Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)

Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)

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Common Name(s): African Padauk, Vermillion

Scientific Name: Pterocarpus soyauxii

Distribution: Central and tropical west Africa

Tree Size:100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 2-4 ft (.6-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 47 lbs/ft3 (745 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .61, .75

Janka Hardness: 1,970 lbf (8,760 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 16,830 lbf/in2 (116.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,700,000 lbf/in2 (11.72 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 8,130 lbf/in2 (56.0 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.3%, Tangential: 5.2%, Volumetric: 7.6%, T/R Ratio: 1.6

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color can vary, ranging from a pale pinkish orange to a deep brownish red. Most pieces tend to start reddish orange when freshly cut, darkening substantially over time to a reddish/purplish brown (some lighter pieces age to a grayish brown). See the article Preventing Color Changes in Exotic Woods for more information.

Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, but can sometimes be interlocked. With a coarse, open texture and good natural luster. 

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large to very large pores in no specific arrangement, very few; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; mineral deposits occasionally present; growth rings indistinct; narrow rays not visible without lens, fairly close to close spacing; parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates, winged, confluent, and banded.

Rot Resistance: Has excellent decay resistance, and is rated as durable to very durable. Padauk is also reported to be resistant to termites and other insects.

Workability: Overall Padauk is easy to work; tearout may also occur during planing on quartersawn or interlocked grain. Padauk turns, glues, and finishes well.

Odor: Padauk has a faint, pleasing scent while being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Padauk has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Widely imported as lumber in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, as well as turning and craft blanks. Should be moderately priced for an import.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Veneer, flooring, turned objects, musical instruments, furniture, tool handles, and other small specialty wood objects.

Comments: Padauk has a very unique reddish orange coloration, and the wood is sometimes referred to by the name Vermillion. Unfortunately, this dramatic color is inevitably darkened to a deep reddish brown color. (See the article Preventing Color Changes in Exotic Woods for more information.) UV-inhibiting finishes may prolong, but not prevent the gradual color-shift of this brightly colored wood.

Padauk is moderately heavy, strong, and stiff, with exceptional stability. It’s a popular hardwood among hobbyist woodworkers because of its unique color and low cost.

Padauk is perhaps the most frequently misspelled (and mispronounced) wood species, with Padouk, Paduk, and Paduak being common misspellings. The most common pronunciation is pah-DUKE, it is sometimes mispronounced as Paducah—a city in Kentucky.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Padauk (sanded)

Padauk (sanded)

Padauk (sealed)

Padauk (sealed)

Padauk (endgrain)

Padauk (endgrain)

Padauk (endgrain 10x)

Padauk (endgrain 10x)

Padauk (turned)

Padauk (turned)



  1. Jim Fellows January 2, 2019 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    I don’t use padauk in my woodworking, but have used the sawdust in alcohol to dye paper. I am testing for light fastness in paper but assuming it is fugitive, as it is in wood. Too soon to say, but so far surprisingly good after 6 months. Creates a beautiful salmon pink that is hard to describe.

    For those using alcohol based polish or varnishes on padauk: to keep it from bleeding I strongly suggest you experiment with egg white as a sealer. Don’t water it down, just remove the yoke and brush the white on. There are more complicated recipes from the Renaissance era, but this is one of those french polisher secrets nobody wants to share because it is so simple. I have not tried it on padauk, but it generally is the best solution for all woods that bleed under alcohol. Should solve the problem.

    French polisher tips: if you use denatured alcohol and believe it is the correct and traditional alcohol you have been tricked by the US methyl alcohol industry. It is incredibly toxic and pointless. Almost any other alcohol works better. Most think it should be strong, as in higher proof, % alcohol. Actually, that might dissolve some flakes faster, but will also cut into your accumulated finish easier, obviously not what you want. People who swear it is essential also find french polishing to be an arcane and secretive art with many pitfalls. Yeah, it is if you use denatured alcohol and miraculously live long enough to master it. These die hards (no pun intended) are generally, but not exclusively, Americans who, separated by a large body of water from Europe, have managed to embroider an entire web of mythology around french polishing. The Spanish guitar makers I learned from in the 1970s thought I was joking when I told them Americans were using wood alcohol to polish just to avoid paying alcohol taxes. As far as they knew, Americans were supposed to be smart, so they found this hard to believe. They definitely knew what wood alcohol was though!

    Remember that traditionally, 80% was the limit of triple distilled alcohols until very recently. Not that any wood workers had it, it was sold around 40%. As an example, you can get organic french vodka at about $25 per 1.5 liter bottle. It is 40%. You may note that it has some sugar. You may also notice some older french polish recipes call for sugar. What a surprise! Much less toxic, and organic means you are not getting glyphosate herbicides from GMO corn ethanol.

