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Spotlight On Padauk

Add flavor to your next project with this rich and rare wood.

Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

Ironically, the chemical cocktail that makes African Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii) distasteful to insects and fungi contributes to the color that makes it practically irresistible to woodworkers. One of the most strikingly colorful woods, padauk is widely esteemed for its bold red-and-orange heartwood. Although these vibrant hues eventually mellow to a rich reddish brown, purple, or even near-black, padauk’s enduring stability and workability remain intact, contributing to this affordable wood’s popularity.

Although famous for the color hidden within the trunk, the tree was named for its fruit. All trees in this genus bear round, inedible fruit banded by a flat wing, giving it a flying saucer like appearance. (Pterocarpus means “winged fruit).

Where the wood comes from

Padauk trees thrive in tropical climates including India, Indochina, the South Pacific, and even southern Florida. However, most commercially available stock comes from Africa.

History in woodworking

Centuries ago, padauk was reserved for royalty, but today hobby and commercial shops regularly employ it as an accent wood in inlay or intarsia, or as a primary wood for small projects like knife scales and jewelry boxes. Padauk’s ability to hold fine detail also makes it well suited for delicate turnings and carvings.

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February-March 2017

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