Recently I came across an awesome technique that was used by the Japanese in the 18th century called Shou-Sugi-Ban. Traditionally, the practice was used to weatherproof the wood by charring it with fire. This ancient technique has been rediscovered and reinvented to produce beautiful results. Using the Shou-Sugi-Ban technique I’ve made this DIY Wood Table Centerpiece with Flowers. I used recycled glass bottles inside the centerpiece to hold the flowers.
What is Shou-Sagi-Ban?
Shou-Sagi-Ban is referred to as Yakisugi. Yakisugi is a traditional Japanese method of wood preservation. Yaki means to char or grill, while sugi means cedar. In the west, we refer to the process as Shou Sugi Ban – or to char wood planks. This ancient technique was used mainly for exterior siding. The cedar wood is burned until the surface is charred and then coated with natural oil. Charred wood becomes UV and weather resistant and could last more than 80 years, sometimes much longer if refinishes with oil periodically. Also, charred wood naturally is resistant to insects as well as moisture damage.
What kinds of wood can be used for Shou Sugi Ban?
Typically cedar works best for Shou Sugi Ban because of its natural chemical properties. According to Hugh Shackleton and his father Charles Shackleton “Cedar is a lighter, more porous wood, there’s a chemical component to it which makes it work better for this technique.” But the Shou Sugi Ban is not limited to cedarwood, it could be used on pine, hemlock, maple, or oak.
How is Shou Sugi Ban used Today?
Applying Shou Sugi Ban to pipe or oak, highlights the textural beauty of wood by revealing the wood grain. The wood is burnt with a blowtorch or a burner until it’s completely black. Modern-day DIYers use mainly pine for this technique because the wood is very soft and burns much quicker than harder wood like oak. Also, pine is relatively cheap compared with other types of wood. After charring the surface of the wood, a wire brush is used to remove the top layer by brushing with the grain. Then a coat of stain is applied and wiped off with a cloth rag.
For this DIY Wooden Centerpiece project, I used a regular 1×4 pine board from Home Depot. The centerpiece is designed for bottles that are 7 ½” tall from recycled fever-tree premium ginger ale drink. I used the Shou Sugi Ban technique to burn the wood and then to remove the upper layer with Nyalox Flap Brushes.
You also might be interested in King Size Headboard that I build using the Shou Sugi Ban technique.
Tools for this project
Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size. See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.
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Wood Table Centerpiece PDF
This PDF download includes Cut Diagrams, a List of Supplies, and 3D illustrations with detailed steps to build the project. Measurements are in imperial and not metric. Does NOT include SketchUp/CAD files.
Step 1 – Burn Wood with a Torch
There are several different ways to torch the wood. The first method is to lightly burn the top layer of the board. Running the torch quickly through the board will first burn the soft area of the wood grain. This will make the soft areas darker and leave the hard areas their original color.
The problem with this method is that when you stain the board, the stain usually penetrates the soft areas of the wood. So you’ll have torched soft areas mixed with stain color. But the hard areas repel both the burn and the stain.
The second method takes more time, but the results are awesome. For this method, you burn the wood until it gets completely dark. This ensures that both the soft and the hard areas of the wood are torched. Then using a brush we’ll remove some of the burnt layers in the next step.
For this project, we’re going to use the second method to create this beautiful DIY Table Centerpiece.
Before cutting the boards into smaller pieces, it’s best to torch the wood first and then cut it into smaller sections later on.
Take one full 1×4 pine board and using a Propane Torch burn the wood until it’s completely black. Make sure to burn the board on both sides and the edges. (In the picture I’m using two smaller boards from my previous project instead of a full board, but it really doesn’t matter).
Step 2 – Brush Boards with a Nyalox Flap Brush
Sometimes when torching the wood, the board will slightly change shape or warp. If the wood is too warped, you might need to try a different board.
Once the board is completely burned on both sides and on the edges, take a drill with Nyalox Flap Brush and brush off the burnt top layer. Depending on your preference you could brush lightly and leave the boards darker or you could brush deeper and longer and remove more of the burnt surface.
Step 3 – Cut Boards to Desired Measurements
Now take the board and cut two pieces to 24″ in length and two pieces at 8 1/2″ in length at 45 degrees miter cut as shown on the picture. Also, cut a board that’s 22 1/2″ long with ripped sides at 45 degrees having the overall width of the board at 3″. This board sits at the bottom of the frame for the recycled glass bottle to stand on.
Step 4 – Drill Holes for the Bottles
Now take the top board of the centerpiece frame and measure 3″ from the edge. That will be the center of the first hole. Then from the center of the first hole measure 3″ to the next hole. Continue until you have 7 measurements on the top board. Using a Milwaukee 1 1/4″ Hole Saw Bit drill 7 holes from the top. Sometimes the hole saw bit will rip out the wood at the bottom of the board, so it’s a good idea to push lightly on the drill.
Step 5 – Stain the Boards
Staining this table centerpiece is optional. Once you remove the top burnt layer, it looks really good without stain. But if you want to stain it then, that looks even better. Try several different stains to see what you like the best.
I decided to stain the centerpiece with a Minwax classic gray 271 stain. I really like the color of gray over the burnt wood. Wipe off any excess stain with a dry cloth.
Step 6 – Assemble the Wooden Centerpiece Frame
Place the centerpiece on the table and insert glass bottles from Fever-Tree premium ginger ale drink into the holes. The bottles will need to stand on the 22 1/2″ board. Since the glass bottles are 7 1/2″ tall, this 22 1/2″ board will raise the bottle’s neck inside the hole. Fill the glass bottles with water and insert the flowers. You’re all done with this DIY Wooden Table Centerpiece.