For the past few months, the Matchbox has been covered in a sheet of housewrap: necessary to keep the wood safe from the elements, but not the most attractive option, even short-term.
|Spacers cut from furring strip scrap and nailed to house.|
|Furring strip, with some extra spacers due to splitting.|
- Get the necessary equipment. The Japanese sugi by tying three boards together into a makeshift chimney and placing said chimney atop a charcoal fire, but nowadays, many simply pick up a blowtorch or flamethrower of some sort and burn the boards individually. I'll be trying out the latter method, and purchased a (surprisingly inexpensive) torch for this purpose. The torch runs off of propane, so one will need lots of that, along with a few five-gallon buckets of water (or a nearby hose), some wire brushes, and a few cans of Penofin, a transparent, all-natural Brazilian rosewood oil that gets used to seal the boards post-charring.
- Get the wood. Though the Japanese used cypress for their sugi, cedar is far more available in these parts, and from what I hear, it looks just as good (if not better). I'll be ordering my lumber this week: several hundred boards of western red cedar (which almost seem too beautiful to burn) from the local and family-owned Grasmick Lumber. When they arrive, they'll have to be cut to the necessary lengths (generally twelve feet, but shorter beneath and above the windows) and angles (particularly along the wheel wells).
- Burn it. Having done a few quick tests with some of Lee's scrap cedar, the torching process is rather fun and easy (though undoubtedly time-consuming in large amounts). The boards I tried charred very nicely, though they didn't actually catch fire in the way I expected (which I am certainly not complaining about). In any case, the wood needs to be burned about one-eighth-of-an-inch deep on the surface, then the edges will need some charring as well.
- Wash, rinse, repeat. Soot is messy, so after burning the wood, I'll need to wash the boards with water and a rag (and, if rough char is present, a wire brush as well). The washing will allow one to see inconsistencies in the burning, at which point not-as-charred-as-the-rest-of-'em stretches of wood should have another showdown with the flamethrower.
- Oil. Even after washing, the boards will be covered in soot, and thus will remain messy to the touch unless properly sealed. The sugi community of designers seems to rather unanimously endorse the use of Penofin rosewood oil (for cedar, use the cedar variety), so charred boards will get a coat of this with a paint roller once they've been washed and dried.
- Predrill. Wood tends to split in small dimensions, and the 1x3 or 1x4 boards I'll be using will probably be more susceptible to splitting than most. So to ensure that each board is affixed to the rain screen with attention given to aesthetic, I'll need to predrill a few thousand holes (each board will need two screws at each of the seven furring strips, so fourteen per board and about two thousand overall).
- All systems go. With the rain screen up, the cedar charred, and the boards drilled, it will (one of these days) be time to put the siding up, which will be a tedious but gratifying process. Once that (and the window/door trim) is done, the exterior of the Matchbox will be nearly complete.
One other sugi-related note I'll include simply because I couldn't find such a note anywhere else on the internet and would like the information to be out there for others curious about choosing a sugi wood:
|Western red cedar, lightly charred. Interacts with light beautifully and my chosen option for siding.|
|Yellow pine, lightly charred. Flatter and darker than the former. Could be very cool for certain applications/tastes.|
More to come soon!
* A footnote on the use of "sugi": I'll be using this term in a shorthand sense for shou sugi ban-related posts, but you probably shouldn't because it's a totally incorrect way to split the things up. The sugi third of shou sugi ban literally translates to "cypress" (shou and ban meaning "the burning [or charring] of"), while some would dispute this and say that sugi actually denotes "Japanese cedar", which in either case (cypress or Japanese cedar) refers to a type of wood I will not be using (opting for western red cedar myself). And yet, sugi rolls off the tongue in a more definitive and distinct way than shou or ban, hence its selection as my shorthand term of choice and thus the need for this inane footnote which will likely bore or go unread by most but which is probably necessary for the occasional linguistic zealot whom I in no way aim to offend.