    However, despite everything you have been told, medical alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol/ isopropyl) is my first choice. Even at 91% it is more forgiving than ethanol at 90%. It is also available in 70%. I suggest trying both, but for a beginner the 70% is much more forgiving. If you insist on ethyl alcohol, and are smart enough to avoid GMO ethanol, there is always organic ethanol online at $43 per liter. You can also explore liquor store varieties of ethanol (aka grain alcohol) at 95% (190 proof). Graves and Everclear are the most common brands in liquor stores at about $18 per liter. Note that alcohol loves water, and unless you work in a vacuum will draw in water from the atmosphere until it reaches 91%. Also note: I would assume it was of GMO origin until you can find out from the manufacturer what it is distilled from. Does glyphosate get removed during distillation? Good question. I am in touch with the lab that is testing GMO ethanol for the EPA. As of 2018, they could not yet answer this question. Isopropyl is not created from agricultural bi-products. I am assuming it is safer since it is sold as medical alcohol and for rubbing (aka dry bathing, not as in furniture polish), but I cannot say for sure.

  2. Eric November 29, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    What is the white “mold” on the surface of my Padauk? It wipes off. Will it come back under my finish?

  3. Adam Lloyd Miller May 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    I have a Mali billiards stick whose butt end is made from Padauk wood…it is a gorgeous deep red-brown color and has held its beautiful color for over 30 years. Love the stick and the look…named her “old faithful” due to years of consistent play.

  4. Robert February 27, 2018 at 9:10 am - Reply

    I make crosses and trivets and they are beautiful. I give to friends and relatives and they are amazed at how they look and can’t truly express how much they appreciate them.

  5. randy February 9, 2018 at 9:00 am - Reply

    can kit be used to make a smokeable tobacco pipe?

  6. Vladimir Le March 31, 2017 at 6:03 am - Reply

    i need import Padauk to Vietnam
    My whatsapp: +84933551371

  7. Wayne Silver January 8, 2017 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Can Padauk be used in a cutting boad

    • ejmeier January 12, 2017 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Padauk has very large open pores, so it would depend on what the cutting board is going to be used for. Some would say that you shouldn’t use these types of porous woods for things like cutting boards used for meats, as it will trap bacteria in these tiny holes.

  8. Jonathan Bluestein May 21, 2016 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Padauk Spoon, finished with Tung Oil.

  9. Know What Mom Knows December 19, 2015 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    What did you use for the finish?

  10. Know What Mom Knows December 19, 2015 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Can you eat out of those bowls? Like Soup?

  11. Jennifer C June 2, 2015 at 11:10 pm - Reply


  12. Jennifer C June 2, 2015 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    This is our first time using this wood at the request of a customer and I am surprised at how red it turned out to be! It is almost unbelievable, like they were stained, but this is natural. These have 2 coats of CA as a sealer and 12 coats of tru-oil. I hope they stay this red!

  13. Arthur Cooper January 25, 2015 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    What a find and incredibly well done!

  14. Trevor Reed March 27, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    On the odor section, every time I have worked with Padauk, I have found it to have a very strong pepper-like scent, not a pleasing scent as the article suggests. I still love the wood though!

    • Jordan Grant September 1, 2014 at 12:02 am - Reply

      Has a slight rose scent. Not much unlike some dalbergias.

  15. JosephD November 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    If have wood allergies, skin irritant

  16. Robert Horton November 8, 2013 at 12:41 am - Reply

    A warning to anyone who incorporates padauk into a project that also includes a lighter colored wood such as maple. When choosing a finish, avoid shellac. The pigment in padauk is alcohol soluble and will bleed a pinkish smear all over the place. I discovered this the hard way.

    • ejmeier November 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      This is very true. Though if you’re a die-hard shellac fan like me, you can still usually get away with combining the two woods using shellac if you’re careful. What I do is use a very light mix (1 pound cut) of shellac, and pad it on very lightly for the first coat. If you wipe along the direction of the wood edge, you should avoid smearing any coloration into the surrounding wood. Once the initial coats are dry, the wood should be sealed and you can then finish as usual.

  17. Mark Klamm September 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    I decided to go with padauk and yellowheart for a chess board (3-1/4″
    squares). Both produced very fine saw dust (the padauk will stain
    clothes…) and cuts cleanly. Glued up with biscuit joints worked

  18. Ed August 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    I recently bought a piece of Padouk to make a guitar with. Unfortunately I had it sent to my luthier, and I’m not sure the what the scheduling will be. I’m sure he’ll get me close up pics before work begins on the neck – I’ll post pictures when I get them.

    • ed January 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      it’s getting close

    • CHARLES OTTO Jr July 29, 2018 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      Hey Ed Here are pics of a Padauk guitar I just Finished. Featuring a Maple Stripe and Yes it is a Hollow Body.

