Pterocarpus soyauxii| Tonewood Profile | “African Padauk”
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Padauk actually can refer to several species of Pterocarpus, although all these species some from Africa or Asian. These are: African Padauk [Pterocarpus soyauxii], Burmese Padauk [Pterocarpus macrocarpus], Andaman Padauk [Pterocarpus dalbergioides], Pashu/Malay Padauk [Pterocarpus indicus] and Prickly Padauk [Pterocarpus echinatus].
Read more about the Pterocarpus family and Padauks in general here.
Pterocarpus soyauxii is native to Central and Tropical Africa attaining 50 metres in height with girths of up to 4 metres. The reddish gray bark exudes a red gum when damaged. Most sources indicate it grows in small groups in both evergreen and deciduous forests up to 500m altitude.
It is locally used to make canoes and sculptures and furniture. Due to it’s resonant quality, it has been used for traditional and western instruments and was favoured for telegraph poles. Barwood dye from the heartwood is used to colour red fabrics.The blood red sap is used in ritual ceremonies for it’s symbolism and various parts of the tree are used a traditional remedies for a range of ailments.
Pterocarpus soyauxii is heavily logged in it’s natural range for example, it is one of the 10 most important export timbers from Gaboon. It is not surprising that Prota reports that natural populations are endangered by over-exploitation. However, due to it’s relatively rapid growth and nitrogen fixing properties, some authorities consider it could be useful for agroforestry purposes although more research is required to determine the feasibility of establishing commercial plantations.
The heartwood of Pterocarpus soyauxii is brilliant red when freshly cut, but fades when exposed to sunlight to a warm brown. It is a hard, durable wood with an interlocked grain which can make bending challenging. It has a Janka rating of around 1300 and a specific gravity of approx. 0.79.
As a tonewood…
As a tonewood, African Padauk has been touted as a Rosewood substitute which is a fair description of the tone although it is not yet used very extensively probably due to it’s bold colour.
Tim McKnight says :”I’ve built three guitars using Paudauk and would like to build many more but red guitars don’t seem to appeal to the masses as much as brown guitars do ;( The wood, that I have used, has been extremely resonant and low dampening. I particularly like to use it for laminated bridge plates combined with Wenge or BRW. I too broke one set of sides on my first one, when using light bulbs for a heat source but never broke any more using heating blankets.”
John Arnold also adds: “I have cut several sets over the years, and some of the older wood that has been exposed is a very dark crimson-brown. I don’t think you can get a better tap tone for the price, but I haven’t tried jatoba yet. Both woods are amazingly cheap for a rosewood-like tropical hardwood. “
Tony Karol wrote: “Thin to 80, bends OK with a blanket. Your shop will look like a paprika factory after sanding, and you will need cement to fill the pores, but the end product is amazing. Padauk makes an awesome guitar IMO. Bes parlour I ever made was red cedar over padauk. I will have a jumbo done next week, sitka top, padauk B&S. I like to use mahogany for the neck, this one has a padauk strip down the centre. The colour when done is a beautiful red wine, fine vintage, and the chatoyance across the grain is beautiful.” [OLF thread here]
I would classify this wood as providing a slightly dark but clear overtone content with a low to mid end predominance- much like many rosewoods!
Still available at present.
CIRAD Forestry department
US forestry service database
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Thanks to Sari for permission to use the pic of the Kronbauer Padauk guitar!
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