Learn how to get a Shou Sugi Ban finish without a torch! Instantly create a charred wood look with a paintbrush. It’s easy to do. No special tools required.
Shou Sugi Ban
Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese technique that preserves wood by charring it with flames. The technique creates a rich, charcoal black look on wood. The thing is, Shou Sugi Ban is not the easiest technique for the average DIYer to do.
The good news is, there’s a simple way to get a charred wood finish without using a torch. All you need is a paintbrush and a charred wood accelerator! This is not a sponsored post. I bought the charred wood accelerator at my local home improvement store. Today, I’ll show you how easy it is to get a charred wood look with just a paintbrush!
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Table of Contents
What is Shou Sugi Ban?
Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese technique that preserves wood by charring it with flames. Charring makes the wood waterproof. This technique was typically used for exterior siding. More recently it has become a popular finish for interior projects like furniture and doors.
I was first introduced to Shou Sugi Ban on Season 2 of Ellen’s Design Challenge. Bradley used this wood-burning technique on his outdoor seating challenge.
Shou Sugi Ban Without a Torch
There are several ways DIYers can do a Shou Sugi Ban finish. We can use a propane torch or a heat gun. There are several drawbacks to using these tools. First, we need to buy the equipment. Second, we need a safe place to use these tools.
We should use a propane torch and heat gun outdoors. These tools cannot be used in our workshops. A little sawdust and one spark could mean a major disaster!
The good news is we can get the look of Shou Sugi Ban without using a torch. Recently I was walking through my local home improvement store and spotted the Varathane Charred Wood Accelerator.
I read the instructions. It could be used on any type of wood and all you needed was a paintbrush to apply it. No torch. No heat gun. No flames. Needless to say, I had to give this technique a try!
What Kind of Wood Can You Use for a Charred Wood Finish?
The Varathane Charred Wood Accelerator can be used on any wood like pine, cedar, poplar, oak, maple, etc. As with any stain technique each type of wood accepts stain differently. This is also true for the wood accelerator. Each type of wood will accept the accelerator differently. It’s a good idea to try it on a test piece before using it on your finished piece. This way you can be sure you’re happy with the look.
Many DIYers use pine for their projects. It’s inexpensive and readily available at home improvement stores. Pine is the wood I use to build many of my DIY projects and it’s what I used to build this DIY vanity. All of the examples you’ll see in this tutorial are on pine.
Where to Use a Charred Wood Finish
- Indoor Projects
- On Pine, Poplar, Cedar, Oak, etc.
- DIY Furniture Projects
Charred Wood Video
Watch the quick video to see how I got a charred wood finish without a torch!
How to Use a Charred Wood Accelerator
Step 1. Prepare the Wood
The instructions for the Charred Wood Accelerator recommends preparing the wood by sanding with 100 grit sandpaper. In my opinion, this would make the surface of the wood a little too rough for a DIY furniture project.
I usually do my final sanding with 120 grit or 150 grit sandpaper. So that’s what I did for this project. I first sanded with 100 grit sandpaper, then 120 grit, and finished with 150 grit sandpaper. I used my ShopVac with a dusting attachment to remove the sanding dust.
I forgot to photograph this step so I’m using a sample board here.
Step 2. Apply the Charred Wood Accelerator
The Charred Wood Accelerator is drippy so be sure to use a drop cloth to protect the surrounding areas.
I used an inexpensive chip brush to apply the accelerator. The chip brush worked, but it splattered the accelerator and it was difficult to control where I wanted to apply the product. Next time, I would use a better quality brush like this one to apply the accelerator.
I brushed the accelerator so it entirely covered the surface of the wood. I brushed out any areas where the product pooled or puddled so that the surface had a smooth, uniform coat.
As the accelerator begins to dry you may notice some areas appear lighter than others. The temptation is to apply more accelerator to those areas. Don’t do it! I did this in a few spots and these areas dried much darker than the surrounding areas. I sanded these spots so they would blend into the surrounding areas.
Step 3. Apply a Second Coat (Optional)
I let the Charred Wood Accelerator dry for 2 hours. The first coat looked good, but I wanted this project to be darker. I decided to apply a second coat. I lightly hand-sanded the piece with 150 grit sandpaper and removed the sanding dust with my ShopVac. Then I applied a second coat just like I did the first coat.
Step 4. Apply the Finish
See How to Seal a Charred Wood Finish below.
How to Seal a Charred Wood Finish
The instructions for the Charred Wood Accelerator recommends sealing the project by spraying it with a lacquer finish. The instructions warn that other finishes may react with the accelerator. I tried using shellac and a water-based polyurethane on some test pieces. They both reacted with the accelerator and pulled the black color off the pieces. My recommendation is to follow the advice of the instructions and use a spray lacquer finish.
There are a few things to note about using a lacquer finish. First, this spray lacquer is extremely flammable. The vapor may cause flash fires. We need to work in a well-ventilated area away from heat, sparks, and flames. The instructions on the can even warn that electric motors could cause the vapors to ignite. Don’t mess around with this stuff! Be sure to follow all of the instructions.
Second, this spray lacquer is sensitive to solvents like acetone. Some nail polish removers contain acetone. This bathroom vanity might be exposed to nail polish remover which could remove the lacquer finish.
Lacquer finishes can also be sensitive to heat. This bathroom vanity might be exposed to hot hair dryers, curling irons, etc. This means a lacquer finish might not be the best choice for a bathroom vanity.
The accelerator instructions suggest that polyurethane can be used if the lacquer is applied first. I chose to apply a spray lacquer and topcoat it with polyurethane. Polyurethane is a durable finish, isn’t sensitive to solvents, and is relatively heat resistant. In other words, polyurethane is a better choice for the vanity.
Step 1. Apply the Lacquer
First, I moved the vanity outside. I followed the instructions and shook the can for two minutes. Then I began spraying the lacquer on the charred wood finish. In a few spots, I applied too much lacquer and had some drips. It’s much better to apply several light coats rather than one heavy coat.
I only applied one coat but next time I would apply two coats. I noticed some black color on my brush when I applied the polyurethane. This tells me some areas on the vanity were not totally covered with lacquer.
Step 2. Sand the Lacquer
I allowed the lacquer to dry for two hours and then moved the vanity back into my workshop. I lightly hand-sanded the piece with 150 grit sandpaper and removed the sanding dust with my ShopVac.
Step 3. Apply the Polyurethane
I typically like to reorganize my shop, set up a spray shelter, and apply polyurethane with my paint sprayer. But that wasn’t an option this time. I was assembling other projects in my workshop and wasn’t able to move them. For this project, I used a brush to apply a water-based polyurethane. Don’t worry. The first coat of polyurethane will appear patchy.
Related: How to Spray Polyurethane
Step 4. Sand the Polyurethane
When the polyurethane was dry I hand-sanded the piece with 220 grit sandpaper. It will look awful but this step is necessary. Polyurethane doesn’t like to stick to itself, and we need to rough up the surface so the next coat has something to bite into. I removed the sanding dust with my ShopVac.
Step 5. Apply a Second and Third Coat
I applied a second coat just like I did the first coat. I sanded with 220 grit sandpaper and removed the sanding dust with my ShopVac. Then I applied third and final coat.
There’s a simple way to get a charred wood finish without using a torch. All we need is a brush and the Vartathane Charred Wood Accelerator.
Thank you for stopping by. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott
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