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Pterocarpus spp.

my samples:

I shot this padauk laminated bowl at a craft store that sold mostly just bowls. The young lady behind the counter told me it was purpleheart, so I picked it up and showed her the bottom, which was bright red/orange in the middle. This kind of color change is to be expected in padauk that is not heavily covered with a UV-blocking finishing agent.

both sides of a bowl blank --- note how one side has turned brown due to exposure to sunlight except where another plank was covering it.

NOT a raw wood color
sample plank, with a finishing agent, shot in a woodworking store. HUGE enlargements are present. As one would expect, this piece has turned brown over the years. I looked at the back side and it was distinctly more red

both sides of a sample plank of Andaman padauk / Pterocarpus dalbergioides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

both sides of a sample plank of Burmese padauk / Pterocarpus macrocarpus --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The reason for the differences in color between the two faces is that the labeled face is raw, with a patina, and the other face has been sanded down to 240 grit.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

both sides of a sample plank of Burmese padauk / Pterocarpus macrocarpus --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

two pics of a freshly slabbed padauk log on the mill, one plank off, then another --- pics contributed by Pat Dean whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. I assume the difference in color is just an artifcact of the changing natural lighting in which these were taken.

plank and closeup --- I bought this one because of the orange streaks in the red wood

plank and closeup --- cut from the same long plank as the one directly above

two planks and a closeup of same --- these are more the traditional red, even-grained, variety

both sides of a small plank --- HUGE enlargements are present, very nicely showing the somewhat complex surface pattern that you sometimes get in perfectly flat cut padauk

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

small piece and end grain and HIGH GRIT END GRAIN CLOSEUP

small piece and end grain, but this one has been oiled, which as you can see does not make much change in the already dark rich red color of the side grain, although it does make the end grain noticeably darker. The oil finish shows up better if you click to enlarge. The end grain pic is a little darker than the actual wood, mostly I think just due to the lighting of that shot and the fact that I didn't do any color correction.

small plank and end grain

end grain and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above

some planks shot at a lumber yard --- I moved these to the top of the pile to show some of the color variety. The first pic shows three planks with a color range I had seen before but I had not previously seen the more purple padauk. I assume the light color in those planks is sapwood.

planks shot at a lumber store

one end of a long plank and a closeup

the other end of the same plank as directly above, and a closeup

plank and end grain --- cut from another large plank I bought and chosen to show this particular shade of sapwood and also because of the tiny area of spalting in the sapwood because this is the only spalted padauk I've ever encountered.

end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- again, note the small area of spalting

planks with nicely captured deep red color



plank and closeup --- the closeup (especially the enlargements) shows the porous nature of the grain in this wood, with obvious open pores throughout the face grain. Also demonstrated is the clear and abrupt transition from heartwood to sapwood, also typical of padauk. The distance shot is just a little too dark --- actual color is more like that of the closeup, although that reflects how the wood looks in a strong light.

slab --- color of wood is actually a little darker and richer than what shows up in this pic

bowl blank

two views, showing all 6 surfaces, of a small slab. The demarcation between heartwood and sapwood in redheart is typically somewhat vague, as seen on this piece, although it can be sharper, as exemplified by the piece directly above, or even immediate as seen in a couple of the web pics.

very nice stripy bowl blank

A note about the next two sets: Each set shows all 6 surfaces and the 2nd set has end grain closeups for both ends (ends in this case does not refer to the smallest surface, which it normally does in English, but rather to that surface that contains the end grain).

set 1

set 2

from set 2 --- a really excellent example of how and why it is that smoothing a surface reduces the amount of light-reflecting surface and thus appears to deepen the color --- before I fine-sanded one end-grain surface, both end-grain surfaces of this piece were identical in color and now one of them clearly shows much darker because it has far less surface area to reflect light. The smallest surface on each end is side grain and differs in color because of where the cut falls relative to the variable red in this piece. The one on the left is cut through a dark red section and the one on the right is cut through a light red section.

bowl blank






both sides of a plank. The upper pic is of a side that has not been surfaced but which has been face down and thus has not darkened but the lower pic is of the side that was up and you can clearly see the darkening brought on by exposure.

misc planks photographed at a lumber yard --- color is accurate but the pics are slightly overexposed

numerous rough-cut planks photographed at a woodworking store

veneer --- the left of the two veneer pieces, when enlarged, shows the vessels particularly well.

