Botanists know the tree and wood commonly called Burma Padauk, among various other spellings, as Pterocarpus macrocarpus. P. macrocarpus is native to, as the name implies Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Thailand. For the sake of simplicity I will refer to Pterocarpus macrocarpus from here forward simply as Burma Padauk.
The heartwood of Burma Padauk covers a range from pale golden yellow to deep reddish brown. As is true of other Pterocarpus species, the color will darken over time to a golden brown and this effect is accelerated with exposure to ultraviolet light including sunlight. The yellow sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. If one is familiar with African Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii) the color of Burma Padauk will be less red and more subdued.
The grain of Burma Padauk is generally interlocked with a coarse texture and large open pores that are readily visible in surfaced wood.
Burma Padauk is rated as very durable against rot and it also has a good resistance to termites and other insects.
Overall Burma Padauk is easy to work with. Due to the interlocked grain problems with tearout can occur especially during planing. These problems may be exacerbated by quartersawn timber. Methods for minimizing tearout can be found elsewhere.
Burma Padauk turns, glues, and finishes quite well.
One of the ways to know that the orange wood you are working with is Burma Padauk is the intense sweet and spicy scent when you cut it. This is present even in fully dry wood and it is a real treat!
Pricing and Availability
African Padauk is widely imported into the United States as lumber in a variety of lengths and thicknesses and African Padauk is also commonly imported and sold as turning and craft blanks. With its wide availability African Padauk is generally moderately priced for an imported exotic wood. However, Burma Padauk is considerably less common than the African variety. In general, if a retailer has not specified that the wood you are purchasing is Burma or Asian Padauk you should assume it is African. True Burma Padauk, given the relatively small quantities that are imported, is of considerably higher cost than the African relative, with prices near the top for an imported hardwood.
In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.
I am not surprised to find that none of the above retailers are offering Burma Padauk while several of them do offer the African relative. True Burma Padauk is a rare find and one should take advantage of any offers for it that they find.
Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for Burma Padauk, this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings. I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.
A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer. I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand. It happens to me all the time!
There are a good variety of common uses for Padauk including but not limited to: veneer, flooring, turned objects, musical instruments, furniture, tool handles, and other small specialty wood objects.
Burma Padauk is not listed as being endangered by the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II nor does it appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.