BOTANICAL NAME: Pterocarpus indicus (syn. Pterocarpus vidalianus) of the family Fabaceae (syn Leguminosae) the legume, pea, or bean family.

COMMON NAMES: Pterocarpus indicus is called narra, red narra, yellow narra, and brown narra depending on the color, which has a huge range from light yellow to golden-brown to reddish-brown to a deep blood red

OTHER NAMES include: angsana (Sabah), sena (Malaya), amboyna (a name for highly figured burls that grow on this tree), New Guinea rosewood, Papua New Guinea rosewood, Malay padauk, Andaman redwood, Burmese rosewood, Pashu, and many more

Woodworkers interested in purchasing narra should proceed with caution to make sure that is actually what they are buying. I was sold "narra / Pterocarpus indicus" by a reputable vendor and it turned out to not be even close to narra.

TYPE: hardwood

COLOR: heartwood ranges from a yellow-golden brown, to a blood-red and sometimes with reddish streaks. The more red there is in the wood, the heavier it is. The heartwood of Andaman padauk is similar to narra, ranging from a yellow-brown to a dark red. The sapwood is whitish or pale straw, clearly defined.

GRAIN: open, interlocked and sometimes wavy, which together with dark growth bands produce an attractive figure. Select logs have a mottled and even a more rare "bee's-wing mottle" figure that can be spectacular.

TEXTURE: moderately fine to moderately coarse and uneven due to the ring-porous structure. Somewhat lustrous. My own experience has been on the moderately fine side, not coarse

PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools; turns well, and takes a good finish. Can be nailed, screwed and glued without problems. My experience supports these statements. Reportedly, it can be difficult to plane when it has interlocked grain.

DURABILITY: heartwood is reported to be very durable. Some experience is Malaya is conflicting. Reported as likely to be resistant to impregnation by preservative treatments.


STABILITY: Movement in service is rated as small.

BENDING: classified as a moderate steam-bending wood

ODOR: fragrant, spicy, odor which persists even when dry

SOURCES: The tree is native to the Philippines, Malaysia, New Guinea and Indonesia, Northern Australasia, and the western Pacific Ocean islands, and has spread throughout much of Southeast Asia including Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

USES: flooring, furniture and cabinets, interior trim, boatbuilding, veneer, pool cues, knife handles, carving and turning ... a good tonewood for musical instruments

TREE: May reach a height of 100 ft or more, usually of poor form with a large crown; trunk diameters up to about 3 ft above high widespreading buttresses.


DRYING: Easy to season, dries slowly with very little or no degrade or movement


COST: moderate --- about $10 per board foot

amboyna burl is sold by the piece and is often priced by the pound. Prices are wide-ranging, highly dependent on the amount of figure in the piece, ranging from $15/lb. up to $35/lb and more

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Often planted for shade along roadsides and as an ornamental.

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Narra is frequently confused with Andaman padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides) and even African padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii). Jim Lorette of Woods of the World inc., a retailer and wholesaler in Westmoreland, N.H., said a simple test will determine if a wood is indeed narra and not a padauk.

If you take some narra shavings and put them in a test tube or a little bottle and just leave them in there for three or four days, it does have an iridescent fluorescent blue to it, he said. That does not occur with padauk. With padauk the water turns reddish.

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Amboyna burls have become such a highly prized commodity now, Lorette said. A lot of the stuff we have has been pulled out of forest fire areas, which in the past they never would have done that; they would have been lost or wasted. I would say less than 1-1/2 percent of narra trees have burls.

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The burls grow on the stem of the tree and are deep in the jungles of Cambodia and Myanmar, said Donald Mogelefsky of in Northport, N.Y., an Internet retailer of amboyna burl, thuya burl and snakewood. The teams go in there, sometimes with elephants, to bring the burls back. With amboyna, itís the swirls that really make it stand out. The color goes from golden to reddish.