Shou Sugi Ban Arcade Stick

So much to learn

We live in an amazing age of information. If you can filter out the noise, there is so much to learn by so many people sharing their knowledge on any imaginable discipline.

I wouldn’t even know a tenth of what I do about woodworking, if it wasn’t for YouTube and all the amazing woodworkers showing tons of different techniques and ideas. No matter your level, there are certainly hundreds of creative projects that fit your needs and experience. I have been watching woodworking videos for years now and I have been curating a number of playlists; each of them is either about a specific tool or a specific aspect/technique of woodworking. Many of them even require tools that I don’t currently have, but they feature some interesting ideas that I would love to try in the future.


I follow and trust the content of a number of woodworkers that appear in my playlists, and one of them is Inspire Woodcraft; I have now watched a bunch of his videos and they all have something interesting and clever to teach. But the content that originally made me discover his channel were his videos on a finishing technique inspired by Yakisugi/Shou Sugi Ban, the Japanese technique of strengthening wood by charring its surface.

I am always on the lookout for new ideas, and when I do come across an interesting woodworking idea, I usually want to try it out on my arcade sticks. In fact, I have been using the same components for years now, periodically moving them to new and improved chassis. When I saw Inspire Woodcraft creating some gorgeous effects on a few very small pieces of softwood, I knew I absolutely had to try this on a new arcade stick.

There’s rarely a technique that you can try out without breaking the bank to buy new tools; Shou Sugi Ban is definitely one of them. All you need is a butane torch; if you want to try Inspire Woodcraft’s finishing technique, then you also have to buy a circular nylon brush, presuming you already have a drill – if you do any kind of woodworking or house improvement work, chances are you do.

The build

I have been wanting to make new chassis for the two oldest sticks in my collection, the ones featuring Sanwa parts in a Vewlix layout. While the one made of beech still looks quite good, the first one I ever made out of fir has been sticking out like a sore thumb, for a number of reasons.

So I began making a new fir chassis, and then I just put it aside and almost forgot about it, while I got busy with work and other projects – such as the FOOTSIES Fightsticks.

Months later, I decided to make “Hit from behind“, my first sculpture ever, featuring a 30x30x30 cm letter cube that is half-burned. The idea of burning half that cube probably came to my mind because I already wanted to try Shou Sugi Ban, and I even had the necessary tools to do so. So, the same day that I charred the big letter cube of my sculpture, I also charred the arcade stick box I had lying around.

But it wasn’t until recently, after “Hit from behind” was done and on its way to tour the Province of Brescia, Italy, that I went on with the arcade stick build.

I first used the nylon brush to remove the softer burned parts, revealing the fresh wood underneath and giving an amazing texture to the surface.

Next stop was applying the finish. I didn’t have a stain, so I used paint, instead. I knew right away that the result wouldn’t be the same as that marvelous finish I saw on Inspire Woodcraft’s videos, but I was confident that the result would be the one I was looking for. This was basically the same pastel gray/blue paint I used on the Arcade Soundstick. Only this time I was applying it, letting it set for a few seconds and removing the excess right away.

After a couple of coats using that method, I gave the stick a coat of clear, glossy finish. I am not a great fan of glossy finishes; I have actually never used one on my sticks! However, I had a feeling that the Shou Sugi Ban stick would come out different with a shine on top of that particular finish.

And I was right; the color gradients from black to brown, to that blueish gray, combined with the texture and the gloss, make the box almost look like it is molded plastic! And it’s a very cool illusion. I love it when actual wood receives a finish that almost makes you forget that it’s actual wood, like on electric guitars.

After the finish was all done, I added the old OBSF-30 and OBSF-24 Sanwa buttons and the Sanwa JLF stick, did the cabling and… voila: the stick was ready for action!

Thus, my blue-orange Sanwa Vewlix stick reached a new stage in its life!

And it was time to move on to the next!

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