Bloodwood vs Padauk: Which is Better for Woodworking?

If you’re an avid woodworker, the one who prefers to work with exotic woods, you may have heard about two very popular, and very interesting hardwoods called bloodwood and Padauk woods.

Bloodwood is well-known for its gorgeous bright red heartwood while Padauk is for its pale golden yellow to deep red heartwood. Here we will discuss which wood is the best for woodworking. Bloodwood vs Padauk wood: which one is better based on appearance, hardness, workability, and cost? Let’s start.

Bloodwood and Padauk Appearance

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Bloodwood is also known as Satine and is widely available in tropical South America. This tree is about 80 to 150 feet tall and around 4 to 7 feet wide. True to its name, bloodwood has bright red heartwood and pale yellow sapwood. The heartwood can change color to a darker brown color as the wood ages or due to light exposure.

Bloodwood has larger trunk diameters. It has a straight or sometimes interlocked grain. The surface has a fine texture and a lovely luster is very noticeable. These characteristics have earned bloodwood the name “red satinwood.” The bloodwood end grains are diffuse and porous with large pores.

There are many species of the Padauk wood and for this comparison, we will use the Burma Padauk, the heaviest and the hardest of all kinds of Pterocarpus genus. Burma Padauk is commercially available and is native to Myanmar and Thailand. This tree grows from 60 to 80 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.

Burma Padauk has a pale golden yellow to deep reddish brown heartwood. This color can become darker over time or the wood is exposed to sunlight. The sapwood is yellow and is easily distinguished from the heartwood. The grain of the Burma Padauk wood is interlocked with a coarse texture and large open pores. The end grain is semi to diffuse-porous with large pores that are irregularly arranged. 

Bloodwood vs. Padauk Hardness

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Bloodwood is harder than Padauk with 2900 pounds of force under the Janka hardness scale. Meanwhile, Burma Padauk has 2150 pounds of force under the Janka hardness scale.

Bloodwood is so hard and very dense wood that it is very durable against decay, molds, moisture damage, termites, and boring insects. It is one of the densest wood with a severe blunting effect on saws, blades, and cutters.

The bloodwood wood can splinter easily and is brittle when worked. But if you’re patient enough to work with bloodwood, you’ll be rewarded with a piece with an amazing red surface.

When it comes to Burma Padauk, expect a wood that’s also very heavy and dense, but not as heavy and dense as bloodwood. This wood is also resistant to insect attacks, decay, and rotting. This wood is also difficult to work with and this is due to its highly-interlocked grain. However, this wood can accept glues and finishes well.

Working with Bloodwood and Padauk

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Both bloodwood and Padauk woods are very hard to work with this are because of their extreme densities and hardness levels. Bloodwood and Padauk wood will dull cutters, blades, and knives as these are too dense to cut. Severe blunting can develop into tools and therefore, the best way to work with these woods is to use very sharp blades and cutters.

Turning is another way to work with bloodwood and Padauk. This means placing a block of material in a lathe and shaping it as it turns. Because these woods are very dense and hard, expect turning to take time. But with a little bit of patience, you’ll be rewarded with projects with amazing results.

Both kinds of wood may be stained, finished, and painted. Make sure to follow the instructions on how to stain or paint these woods. Also, both bloodwood and Padauk will accept glues well so you can attach these to different woods with no worries.

Prices of Bloodwood and Padauk

Both bloodwood and Padauk woods are classified as imported hardwoods and thus, expect prices to be moderate to expensive. Bloodwood is available in small turning blocks or blanks and also in wide boards. Most of the boards available in the market have a dull reddish-brown color but the best ones have a blood red color and these are the most expensive ones.

Meanwhile, Padauk wood is not as widely available as other Padauk species like the African Padauk. This wood has a moderate to an expensive price.

What are Bloodwood and Padauk Best For?

Both the bloodwood and Padauk woods are used for their lovely color and grain appearance. Bloodwood is commonly used as trims, carvings, knife handles, musical instruments, and decorative turned objects. It is also possible to find furniture pieces made from bloodwood.

Padauk, specifically Burma Padauk is commonly used as veneer, tool handles, turned objects, flooring, and other small specialty objects. This wood is also used to make exquisite furniture pieces.

