Thin charred wood: best construction?

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Forum topic by OhWell posted 03-22-2017 03:50 AM 497 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 579 days

03-22-2017 03:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: thin wood charring charring laminating guitar pickguard advice needed


I’m looking to char (shou sugi ban style) a very thin piece of wood: the total thickness for the piece would ideally be around .09”. I understand I might need to go thicker for what I’m trying to do.

(This is for a pickguard I want to make to complement a charred electric guitar body I just completed.)

I would appreciate input on what type of construction I should go with.

There are stability issues with non charred wood pickguards already: humidity and heat variations can easily cause all sorts of issues. To mitigate that, when going for .09” thickness, most people prefer to laminate at least two layers of wood, often adding a thin plastic layer in the middle.

Charring the wood raises quite a few concerns about construction that makes me unsure about the best approach.

Two basic questions:
1. What’s the thinnest you would recommend going for a piece of wood that will be charred? (Note: I’m looking to char the top surface enough to get an even black exterior prior to removing the ash: with the ash removed, going for noticeable variation in depth along different parts of the grain.)

2. What (American) wood species would you recommend for this application? (I know cedar is common for charring, so I’m considering that. (I’ve also had success charring thick swamp ash (guitar body). But I wonder if other species would be better suited for being charred while very thin.)

Beyond that I’m wondering about what construction makes most sense. Options I have in mind:

- 2-3 layers wood laminate, but with a thicker top layer to allow for charring.
- Laminating 1 layer of wood to 1 much thinner layer of metal. The thought being that metal might do a better job than wood at ensuring structural integrity for the charred wood.

Finally, I wonder whether it would be best to laminate the pieces prior to charring, or after charring.

4 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3516 days

#1 posted 03-22-2017 04:04 AM

I would just laminate 4 layers of veneer together, if your charring does go through the top layer a little you will still be covered. I think I would choose maple veneer to do this.

View OhWell's profile


2 posts in 579 days

#2 posted 03-22-2017 05:02 PM

Hi papadan,

I will do some test runs with 4 piece maple laminate.

Quick question though. Getting more depth variation that follows the grain is one of the main reason I’m interested in charring the piece. (In terms of look I could get close enough to what I want with stains/finish alone.) I love the way charring intensifies how much you can follow by touch the shapes you see in the wood’s grain.

Question is this: Do you think using layers of a same thickness even for the top layer will give me enough wood on top to get get that kind of effect from charring?

(Just to be clear, by variation in depth along the grain I mean this:

For my purposes the depth doesn’t have to vary as much as this piece seems to. But I want it to be somewhat visible, and definitely noticeable when you touch it.)

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3796 days

#3 posted 03-22-2017 05:11 PM

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3516 days

#4 posted 03-22-2017 10:47 PM

You could try the plywood like Loren suggests, just can’t be sure of what the inside wood will be like if you burn through the outer layer. I think I would go with the Maple veneer and give it a shot. You can choose the veneer as to how you want the grain to run.

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