Photos: ContributedArbres et Bois' burned wood has become quite trendy.
Yup, that’s not a misprint, it’s true and they’re very good at it. Trained in the Land of the Rising Sun with architect Goshi Shirakawa in Tokyo, Japan Daniel Bellerose’s company specializes in Yakisugi burned wood.
He founded his company Arbres et Bois in Quebec in 2015 and it is now well established across Canada and Europe and has been working on many projects in China, the United States, Mexico, Spain ... and even in Hollywood!
Used for centuries in Japan, Yakisugi carbonized wood has now become a high-end and trendy product and unlike natural wood that requires regular maintenance, Yakisugi does not require any special attention. That makes it ecologically responsible while offering durability and resistance to the elements.
It is made according to a Japanese ancestral method called shou-sugi-ban, which consists of burning the wood on the surface and cleaning it with water.
Yakisugi is a non-messy product that has no odour despite charring and provides a wood life of about 80 years. In addition to naturally protecting the wood with carbonization, shou-sugi-ban makes Yakisugi much more resistant to ultraviolet rays, fire, insects and mould.
In fact, few coatings on the market can match its longevity.
Recognized internationally for the quality of its high-end products, Arbres et Bois has some of Hollywood’s biggest names among its customers, including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West.
Bellerose is a lawyer by trade and before he decided to pursue his love of woodworking and wood full time, he worked with social agencies in Montreal and humanitarian organizations internationally,
“But woodworking has always been a passion of mine and it was my favourite past time for many, many years before I started the company,” he says.
While he studied at university he worked for a big store in Quebec selling and sourcing wood. And people always approach him for ideas and to help them with projects and he made a lot of contacts in that time.
So woodworking and wood always stayed with him and when he finally decided to follow his passion and start his own company, he also remembered Yakisugi burned wood.
“I remembered when I was studying at the university 20 years ago — I also took Asian Studies — that I had come across this method to burn wood to make it a special product,” he recalls.
“So I went to Japan to work with an architect to show me different products and projects that were done with this kind of wood. They’d been working with that product for 60 years and I thought it was really great so I decided to bring it here and do it by myself.
So I started my own company.
Bellerose says he had studied the process and which types of wood to use in detail, but in the end he had to modify it for this market. He is also using a different wood then they do in Japan.
But the end result is just as good.
“It’s actually not that difficult to
do once you figure it out,” he says.
“There is nothing high tech about it. But you have to do it right.
“It took us about five years of work
to get it perfect.”
The wood is run through a conveyor with top burners and depending on what you are producing for, interior or exterior use, you have to vary the amount of charring and the type of wood you use, he says.
Just as important is the depth of the burn.
Bellerose says it has to be deeper for exterior use to protect the tongue and grove, close to one centimeter, but for interior use 3-4 millimeters will do the trick.
In Japan, the burned wood is also not coated. Bellerose says when he looked at decades old projects there, when you touch the wood, your hands still get dirty.
“Usually it’s quite messy, because the burned wood will stain anything it comes in contact with, but we apply a finish, more like they do in Scandinavian countries where this method is also popular,” he says.
“We seal it with an oil and after
that it won’t stain at all.”
Arbres et Bois uses Eastern
“It’s actually not a cedar, but everybody calls it that,” Bellerose says.
“It looks like cedar and smells like cedar, but it’s not really a cedar.”
When they are running at full
speed, Arbres et Bois produce about 40,000 sq. ft. per week, but Bellerose says they don’t work during the
winter months because he has another company in Brazil where he spends his winters. That’s where he produces the same product, but for the South American market.
“We are actually about to shut our operations in Canada to head south,”
he says when Woodworking spoke
with him just a few weeks ago.Canadian wood
The Arbres et Bois company uses
only local wood in a sustainable and eco-responsible way. Bellerose says
he favours wood from forests within
400 kilometers of the Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa regions, thereby ensuring that LEED-certified criteria
are met, that quality is controlled,
and the areas at risk are protected.
In addition to carbonized wood, the company also sells natural cedar, cedar stained, oiled or treated with Scandinavian pine resin.
Bellerose says he absolutely loves what he does and never looked back once he decided to follow his dream.
“Every day, I don’t feel like I’m working, I’m doing what I love.
Daniel Bellerose’s (left) company specializes in Yakisugi burned wood.