Padauk is a medium-hard species that is well-known for its beautiful, bright, orange/red color, which can range from medium orange through vivid oranges with darker striping, especially when freshly milled. Over time, Padauk has been known to change color as it ages. At the forefront of its lumber life, Padauk can take on a bright orange color, and as time goes on, it will age to a dark red to almost black when fully aged.
This exotic hardwood hails from Central Africa. There are actually seven species of hardwood that is recognized as Padauk, but the most readily available kind of Padauk is African Padauk, which may also be referred to as vermillion.
Most Padauk trees that you see will resemble elm trees – they have large crowns that spread out against the sky, with the trees reaching up to 120 feet. The trunks will average 7 feet in girth, and hold a smooth, yellow-colored bark. You typically won’t find branches until after the first 65 feet.
Take care when finishing this type of wood, as oil finishes will speed the aging process and allow the full color change to take place. If you want to preserve the brighter colors, your best bet is to use a water-based finish that will slow the full color change.
When installing African Padauk flooring, note that the dust has been known to cause dermatitis and respiratory reactions. This is important if you are refinishing your Padauk floor, or doing a lot of planing and cutting. Wear protective coverings when you do.
Padauk is about as heavy as oak, but stronger. It has a Janka rating of 1725; to compare, Brazillian Cherry is 2820 on the Janka scale, while Red Oak is 1260. It works very well with both power tools and hand tools, and it glues/screws well, too.
You will also find Padauk in cabinets, fine turnings, carvings, musical instruments, cutting boards, and boats.