Basic Scientific Information About Padauk
Padauk is scientifically known as Pterocarpus sp. Padauk comes from a genus of trees that is widely distributed throughout the tropical regions of the old world, i.e. Africa and Asia.
Geographic Origins of Padauk Wood
Woods called padauk may be obtained from several species of Pterocarpus. Regardless of which specific species is used, all padauk is of either African or Asian origin. Most of the padauk found in the timber markets is African in origin and is technically Pterocarpus soyauxii. Other types of paduak are Burmese, gathered from Myanmar where it is endangered, and Andaman named for the island group, belonging to India, where it is found.
Basic Characteristics of Padauk
Padauk wood is tough and stable, making it relatively easy to work with. Because of the generally reddish coloration of padauk, the wood is also decorative, and this combination of characteristics makes it a favorite of wood craftspeople. On occasion, paduak can be confused for rosewood, but paduak does not generally display the same level of figure associated with most true rosewoods.
Uses of Padauk Wood
Padauk makes an excellent turning wood and as such it is used for fancy turnery such as knife and tool handles as well as small bowls and custom crafted turned wood pens, pencils, and other desk tools (letter openers, magnifying glasses, etc). Padauk is also highly prized for high end cabinets, furniture, carving, veneer, inlay, flooring, dyewood, joinery, dowels, shuttles, spindles, paddles, and boat building. These larger scale uses of padauk wood can only be undertaken by those with a fairly unlimited wallet because while padauk isn’t the most expensive exotic hardwood, for most applications it would prove to be prohibitively expensive indeed.
Non-Woodworking Uses of Padauk Wood
The reddish color of padauk is the result of either a water or alcohol soluble pigment, making it possible to manufacture an orange colored dye from paduak wood. To preserve the color of the wood in a pen, or similar handheld item, it should be sealed with shellac and wax to ensure that the color from the wood should not be able to rub off on damp hands.
Medical Uses of Paduak Wood
Paduak can also be used as a herbal medicine to treat certain fungal infections and skin parasites. That padauk can be used as a medication is slightly ironic given that some people are sensitive to the dust created when working with padauk and experience skin rashes and itching, or even respiratory irritation. Sometimes that which is toxic to fungi and parasites also proves to be less than friendly to people. But then anyone treated with the common anti-fungal medication amphotericin (commonly known as “ampho-terrible” by those who have taken it) is aware of the unfriendly nature of most anti-fungal medications.
My Experiences of Working with Padauk
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with padauk. While the wood is hard, it isn’t brittle so I have not experienced difficulty with chipping or cracking, provided that correctly sharpened tools are consistently used. I have also had no trouble gluing the wood either to other woods or to metal. It is true however that some glues, notably cyanoacrylate types, do act as a solvent for the pigment in padauk wood, so don’t panic when any overflow comes out bright orange! The wood takes a simple wax finish beautifully and shines glowingly without need of stains or dyes. But the best part of working with padauk, aside from the stunning color and character of the wood, is that when freshly cut, drilled, or turned, padauk wood smells distinctly of bubblegum or cotton candy!
Protecting the Color of Paduak Wood
Because the beautiful color of the wood will fade to a dull brown when exposed to the ultraviolet light of sunlight, if you are using padauk for a piece that you can reasonably expect to be in a good deal of sunlight, you may wish to use a UV protectant finish to help preserve the color. A simple to use and non-coloring protectant is high-quality teak oil. Most products labeled “teak oil” are really linseed or tung oil, but the advantage of using a product sold as “teak oil” instead of linseed or tung oils is that commercially labeled teak oils have additives that are designed to provide the UV protection you need whereas simple tung or linseed oils will not have these additives or protective properties. Watco makes a good teak oil and it is available for a reasonable price from Woodcraft . You can also find teak oil at some home or furniture stores, usually associated with outdoor furniture as well as at most boating stores.