  19. Reece July 9, 2013 at 5:07 am - Reply

    Hi Guys,

    I’m looking for a sustainable, strong, stable timber for the construction of a timber frame house. All timber will be exposed to the Cape Town elements. I’m able to get 76mm in long 4.5m lengths so this will do for the exposed structural beams, rafters etc. Does anyone think African Padauk will do the job.


    • Tom August 28, 2014 at 8:09 pm - Reply

      Paduak is an excellent outdoor wood in my opinion I expose the raw wood to new jersey weather for years with little problem, and it is available in large sizes however here in the US its difficult and expensive to get a hold of

  20. Anthony L July 2, 2013 at 7:57 am - Reply

    Looking at using padauk for decking on my sailboat. I keep the boat stored outside in Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle year around and sail often even in our rainy Seattle days. Curious as to this wood being able to withstand the sail spray and weather. I could make a cover to use while not sailing. But if I don’t need to then I won’t.

    • Jordan Grant September 1, 2014 at 12:24 am - Reply

      Im probably late with this but here goes. I used a piece of padauk edge trimmed from a 4qtr board for a tiller extension. I planed the corners out with a krenov style jointer plane I built and worked into a 4 ft long semi round taper with a spokeshave for a tiller extension on my sloop. Braided a turks head end cap, wrapped forward 10 in. and did 3 more turks head rings tight against the wrap. A largish between 2 smaller. Oiled the bare remainder with interior watco and thats it. Needs oil again. Its been on 3 yrs and has gotten very dark but who cares. The stuff dont warp,check or wind. Its bombproof.

    • Jesse Francis July 1, 2015 at 10:44 am - Reply

      Most oily tropical woods are pretty resilient that way. The only thing that is for certain is that the sunlight is going to turn the padauk into a generic brown color very quickly, especially in your application.

  21. Jon B May 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    I started building acoustic guitars a couple of years ago, the best so far has back and sides made from padauk. I used 6 hour epoxy as a sealer and pore filler, which, it turns out, kept the color a beautiful deep red.
    It is brittle, loves to split, but will bend like cardboard for guitar sides if evenly heated to about 310 degrees (a little hotter than most guitar woods).
    The dust gets everywhere and will permanently stain clothes.
    If you hold up a board, hit it with a knuckle, and listen, (the “taptone”), it has very bright, almost glassy trebles, a warm low bass, and little in between, which is exactly how the guitar sounds, and I love it. This is the first guitar I built which I sold….

  22. Curly Pio April 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    I chose Paduak for a knife handle because of it’s striking contrasts of colors. However, shortly after finishing I found like TREVOR; the coloring all merged into a bland uniform look.
    I think sealing would be a good idea.

  23. Trevor March 18, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Unfortunately the color of African padauk doesn’t last long, in a few days the wood darkens to a deep redish-brown, however, if you vover it in CA super glue it stays bright orange for years to come.

  24. Dave Kimball March 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Padauk is the first true exotic I’ve worked with and I love the colors and bands of various shades in the wood BUT I found out quickly that tools needed to be wiped and different sheets of sand paper need to be used as the sawdust is very fine and stains hands, clothes, and can be imparted on other woods during sanding.

  25. Steve Thomas February 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    I am currently making an end grain cutting board from hard maple and pad auk. I chose the pad auk over Purple Heart because the end grain looked better. After milling the padauk, I am not so sure. I found the saw dust extreme and am wondering if my selection of padauk was a good choice.
    Ian interested in any feedback or comments

    Steve Thomas

  26. Trevor Bone January 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    padauk is a beautiful red-orange to bright orange hardwood, my first (exotic) pen was made of padauk.

  27. Mark Klamm January 7, 2013 at 7:24 am - Reply

    I decided to go with padauk and yellowheart for a chess board (3-1/4″ squares). Both produced very fine saw dust (the padauk will stain clothes…) and cuts cleanly. Glued up with biscuit joints worked nicely.

  28. Eric March 11, 2010 at 11:20 am - Reply

    I think it would be fine to use Padauk for a pepper mill. One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of woods cause allergic reactions, but that’s mainly from inhaling the wood dust itself. Very few woods are in and of themselves poisonous or toxic. (Yew and Sassafras come to mind in this category.) Also, I would stay away from spalted woods, which may have fungus or mold still present.

    I understand the concern to finish the inside, but I think it may be overkill. The finish itself, being closed off in a small sealed container, may have more spoiling effects than the wood itself—especially if a slow-drying oil-based finish is used. If anything, I’d maybe use a thin sealer coat of shellac, which is supposed to be food safe (it’s used for coatings of pills, etc.) and since its alcohol-based, it will dry very quickly and not “stink up” anything inside the mill.

  29. John Erwin March 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    I am contemplating turning a pepper mill from Padauk. Is that wood safe to use here? If so, should I finish the inside and with what?

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