Native to Africa and the Andaman Islands, padauk is known as vermillion for its unique reddish-orange color. When exposed to sunlight, it develops a dark, reddish patina as it ages. For an exotic, padauk offers relatively good stability and machining properties, with an exceptionally low shrinkage rating. With a degree of hardness that falls between hard maple (softer) and hickory (harder), padauk saws, planes, turns, and machines well. The strength of this wood exceeds all commonly used domestic species.
When the wood is machined or sanded, toxins are released into the air, possibly causing skin, eye, or breathing irritation to those in the shop. Padauk has oils that can inhibit the penetration of yellow and hide glues. Being somewhat coarse textured, padauk accepts finishes well and can be polished to a high luster. Most oils will darken the wood, changing it from orange to red. Ironically, staining padauk is usually the only way to maintain its distinctive orange color for years to come.
In the past, padauk was a favorite wood for boatbuilding, including structural elements, because of its superb decay resistance, luxurious appearance, and durability. Today, padauk is generally reserved for small projects and as an accent wood because of its high cost and also out of respect for rain forest preservation efforts.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com