Here’s a summary of bloodwood and Padauk for comparison. Also some of the most common species in the bloodwood and Padauk families.

Summary of Bloodwood Characteristics

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Bloodwood: Brosimum rubescens

Bloodwood is traditionally called Satine. It is a very popular imported wood with extreme challenges when it’s being worked. It is hard, strong, and has a fantastic color making it the most favorite crimson wood species.

  • Distribution: Bloodwood is widely available in tropical South America
  • Tree Dimensions: 80 to 150 feet high and 4 to 7 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 66 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .90.1.05
  • Janka Hardness: 2900 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Bloodwood has a bright red heartwood that can turn into dark brown as the wood ages or when constantly exposed to sunlight. This wood has defined sapwood with a pale yellow color. The sapwood is not present in commercially available lumber.
  • Grain or Texture: Bloodwood has a straight grain but sometimes, some lumber may have lightly interlocked grains. This wood has a fine texture with a natural shine. The surface is also chatoyant.
  • Endgrain: The end grain is diffuse-porous which means there are large pores with mineral deposits present on the grain.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Bloodwood is highly resistant to rotting and is very durable. It is also resistant to boring insects and pests.
  • Workability: This wood is very dense and can cause a blunting effect on blades and cutters. When working with bloodwood, you’ll notice easy splintering as the wood is brittle.
  • Presence of Odor: Bloodwood has a mild scent when it’s being worked.
  • Toxicity: There are reports that bloodwood sawdust can cause increased thirst, nausea, and salivation. There are also reports of skin irritation.
  • Availability: Bloodwood is widely available as wide boards but you can also order this wood in small turning blanks and squares. The price is moderately high as this is classified as an imported hardwood species.

Other Species of Bloodwood

The following are other species of bloodwood. The characteristics of these woods are almost similar to bloodwood and comparable to Burma Padauk.

Snakewood: Brosimum guianense

Snakewood is also called letterwood and amourette. The name was derived from its dramatic blotches that resemble the skin of a snake. The name letterwood was from its unique hieroglyphics-style markings. Snakewood is colorful and very beautiful. It is also very dense and hard; it is said to have almost similar characteristics to lignum vitae, the heaviest commercially-available hardwood.

  • Distribution: Snakewood is widely distributed in the coastal areas of northeast South America
  • Tree Dimensions: 65 to 80 feet tall and 6 to 12 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 75.7 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: 0.96, 1.21
  • Janka Hardness: 3800 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Snakewood is known for its snakeskin appearance. It comes with reddish brown to dark brown patches. The color of this wood becomes darker and homogenizes as the wood ages and is continuously exposed to sunlight.
  • Grain or Texture: Snakewood grain is straight and possesses a fine and even texture. This wood also has a lovely natural shine.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Snakewood is very durable for rotting, insect attacks, and moisture. However, this wood is not commonly used for exterior applications such as outdoor furniture and exterior trims.
  • Workability: Snakewood shares many workability traits with bloodwood and Padauk wood. It is very dense and thus, can cause extreme blunting of blades, cutters, and saws. It is very brittle and will splinter quickly. You can use finishes and stains on snakewood.
  • Presence of Odor: This wood has an almost similar mild scent to bloodwood. This odor is very noticeable when the wood is being worked.
  • Toxicity: Some people experience skin and respiratory irritation when working with snakewood.
  • Availability: Snakewood is extremely rare not only because of its lovely appearance but also because it’s only a small tree and thus, there is a limited supply. Surfaced and milled wood with lovely snakeskin patterns are the most expensive of all exotic hardwoods in the world. Meanwhile, less figured snakewood sections are more affordable under the term armourette. You’ll also find snakewood in full and half-log sections.
  • Uses: Snakewood is mostly used as veneer, inlays, handles, turned specialty items, violin bows, and other musical instrument pieces.

Jicarillo: Brosimum spp.

Jicarillo is widely known as a species related to snakewood. It is dense and very hard, properties that are comparable with bloodwood and Padauk woods.

