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The Yakisugi Charred Wood Technique. From Then to Now

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Yakisugi charred wood

If you’ve been following trends in home design or decor, you’ve probably been seeing charred black wood everywhere, but what is it? Yakisugi is the traditional Japanese method of charred wood, and although it was originally created to preserve wood, it’s become a staple in contemporary design for its rugged but dark and sleek look. Want to jump in on the trend? Read on below to learn how the Yakisugi technique works, where it came from, and why you should use it in your home.

How is it made?

The Yakisugi charred wood process starts with three wooden planks, traditionally cypress but it can be anything else. The planks are tied together in a triangular flue and are held over a smoking fire. As the inside of the flue catches fire, the fire rises up the inside of the flue, scorching the surface of the wood. Once the fire has burned long enough, the planks are separated and have water sprinkled on the charred surface to cool it down.

18th Century Japan

The earliest known examples of the Yakisugi technique of charred timber date back to 18th century Japan, when it was used as a method to keep homes from burning down. The technique was popularized in the city of Edo, where Tokyo now stands. Edo was a dense and populous city filled with traditional wooden houses that were prone to fire, so the technique was invented to combat this. Wood that is already charred is much more difficult to catch on fire.

Mid-20th Century

The Yakisugi technique was a popular method from the 18th century up to the mid-20th century when other innovations in building technology began to take over. Around this time, Yakisugi-treated wood came to be called a “poor man’s building material” because it was cheaper but considered less fashionable than other heat-treated lumber.

Yakisugi method

Re-entering as a trend now

Although the Yakisugi method was a fairly unpopular method of wood treatment for a while in the 1900s, it’s come back into the limelight in full force over the last few years. Black is super trendy in home decor, and the Yakisugi method combines this with the rustic and worn look that so many designers and decorators are going for.

What should you use Yakisugi-treated wood for?

Yakisugi treated wood

Yakisugi is a popular material not only for its characteristic aesthetic, but also for its heat, water, and mold-resistant properties. This makes Yakisigu-treated wood perfect for charred wood fences or charred wood cladding on the outside of a home. The charred outside surface of the wood will keep your home or fence looking pristine for years to come, and will protect against fire or water damage that could harm the inside of your home as well.

While Yakisugi charred wood works great for outdoor projects, it can look amazing inside the home as well! Consider using Yakisugi beams to add some interest to a high ceiling, or using Yakisugi boards to add an accent wall in your home.

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