Culture & Art

Jan 1, 2018

BURN TO PROTECT

The infinite patience and wisdom, as well as the profound respect for the elements, are characteristics that the world recognizes to the Japanese people. This also applies to the worship of their history and the preservation of methods and more traditional customs.

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By LUÍS RAMALHO

The term referred to in English to the technique that we present you is "Shou Sugi Ban" and, literally translated, means "burnt cedar board". And the truth is that this definition serves perfectly to the final result.

According to the consulted literature, the earliest records of the use of this technique can be traced back to the year 1700, but it is quite likely that it is a much more ancient technique. It is believed that this technique has been developed thinking specifically in the houses of the fishermen of Naoshima island, in Japan, since they are very exposed to the aggression of the sea salt.

The application of this treatment technique of woods was forgotten for a long time, due to the emergence and development of alternative materials more modern and more sophisticated. This was also due to the fact that in Japan the woods were rarefied during a long period of time, since the Japanese overran entire forests to obtain materials for their constructions, but also because this was essentially used as firewood for heating the traditional Japanese houses.

Therefore, the remaining wood, being imported, had a fairly high cost making it unaffordable and uninteresting for the widespread application of this technique and the technique fell into disuse over time until it almost disappeared.

With the turning of the millennium and a new ecologic conscience, though, reverted this oblivion trend and the new architectural trends rediscovered this centuries-old art of woods treatment in order to apply it in exterior coatings.

The relaunch of this technique happened much through the works of the Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori and, currently, this is considered a cutting-edge material.

The fact of being an ecologic method, which does not resort to the use of chemical products, preserves the current woods for a long period of time and avoids the cutting of more trees, has awaken the interest among occidental architects, designers and decorators and, nowadays, it can be assessed in design and furniture pieces, household tools and some of the most important buildings, pretty much all around the world.

The technique consists in burning the woods surface to be treated, with a blowtorch. Next, the wood is washed or brushed to remove the surplus of the burned surface, so that it doesn't drops the coal residues.

Afterwards, the is covered (preferably, with a brush so that the appliance covers all the surface) with a cedar's oil.

And finally (in case you prefer an even darker finishing and a stronger infiltration of the oil into the woods pores) one can burn again (or just warm it up) very lightly and superficially, all over the treated area.

Still according to the local literature, the wood that's treated with this technique can last between 80 to 100 years, without additional maintenance, but it can even last longer of a maintenance is made every 10 to 15 years, with the renewal of the oil coating.

It also get more resistant to bug plagues attacks, it doesn't rot and it overcomes the occurrence of sun rays and fire.

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