There are three species of trees that produce lumber that we call padauk: Burma padauk, Andaman
padauk (named for the Andaman
Islands in the South Atlantic where it
grows) and African padauk. All are
legume family, grow in tropical rain
forests, and have the Latin names of
Pterocarpus macrocarpus, P. dalbergioides,
and P. soyauxii.
African padauk, the more commonly seen species of lumber in North
America, grows in central Africa,
including Gabon, Congo, Cameroon,
Nigeria and Ivory Coast. The larger
trees at maturity are often up to 100
feet tall and 4 feet in diameter.
The bark yields a wonderful, bright
red dye that was used for body coloring
for religious festivals by native Africans. The wood itself is also quite red.
When working with padauk, the fine
red dust can coat everything in sight if
the dust removal system is not adequate. Any dust on clothes will color
the wash water for a load or two.
Padauk is an excellent turning wood
and is widely used for fancy turnery
such as knife and tool handles. It is also
prized for high-end cabinets, furniture,
Beautiful and expensive tropical wood.
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Density. Padauk is a fairly dense
wood, with a kiln-dried density of 41 to
50 pounds per cubic foot. A board foot
of lumber will weigh about 4 pounds.
Drying. It dries very well with a minimum of loss in the kiln. In most cases, it
would be air-dried or kiln-dried before
shipping to North America. Shrinkage
green to 6 percent MC is 4. 2 percent
tangentially (the width of a flatsawn piece
of lumber) and 2. 6 percent radially (the
width of quartersawn).
Gluing and machining. As there
can be a bit of oil in this wood from time
to time, surfaces to be glued should be
less than 30 minutes old. It would be prudent to wash older surfaces with a solvent
before gluing. This wood does machine
well both with hand and machine tools.
Because of interlocked grain, it is hard to
finish the wood surfaces smoothly unless
tools are sharp and sandpaper is fresh.
Of special note is that the sawdust, in ad-
dition to being red, is a nasal irritant and
can cause respiratory problems.
Stability. Exceptionally stable, it takes
more than a 7 percent MC change to
cause a 1 percent size change tangentially and 10 percent MC change radially.
Strength. It is very strong (MOR is
18,600 psi) and stiff (MOE is 1. 75 million
psi). The wood is also very hard. Screw
and nail holding are very good, but predrilling of holes for fasteners is wise.
Color and grain. Grain is at times
very straight and at other times interlocked. Overall, texture is coarse with
large pores. Heartwood is rich red to
purple red; the color darkens appreciably
with exposure to light. Sapwood, 4 to 8
inches wide in a log, is white. With the
natural oil in the wood, it finishes to a