My own samples are quite accurate in color. Although most padauk is a rich red color, there is a variety that is harvested in the Congo that is more commonly orange in color. My next two samples shows that:

some small sticks of "congo" padauk, showing very accurately the bright orange color that is common to padauk harvested in the Congo.

congo padauk plank and end grain

end grain closeup of the piece directly above

three planks of unusually dark and heavy padauk. When I first saw these pieces I thought I had received bloodwood by mistake and when I picked them up and felt the weight I was sure of it, but close examination of the grain makes it clear that they are padauk. The rest of my padauk samples on this page weighted from 40 to 48 lbs/cubic foot and these planks weighted 51, although they actually felt heavier.

plank sets with interesting discoloration. The pics were provided by Charlie Pace (whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site) who got them on ebay 'cause he liked these variations from normal color. He believes they are spalting, but I'm not sure about that. The spalting I've seen in padauk is black-line spalting in the sapwood. Padauk does come in a "striped" form in which there are vaguely defined light tan lines running along the grain where apparently the color just didn't take somehow, but the areas shown in these planks are much more localized and do not follow the grain. My first thought on seeing them was water damage, but the dark areas around the periphery of the light areas makes me think I'm wrong about that. At any rate, it's an interesting variation. This was excellent photography, by the way, and the enlargements do an outstanding job of showing the open pores that are normal in padauk.
LATER NOTE: I've done my own experiment with water on padauk and I am now certain that these discolorations are NOT water damage. The owner now tells me that the cabinetmaker who re-sawed these planks is experienced with exotics and is certain that this is not water or stain damage and has to be spalting. In the absence of any better explanation, I'll go with that for now.
LATER LATER NOTE: Dr. Sara Robinson, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto opines that this is most likely white rot fungus (basidiomycete) and while she offered this somewhat as a guess (she has only seen a pic, not an actual sample), I doubt there will be a more educated/experienced guess, PLUS it seems very likely, so I'm going with that.

from the same sets as the "spalted" ones above, these show some closeups of areas that have various dark streaks/blotches or various sizes (plus one more of the spalted areas). These pics and the ones above were not all shot in with the same lighting, thus the differences in colors.

veneer with a little sapwood --- very subdued color by padauk standards

veneer with very accurately represented color --- this is brilliant stuff

veneer sheets --- HUGE enlargements are present. These have all been sitting in my basement for many years and have darkened somewhat from their original color, which was not as bright as the pieces directly above, but was definitely more bright than what they are now.

padauk veneer pics contributed by Danny Tjan, whom I thank for these and other contributions to the site.

Based on the tannish orange color, accurately shown here, this one hardly looks like padauk, but the vendor is reliable and there is enough grain similarity to make the identification seem reasonable.

Based on the purplish brown color, accurately shown here, this one hardly looks like padauk, but the vendor is reliable and there is enough grain similarity to make the identification seem reasonable. Although, now that I think about it, the color reports do sometimes mention purplish brown, I just hadn't ever seen this color padauk before.

sample showing color ageing. This oak/padauk laminate was made about 8 years ago then ended up in a tightly wrapped, sealed, cardboard container until just recently, so the wood was not exposed to fresh air for long after having been cut else I believe it would have darkened even more. The sample on the left is freshly cut from the same piece as the one on the right. It's only the outside of the wood that shows ageing. You can also see a faint effect of ageing on the oak as well.

this slab sat in my garage for a year or so with one face (shown in the 2nd pic) exposed to direct sunlight and the other (shown in the first pic) exposed to a small amount of indirect sunlight. The bright color edge is just now freshly cut and sanded and the rough edge was on the bottom so not exposed to light at all

small piece with blue stain in the sapwood

a set of pictures of a plank that I bought from the BogusColorVendor. The plank was a hair over 5 feet long so I had it cut in half for shipping, so the two sections shown here are each 7.5"x30"x2"

plank 1 side 1 and closeup, then the corresponding portion as pictured by the BogusColorVendor. The color in the closeup is very accurate; the distance pic is uneven due to the spotlights I used. The misrepresentation by the BogusColorVendor is VERY mild compared to what they sometimes do.

plank 1 side 2 --- a section of the plank that was exposed and turned brown. The 2nd pic is the corresponding portion of the one posted by the BogusColorVendor and here the misrepresentation is more serious, and more typical of their work. I've kept the closeup large to show the color differences and grain pattern, and I've provided two enlargements, so the largest enlargement of the closeup gives you a VERY close look at padauk grain. The color on the closeup is very accurate and the color on the distance pic is accurate but just a shade too rich in both the brown and the red.

plank 2, both sides and a closeup of each. The colors in the closeups is quite accurate and the distance pics are reasonably accurate but somewhat mixed due to the spotlights. The area between the bright spot-lit areas is the most accurate in color for both pics, but the closeups are still more accurate.

