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How to create a Shou Sugi Ban Finish for Panel Edges

How to Create a Shou Sugi Ban Finish for Panel Edges

Shou Sugi Ban and Encaustic Painting are a perfect match, they are both are born out of fire. Shou Sugi Ban, also known as Yakisugi, is a traditional Japanese art of preserving and finishing wood using fire.

As Encaustic Artists we create works of art by using our torches to fuse Beeswax and Damar to a wooden panel. Why not go the next step and finish your wood cradle with fire also? You’ll end up with a chemical-free finish for your work of art that will last for many decades. And, if you create a Shou Sugi Ban finish to the edges of your cradled panel before you start to paint, you’ll no longer need to paint the edges.

Traditional Shou Sugi Ban Finish

A Shou Sugi Ban finish lasts for hundreds of years, making the wood water and bug resistant. In Japan, they take cedar (cypress) and burn the surface of the wood then they brush off the ash and soot and wash it with water. They let it dry and apply oil to the surface and apply heat again to set the oil. This final step of adding oil is something that I do not do since it can soften the wax and leach into the surface of our paintings.

Different degrees of burns will give different results. Burn the surface quite a lot to create an alligator texture. Burn the surface to a lesser degree to enhance the grain of the wood. In my process, I have decided I would like to enhance the grain and not create a textured surface. As an artist, you can experiment and decide the amount of burn you want to do to create the texture that best suits your work.

Shou Sugi Ban and Encaustic Painting

I was first introduced to Shou Sugi Ban by another West Coast Canadian Artist, Lynn Harnish. A few years ago, Lynn did a series that began with a Shou Sugi Ban finish to the full surface of her wood cradle and then she applied encaustic medium to part of the surface. The result was a series of very beautiful and interesting paintings.

I researched the Shou Sugi Ban process and decided that it would be a wonderful finish for the edge of my wood cradles. 

Over the past few years, I have created a few videos for my IGTV page demonstrating this technique. A number of my followers have tried this technique and you will now see this finish on works by many artists around the world.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Shou Sugi Ban Finish for Wood Cradles

This is my interpretation of Shou Sugi Ban Finish for Wood Cradles. There are three steps to the process. I do this process outside as burning wood can create a lot of smoke.

Step 1 – Burn the Edges

I lightly burn the sided of the wood cradle with my torch to enhance the grain. Burn the surface of the wood—decide if you want to create texture or just enhance the wood grain. Here is a short video showing you the process of burning the wood.

Step 2 – Remove the Ash

I burn the edges of the panel and then use a wire brush to remove the ash and soot, revealing the wood grain.  Always brush in the direction of the wood grain with your wire brush. If you want to create texture, you may want to use a soft brush at this point.  Here is a short video showing you the process of brushing the wood cradle.

Step 3 – Wash the Panel

Finally, I rinse the cradle with water and wipe it to remove any soot and ash not removed by the wire brush. After this step is done, I let it air dry.  Here is a short video showing you the process of washing the wood cradle.

Once the wood cradle has dried, use tape to mask off the edges, protecting the finish from wax and scratches as you paint. 

When you have completed your painting, clean the edges and remove the tape to reveal the finished cradle. If some wax has gone under the tape, it can be easily removed by scraping it off lightly with your fingernail. If the Shou Sugi Ban finish has chipped, give it a quick touch-up with your torch. 

The full video can be seen on Instagram

If you have enjoyed this post, I have other training videos available for you to view on my Instagram Channel.

About Micheal Fox

Micheal Fox is a mixed media artist living on the West Coast of Canada. He loves to experiment with art techniques and his main focus recently has been exploring encaustic painting and shellac burns. When he finds an interesting process he creates short training videos to share on his IGTV page so others can learn from his experiments and expand their techniques. His body of work includes encaustic, acrylic, watercolour, pencils, charcoal, pastels, ink and photography.

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