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The Ancient Art of Yakisugi

A Japanese torii gate shrine stands in the middle of a grey sea. in the background grey silhouettes of mountains can be seen.

At IRO Timber, we take pride in our commitment to preserving and celebrating age-old traditions while still firmly embracing modern technology. IRO Timber is a testament to this philosophy, and it is deeply rooted in a centuries-old Japanese practice known as Yakisugi.

We explore the fascinating history of Yakisugi, the meaning behind its name, and how it has evolved into our innovative range of unique IRO Timber products.

The Origins of Yakisugi

Yakisugi, sometimes referred to as Shou Sugi Ban in the West, is a traditional Japanese technique used for treating wood. Its origins can be traced back to the 18th century, where it was primarily employed for preserving and protecting timber used in various architectural applications. This ancient method has its roots in the Kiso region of Japan, where Japanese cypress was abundant and needed further protection from the elements.

The Meaning of Yakisugi

The name “Yakisugi” itself is quite telling. As is common in Japanese, itt consists of two Japanese words fused together:

  1. “Yaki” (焼き) means “to burn” or “charring.” You may have heard this before from the charred Yakitori BBQ chicken skewers, popular in many Japanese restaurants.
  2. “Sugi” (杉) refers to “Japanese cedar,” traditionally used as the primary wood source for this ancient technique.

Therefore, Yakisugi quite literally means “burnt cedar.” This name reflects the fundamental process involved in creating this distinctive type of charred timber. As the wood is charred on its surface, it becomes highly resistant to weather, pests, and decay.

The Yakisugi Process

The Yakisugi process is a craft in itself, with artisans following a specific set of steps to produce this unique, beautiful, and resilient timber effect:

  1. Selection of Wood: High-quality timber is chosen for its natural durability and beauty. Traditionally this was Japanese Cedar, but IRO uses European Redwood or UK Larch.
  2. Charred Surface: The surface of the wood is then carefully charred using open flames or controlled fire. This step involves a fine balance of heat and precision.
  3. Cooling and Brushing: After charring, the wood is cooled and then brushed to remove loose soot and debris, revealing the rich, textured surface underneath, and resulting in the unique raised woodgrain finish IRO is famed for.
  4. Natural Oils Application: The final step involves applying natural oils or finishing coats, which enhance the wood’s durability and aesthetics. IRO uses a palette of ten stunning Rubio wood creams to give the timber its naturally charming aesthetic, these creams are also sold in touch-up tins to replenish IRO’s original colour and water repellancy.

Yakisugi in Modern Design

Today, Yakisugi is celebrated not only for its resilience but also for its unique aesthetic appeal. The charred surface creates a striking appearance, which contrasts beautifully with the underlying grain patterns. This combination of durability and aesthetic allure has made Yakisugi a highly sought-after material in contemporary architecture, interior design, and landscaping.

Yakisugi x IRO Timber

At IRO, we are passionate about incorporating age-old traditions into our modern product line. Our unique charred cladding and decking lines are a direct reflection of this philosophy. We have taken the ancient art of Yakisugi and adapted it to meet the exacting demands of contemporary construction and architectural design.

Our IRO Timber offers the same exceptional durability and captivating appearance that Yakisugi is known for, making it an ideal choice for various applications such as cladding, decking, and interior design. We carefully craft our IRO Timber using only sustainably sourced wood and environmentally friendly treatment processes, ensuring that we honour this ancient tradition while staying committed to responsible practices.

What “IRO” Means

The name “IRO” in Japanese has several meanings, but of the most relevant is “colour” or “hue.” Just as colour adds vibrancy and character to various aspects of life, IRO Timber products add a unique and colourful dimension to the world of architecture, landscaping and interior design. With IRO, you can choose from a spectrum of natural hues and finishes, allowing you to infuse your projects with the perfect shade to match your vision and experience a life in colour.

The Future of Yakisugi

The rich history of Yakisugi, the art of burning and preserving wood, has found a new home in the UK through IRO Timber products. Through the careful adaptation of this ancient practice and the addition of the IRO colour palette, we have created a versatile and stunning modern material that can transform projects into works of art. IRO Timber is more than just charred wood; it’s a bridge between tradition and modernity, and an embodiment of timeless natural beauty.

Although it has its heart firmly in ancient Japan thousands throughout the UK are choosing IRO and bringing the beauty and resilience of Yakisugi into their contemporary designs.

Our production facilities from Fort William to Carlisle are helping the nation in elevating their projects with the vibrancy of IRO’s colour and the ever-lasting appeal of ancient tradition.

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