end grain of the two planks. This is where the vendor cut it for shipping, but the ends have been waxed for protection against moisture absorbsion so they look richer than the actual wood will look, until a finishing agent has been applied to it at the end of a project.

some freshly exposed small pieces cut from the plank shown directly above. As you can see, the freshly exposed wood is slightly more bright than the longer exposed wood (particularly the brown area that had been exposed to sunlight). The color here is quite accurate.

just another example of the patina that padauk pics up with time, turning from, for example, the bright orange of the freshly sanded piece to a much darker red/brown. Both sides of this plank looked identical before I sanded one side.

web pics:

a couple of large planks (10 feet long). The top one is a very believable orange color and the bottom one is a purple that I have not personally experienced in padauk but that I find believable.

plank with wet and dry sections


plank and closeup

bookmatched pair and closeup

bowl blank


a set of pics of a very interestingly (and fairly uniquely) figured piece of padauk. This was posted on a woodworking forum for help in figuring out what it was and it was only the end grain that totally convinced me it was padauk. The end grain pic has been, I'm sure, washed out by a flashbulb or a scanner's bright light.

plank with nice variagated grain color and a closeup of the 2nd set --- looks a lot like rainbow poplar

plank listed as andaman padauk

turning stock

curly turning stock --- now, I have seen some VERY bright padauk but even so I do not believe the vibrancy of color in this pic

planks --- these were not labeled Congo padauk but certainly the color seems to suggest that they are.

the pictures posted by the BogusColorVendor for the plank that I have numerous pictures of in my own samples at the top of this page. Since this plank was a pretty bright red to start with, their misrepresentation is not as blatant on this plank as it usually is.

a pair of wide, six-foot long planks that appear to have been moistened (possibly waxed)

book matched planks --- color on the second set is unlikely

small pen-turning blanks listed as compression wood

two views of a mottled padauk plank. It's from the BogusColorVendor, so the color is almost certainly way too deep a red, but the grain pattern is why I have the pics here.

pen blanks made of spalted padauk sapwood (oiled and waxed)


quartersawn veneer

veneer, all from the same vendor

veneer sheet closeups with both levels of enlargement available --- these sheets are from the same vendor as the set directly above.


none of the web shots are color corrected and these two in particular seem to me to have just a little more bright red than I have experienced in actual pieces (though I've seen many internet pictures that are even brighter)

"myanmar" padauk veneer

matched pairs of thin sheets sold as a guitar back set

guitar side thins flat and then curved

planks and closeups from the BogusColorVendor --- many of these have their standard over-saturated reds although with this wood it can be harder to tell because it CAN get pretty bright.

padauk table with rim and legs of wenge, made by John Fuher whom I thank for this pic and other contributions to the site --- HUGE enlargements are present

small (4"x3") box and mid-sized jewelry box --- based on my experience I'd say that the jewelry box pic has had some clumsy color correction done which accounts for the slightly gauzy look, but the colors don't look unrealistic.

serving tray and bowls

two views of a bowl

padauk burl bowl by Steve Earis

12" padauk bowl by Steve Earis

shaker and bottle stopper


a padauk highlight on a turned bowl. The bright orangish-red color is accurate. The bowl has one coat of low gloss polyurethane

padauk highlight on a turned bowl, and a closeup showing the graininess of the wood

same shots after the application of one coat of natural stain. The blotchy oval at the left rear is western red cedar and the messy effect of the stain application on that wood is discussed and shown in more detail on that wood's page.

another padauk highlight on a turned bowl --- this one has a couple of coats of polyurethane, thus the wet look. I do not use filler, so even after the application of several coats of poly, the open end grain still shows up (you can see it particularly well on the enlargement), although the generally graininess of the wood is subdued after the finishing.

The turning sample above was done to show padauk side grain, end grain, and so forth. It has been coated with polyurethane, and this shot is not color corrected --- it is slightly darker than the actual wood. If you click on it to increase the size, you'll have a good view of the occasionally prominent vessels of padauk. I did not use any filler under the poly, and although the poly (I applied several light coats) did fill in many of the vessels, some still show up markedly, as you can also see in the color-corrected shot below.

This picture has been very carefully color-corrected. On my monitor it looks exactly like the piece of wood and shows the full richness of a typical piece of aged padauk. This piece is over 10 years old and clearly shows signs of the color darkening, but this piece has not been exposed to direct sunlight so has not turned the dark reddish brown that it otherwise would have but has retained some red as it faded to a more purplish color.