Botanists know the tree and wood commonly called Padauk, among various other spellings, as Pterocarpus soyauxii. P. soyauxxi is native to a swath of tropical African forests ranging from Nigeria in the northwest to the east across the Democractic Republic of the Congo and south into Angola. For the sake of simplicity I will refer to from here forward simply as Padauk.
Padauk heartwood can vary in color with a range between a pale pinkish orange to a deep brownish red. In practice most pieces of Padauk are reddish orange when freshly milled. Over time the color of Padauk tends to darken gradually and substantially over time eventually reaching a reddish to purplish brown. Pieces of Padauk that are lighter in color when freshly milled may age to a grayish brown. Color change in exotic woods can be slowed but not completely stopped by using ultraviolet light inhibiting finishes and by keeping Padauk items in dark storage.
The grain of Padauk is usually straight but interlocked specimens do occur. Padauk has a course and open texture featuring a good natural luster.
Padauk has excellent resistance to decay and is therefore rated as durable to very durable. Padauk is also reported to be resistant to termites and other wood boring insects.
In general Padauk is considered to be easy to work with. One potential problem is the possibility of tearout during planing quartersawn or interlocked grain. This excellent resource provides guidance on preventing tearout when working with interlocked grain.
Padauk turns, glues, and finishes well.
For me, one of the nicest aspects of working with Padauk is the bubble gum like scent when the wood is freshly cut!
Pricing and Availability
Padauk is widely imported into the United States as lumber in a variety of lengths and thicknesses. Padauk is also commonly imported and sold as turning and craft blanks. With its wide availability Padauk is generally moderately priced for an imported exotic wood.
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.
Given the wide availability of Padauk it is not surprising that all of the above vendors, with the exception of Wood Turning Blanks 4U, carry Padauk in sizes ranging from pen blanks selling for a few dollars to enormous 16” platter blanks sold by Got Wood? for $52.00.
Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for 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.
Padauk is not listed as being endangered by the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices nor does it appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.