  • Distribution: Jicarillo is naturally from Honduras
  • Average Dried Weight: 63 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .77, 1.00
  • Janka Hardness: 2360 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Jicarillo has light to moderate red-brown heartwood and grayish white sapwood. There are black streaks present in different areas across the grain.
  • Grain or Texture: This hardwood has a medium to fine texture plus great natural shine.
  • Endgrain: The end grain is diffuse-porous with very large pores radially arranged.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Jicarillo is very resistant to rotting, moisture, and insect attacks.
  • Workability: Because of Jicarillo’s very hard and very dense structure, most woodworkers find it hard to work with it. It can cause blunting on tools, blades, and cutters.
  • Presence of Odor: Jicarillo has no specific odor.
  • Availability: This wood is available only in small turning blanks and also in craft blanks. This has a moderate to expensive price, typical with imported hardwood species.
  • Uses: Jicarillo is commonly used in making furniture, turned objects, knife handles, scales, and small wood items.

Summary of Padauk Characteristics

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Burma Padauk: Pterocarpus macrocarpus

Burma Padauk is known as the heaviest and densest representative of the Padauk or Pterocarpus genus. This hardwood is known for its lovely grain color but is not as bright and pronounced as African Padauk.

  • Distribution: Burma Padauk is from Myanmar and Thailand
  • Tree Dimensions: 60 to 80 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 54 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .75, .87
  • Janka Hardness: 2150 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Burma Padauk has a pale golden yellow to deep red-brown heartwood. The color of the heartwood can become darker over time or when the wood is continuously exposed to sunlight. The sapwood is yellow and is differentiated from the heartwood.
  • Grain or Texture: This wood has interlocked grains with a coarse texture thanks to its large and open pores.
  • Endgrain: The end grain is diffuse-porous with large pores that are irregularly arranged.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This wood is very durable when it comes to decay with an amazing resistance to burrowing insects and pests.
  • Workability: Burma Padauk is hard to work with. It turns well and accepts finishes, stains, and glues well.
  • Presence of Odor: Burma Padauk has a slightly aromatic smell which is noticeable when the wood is being worked.
  • Toxicity: This wood is a sensitizer and thus, you may suffer from reactions like eye, skin, and respiratory system irritation.
  • Availability: Burma Padauk is rare and thus, it is expensive to purchase. It is classified as imported hardwood.

Other Species of Burma Padauk

The following are related species to Burma Padauk. Note that the characteristics of these woods are also similar to Burma Padauk and rival bloodwood when it comes to appearance, hardness, workability, and costs.

African Padauk: Pterocarpus soyauxii

African Padauk is probably the most common of the Padauk species with its reddish-orange color. Also called Vermillion, this wonderful color will eventually turn dark to a deep red-brown over time. This is a heavy and strong wood, very stiff and stable.

  • Distribution: African Padauk is native to Central and tropical West Africa
  • Tree Dimensions: 100 to 130 feet high and 2 to 4 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 47 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .61, .75
  • Janka Hardness: 1970 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: African Padauk has a pale pink-orange to deep brown red heartwood which becomes darker to red-purple brown over time. This can also happen when the wood is constantly exposed to sunlight.
  • Grain Texture: African Padauk has a straight grain but there are samples with interlocked grain. This wood also has a rough and open texture and comes with a natural shine.
  • Endgrain: The end grain is diffuse-porous with large pores with an irregular arrangement.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Like the Burma Padauk, the African variety is very resistant to decay and is very durable to termites and other burrowing pests.
  • Workability: Compared to Burma Padauk, African Padauk is easier to work with but tear-outs are also common during planing and when cutting this wood in quartersawn segments. This wood accepts finishes, stains, and glues very well.
  • Presence of Odor: African Padauk comes with a slightly aromatic smell when it is being worked.
  • Toxicity: Like the Burma Padauk, this wood is a sensitizer which means you may encounter eye, skin, and respiratory issues when working with it.
  • Availability: African Padauk is available in varying thicknesses and lengths of lumber. This wood is also available in craft and turning blanks and is moderately priced as expected from an imported hardwood species.
  • Uses: This wood is useful as veneer, flooring, furniture, handles, musical instruments, and in making turned objects.

