber fell into increasingly short supply in Japan, its usage was replaced with modern plastics and cement and Shou Sugi Ban became a ‘lost’ technique. Recently it has been rediscovered, but our interest was not in the technique as a preservative; it was in the wonderful way that the charring and cleansing process emphasises the grain structure and knots.