paulownia tree

    An article written by Emmett Manley some time ago and reprinted here peaked my interest in the Paulownia tree, a tree and wood I knew almost nothing about. Coincidentally, I came into possession of three huge Paulownia logs. The results I have had with these logs may be of some interest and could motivate you to experiment with the wood, or maybe just the opposite. I don't believe anything said here differs much from the information Emmett presented, but I was foolish enough to experiment on a larger scale.


How I came into possession of four giant Paulownia logs:

     Obtaining those logs is a side story in itself and one I cannot resist telling. Like most woodturners I spend too much time looking for downed trees as I drive along the highway. At my age I should be spending more time watching the road.

    About two years ago I spotted four or five logs in a yard on a highway between my home and Jackson, Tennessee.  I thought they might be Poplar, which is of course a good practice material. They were in the 24-36 inch diameter range and 8-12 feet long. When I went back for closer inspection I determined they were the largest Paulownia logs I have ever seen.  After some effort I was able to make telephone contact with the man who owned the property. I asked if there was any way I might obtain one of the logs. He is a very polite and nice gentleman, but his answer was a firm no. He said he also has a small sawmill and he was going to saw them into lumber because the lumber is sought after by folks in Japan and brings very high prices.  Hmmm. I thought back to Emmett's article but kept quiet so as not to burst his bubble. I thanked him, wished him well and dropped the whole thing.

    Well, we pass that property about once a week.  For more than a year these logs remained where they were and it haunted me terribly.  During this time I learned that the man lives across the highway so one day this past spring I stopped just to chat with him and asked if anything had changed about his plans for the logs. “Oh no” was his immediate reply, “I am going to saw them into lumber, but I've just been too busy with my job, etc. etc.” We had a long and pleasant chat and I returned to my truck. As I was backing out I heard a tap on the window.  When I rolled the window down he said “Take those damned logs. I'm kidding myself. I have too many other irons in the fire to ever get around to sawing them.”  I tried to tell him I actually only wanted one, but I could tell he really wanted them all gone.


    I hurried home and got my equipment and my wife Glenda, who substitutes quite well as an extra hired hand and driver.


Now for the rest of the story.

     I sawed the best log into a couple large cants and a stack of one inch boards. I stacked it with the usual stickers to facilitate drying.

log on mill cants and boards boards
 First Log Well Underway  Wide Boards and a
Couple Cants for Turning
 Those Stickers are 24"

Some observations:

  • Even though the logs had been on the ground for about two years, there was no sign of decay except for some loose bark.

  • No sign of insect damage.

  • The wood was surprisingly heavier than I expected because it contained more moisture than my meter could measure.

  • Almost no end checking occurred as it dried.

  • After about two months the moisture content in the one inch boards was 4-5%. By comparison around here it would take more than a year for an oak, cherry or walnut board this size to air dry to maybe 10% moisture content.

  • I recently ran a 1" x 8" board through a drum sander.  It closely resembles ash, except it is incredibly light and soft.

  • It is so soft you can indent it with a thumb nail.

  • The dried boards are unbelievably light weight.


sanded 1x8TN
1" x 8" x 7' Lightly Sanded
Weighs 4 pounds

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Wednesday the 21st. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.