Wood Spotlight: African Padauk
African Padauk (Pteracarpus Soyauxii) is one of the most favored and revered woods for making percussion instruments, be they marimbas, claves, slit drums, castanets or, in our case, hardwood drums. Known by the common name “Vermillion,” this beautiful material ranges in hue from dark red to bright sherbet orange when first planed or sanded, to rich and dark burgundy wine red when subjected to long term indirect UV exposure or even gray with continued direct exposure.
The timbre, or voice, of African Padauk is bright and clear to the degree that it has been characterized as glass-like. It is capable of producing a well sustained and overtone rich ring with truly captivating harmonics. This wood is particularly useful in setting up “standing wave” tunings so popular with healing arts practitioners and those who use this type of instrument for meditation or relaxation.
As with all the woods we employ for the soundboard section of our drums, selection of specific boards (e.g. per density, grain organization, elasticity, silica content etc.) is critical and fundamental in manifesting a sweet sounding instrument. Of all the Padauk we examine for purchase, therefore, perhaps only ten to fifteen percent of the boards (rough stock only) are selected for use in our drums. Great sounding Padauk drums are not great just because they are made of Padauk but, rather, because they are made of great sounding Padauk.
- Michael Thiele