Paulownia wood

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Chinese lute
MFA# 17.2153


Writing paper box
MFA# 08.170

A lightweight wood obtained from several species of Paulownia trees native to Asia. Paulownia trees produce a soft, coarse-grain wood that is similar to balsa. Even though the wood is lightweight, it is strong and warp resistant. Paulownia wood is used as a lightweight crating lumber and for floats. Wood from the Paulownia tomentosa tree, native to Japan, is used for scroll boxes.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Paulownia; kiri wood (Jap.); paulownia (Fr.); empress tree; princess tree; palownia (sp)

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Trees grow 30-65 ft (10-20m) tall with 2-4ft (0.6-1.2m) trunk diameter
  • Heartwood is a pale grayish brown with whitish sapwood
  • Grain is usually straight with a coarse uneven texture
  • Resistant to decay and weathering but not to insects
  • Density = 14-19 ppcf

Working Properties

  • Easy to work
  • High silica in some trees can have a strong blunting effect on cutting edges
  • Takes a wide variety of glues, stains, and finishes well

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 83
  • Marjorie Shelley, The Care and Handling of Art Objects, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1987
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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