Andaman Padauk: Pterocarpus dalbergioides

Andaman Padauk is one of the contributors to the wood Vermillion. It is a rare wood with very depleted supplies. This wood is available only from the Andaman Islands in India. 

  • Distribution: Andaman Padauk grows in Southeastern India
  • Tree Dimensions: 30 to 50 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 63 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .88, 1.01
  • Janka Hardness: 2940 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Andaman Padauk has a dark orange to red-purple heartwood. This color will eventually become darker up to nearly black when exposed to sunlight. The sapwood is pale white and is differentiated from the heartwood.
  • Grain Texture: This wood has a straight grain but sometimes, these can be interlocked. There is moderate to a high natural shine.
  • Presence of Odor: Andaman Padauk has a slightly aromatic smell that’s noticeable when it is being worked.
  • Toxicity: This wood is a sensitizer with reactions like skin, eye, and respiratory irritation.
  • Availability: This wood is no longer available commercially. If you’re lucky enough to buy Andaman Padauk from a dealer, expect to pay an expensive price for it.
  • Uses: Andaman Padauk is commonly used as veneer, handles, turned objects, small decorative items, and musical instruments. 

Muninga: Pterocarpus angolensis

Muninga is closely related to the African Padauk and like its cousins, it has amazing stability and strength even during changes in temperature and humidity.

  • Distribution: Muninga is native to South Central Africa
  • Tree Dimensions: 40 to 60 feet tall and 1.5 to 2.5 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 38 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .59, .60
  • Janka Hardness: 1360 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Muninga has a light golden brown heartwood that can turn dark red to purple-brown as the wood ages.
  • Grain Texture: This wood has a straight grain although sometimes it’s interlocked. It has a moderate to rough texture and comes with low natural shine.
  • Endgrain: The end grain is diffuse-porous with large pores with an irregular arrangement.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Muninga is resistant to insect attacks and rotting.
  • Workability: This wood is easy to work with if the grain is straight. For lumber with interlocked grain, expect tear outs and planing issues. It glues, stains, and finishes very well.
  • Presence of Odor: Muninga has a mild aromatic smell that’s present when the wood is being worked.
  • Toxicity: People who have worked with Muninga have reported skin and respiratory irritation.
  • Availability: This wood is not exported to North America. It is available in boards, veneers, and craft blocks. The price is moderately expensive as it is classified as an imported hardwood species.
  • Uses: Muninga is commonly used in boatbuilding, furniture making, turning objects, and veneers.

Narra: Pterocarpus indicus

Narra is easy to work with and is very stable. But there is also an exotic Narra called Amboyna which is very hard to work with and has the prized burl.

  • Distribution: Narra is naturally from Southeast Asia
  • Tree Dimensions: 65 to 100 feet high and 3 to 5 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 41 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .54, .66
  • Janka Hardness: 1260 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Narra has a golden yellow to red-brown heartwood and pale yellow sapwood. Quartersawn narra will have a ribbon-like ripple on the grain. There is also the classic mottled or curly figure on the grain.
  • Grain Texture: The grain of the narra is interlocked and can also be wavy. It has an uneven medium to rough texture and has a natural shine.
  • Endgrain: The end-grain is semi-porous with very large pores.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Narra has amazing weathering properties and is very durable against decay. This wood is resistant to insects like termites, powder post beetles, and other burrowing insects.
  • Workability: Narra is easy to work with using power tools and hand tools. However, it can blunt cutters so care must be observed. This wood accepts glues and finishes very well.
  • Presence of Odor: There is a distinct smell when you’re working with Narra wood.
  • Toxicity: Narra is an irritant and can cause skin and respiratory irritation.
  • Availability: Prices of narra depend on the amount and the type of figure. Unfigured narra is moderately priced while Amboyna burls are very expensive.
  • Uses: Narra is useful as furniture, plywood, cabinets, veneer, and decorative items.

Final Words

Bloodwood and Burma Padauk have an almost similar appearance, workability, and uses. However, bloodwood is harder than Padauk but still, both are hard to work with especially when cutting and shaping the material. Both kinds of wood are also classified as imported exotic woods and thus, are very expensive.

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