The New Face of Shou Sugi Ban: Pioneer Millworks Is Bringing This Japanese Charred Wood Technique Into the Future

  |  March 9, 2021

Shou Sugi Ban in Larch Carbon 2. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Millworks.

If you’re a fan of minimalist design and gorgeous natural wood finishes, you’ll love the modern face of shou sugi ban. While shou sugi ban originated in Japan in the 18th century as a practical way to weatherproof wood siding, it’s made quite the comeback in recent years as the choice of stylish homeowners for exteriors and interiors alike.

By aggressively burning the wood until it chars and turns black, shou sugi ban provides a weather-, fire-, and insect-repellant finish that’s durable enough to stand up to harsh and unpredictable weather as exterior siding. But the one-of-a-kind charred effect also lends the wood a stunning, multifaceted finish that is sophisticated enough to be used in your living room or kitchen, too.

Photo courtesy of Pioneer Millworks

But shou sugi ban is no longer just limited to its blackened appearance of yesteryear. Pioneer Millworks, a reclaimed and sustainable wood manufacturer founded in New York’s Finger Lakes region in the 80s that now has mills in both New York and Oregon, has been breathing new life into the traditional technique. Today, it offers its shou sugi ban in a brilliant array of over 50 colors from classic black to modern white, punchy red, blazing blue, and more.

Shou Sugi Ban in Larch Deep Char. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Millworks.

Craftspeople and woodworkers were also traditionally taught that shou sugi ban could only be made from cypress or cedar wood. But as part of its mission to use reclaimed and sustainably harvested wood, Pioneer Millworks is dedicated to crafting its shou sugi ban from larch and douglas fir harvested from Oregon, as well as reclaimed oak and acetylized accoya wood (which has a 50-year warranty to boot).

“After 30 years working with wood and traveling across the ocean in search of the perfect ‘burn,’ I realized that anyone with the species options we have here in North America would be making a blind mistake not to use them,” says Pioneer Millworks founder Jonathan Orpin. “I love tradition, and I love having the best wood options available to us right here.”

Shou Sugi Ban in Larch Carbon 2. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Millworks.

As a company founded with a dream to better use the natural resource of wood, Pioneer Millworks is continuing shou sugi ban’s long standing legacy while bringing it fully into the future of practical, sustainable, and impeccably curated home design.

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