Inventor Josh

Hacking, inventing, and creating the future!

Bjorn Box

Shou sugi ban planter box, my first foray into woodworking!

This was my first woodworking project ever. It is named Bjorn Box because Bjorn is the name of my Bird of Paradise. I needed a simple introduction to all the tools a general shop has, so I designed this project to make sure I cover the basics.

The finishing technique I decided to go with is called Yakisugi / Shou Sugi Ban. It works very well with cedar and the method involves heavily charring the planks of wood (for example, using a propane blow torch) and then scraping with the grain of the wood using a heavy brush. Maybe even a metal wire brush. The char goes deeper along the lines of the wood so as you are scraping, the surface burn goes away but the deep and beautiful lines of the grain remain.

It’s a wonderful technique and was a lot of fun to make. The tools I used were:

  • Miter Saw
  • Cedar Planks
  • 4x Inner 2x2 Wood Beams
  • 2x Additional Extra-Wide Planks for the Floor
  • Blow Torch
  • Metal Wire Brush
  • Nail Gun
  • Clear Polyurethane Sealer

Building the box

I didn’t document my steps quite throoughly but the pattern is pretty straightforward.

  • Cut each plank to the length you want.
    • Include a 45 degree edge at each end if you’d like the super square corners.
  • I applied the burn step before assembly. I’m not sure whether that was a good choice or a bad chocie.
  • Safety first!
    • Make sure you have a fire extinguisher near by
    • Make sure you are burning away from any structures, and against a safe fire-resistant surface.
  • In a safe location, char the planks sufficiently with your torch. (I suggest researching the exact technique through videos and other blogs).
  • Once you have done so, you can take a wire brush to them and scrape off the excess soot.
  • Next, you’ll need to create the frame + base.
    • To do so, use the inner 2x2 wood beams to create a square shape of the correct dimensions.
    • Nail gun everything in place
  • Begin affixing the planks as well. Nail-gunning them to the 2x2 structures.
  • This wil bind everything together and with a nail gun, you won’t even see the marks it makes.
  • Afterwards, give it a good scrub to make sure you like the final surface finish and then seal the box using a wood sealer of your choice.

Learnings

This was a great project and I learned how to use a number of tools - most importantly was the miter saw. Some things I might do differently:

  • Build the inside frame separately. For example, I’d definitely include cross-beams at the top and the bottom.
  • Additionally, I would join the inner frame with wood glue and doweling joints to create nice, crisp edges, improved stregth, and to hide any screws or nails.
  • Lastly, I would probably try to screw the planks into the frame from the inside instead of using a nailgun on the outside. This would require some experimentation to see which strategy looks best.

Conclusion

Overall, this was a fun learner project where mistakes were encouraged and from them, I was able to build a solid foundation for many woodworking projects to come.