Shou Sugi Ban

Remember the table that I used to rack my back? I know, it sounds like a chiropractic table when I talk about it like that. When you look at the picture you’ll know it wasn’t about fixing my back but herniating a disc in my low back that set off a long, painful sciatica bout. That was back in December of last year. Yesterday I got around to working on the table again. It’s been on my mind.

The table has been sitting outside all that time, through all the changes in weather, with no finish on it. I planed a few high spots, put a forty-five degree chamfer on the edge and toasted it using the Japanese wood preservation technique known as shou sugi ban. Spell check really didn’t like those words. I don’t like spell check. It’s a love/hate relationship. I love it when it catches me misspelling something or when my mind has a bald spot and the word won’t come out. The rest of the time, when it changes the word without asking, that’s annoying. Nothing worse than being helped across the street when you don’t want to cross the street. Okay, you’re right, there are worse things. A herniated disc springs to mind.

It took longer to find the five gallon tank of propane than anything else. It had been so long since I’d worked on the table I couldn’t remember where it was stored. Burnt my hand lighting the massive blow torch I used to burn the table. It’s the first time I’ve used that tool, the first time I’ve burned a table top too. There are still a few steps left. The table will have to be brushed with a stiff bristle brush and then wiped down with a damp cloth to remove the carbon dust so everything that touches it doesn’t come away looking like the soles of a porn star’s feet.

Shou sugi ban preserves the wood. The wood in this case is Douglas fir. The Japanese have used this method of wood preservation on cedar siding for hundreds of years. It holds up well, doesn’t need to be refinished, discourages insects from eating it and gives it a bit of fire resistance while making it somewhat waterproof. What’s there not to love? After I finished with the blow torch I was duly impressed with how well the table top matched the posts, beams and rafters of the pizza oven covering. Still haven’t figured out what to call the shelter for the pizza oven and dining area. It’s not a gazebo, which is usually hexagonal. It’s not a pergola. It’s really a room with no walls but a very hefty roof with a chimney going through it. The point is everything looks like it belongs there. If all goes well, Saturday the legs will be attached to the top and it will be in use Sunday afternoon. Finally.

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