Custom Acoustic Guitar Making

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Padauk is one of the most beautiful species of wood to work with, and surprisingly it is not very expensive.

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padauk acoustic guitar
Padauk back and sides on a Maple trimmed acoustic guitar.

Padauk is a gorgeous red color with darker grain lines and can vary greatly in color as the wood ages.

When freshly cut, it will be a bright orange color, then it mellows out over time to a deep old brick red color.  Padauk can be used in many different projects, and I use it on guitars quite a bit.

If you are thinking about buying some from a local hardwood store, buy your pieces in a matching tone. Especially if you are going to use the pieces next to each other on the guitar, a bright orange and a deep red will not look as good as a matching set. Keep this in mind.

Padauk Fretboard

bullet casing inlays
.45 Long Colt inlays on a Padauk fretboard.

This fretboard is made from Padauk and bound in Maple. Working with Padauk and Maple at the same time can be a little tough since the red dust that Padauk makes when sanded can alter the color of lighter woods.

In cases like these, I use cabinet scrapers to smooth the surface and avoid sanding as much as possible.  This guitar fretboard was inlaid with .45 Long Colt cases that were cut down.  The spent primers are still in place, and the brass looks nice against the Padauk.

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It was a little bit of a challenge sanding and working with the brass and the wood. When you are doing inlay work like this, you really want to get the inlays as perfectly set as you possibly can.

You don’t want them to be too deep, but you definitely don’t want them too tall. You can’t really sand the ends of the cartridges, because it removes the deail.

Padauk Can Be Used in Binding Designs as Well

padauk binding
A small Padauk strip below the Goncalo Alves main binding.

Padauk can also be used in less flashy places like an accent line next to a binding strip.  This is Goncalo Alves (Tiger Wood) for the main binding, and the Padauk runs below it.

This was originally two pieces of wood laminated together and then strips were ripped from the edge to make a multi species binding strip.

These were bent on an iron with water for steam and glued to the rabbets on the guitar edges. It’s an easy process once you do it a few times, and the pre-bending makes them take their places really easily. If you have to wrestle your strips in place, it means that you dod not bend them well enough. In a case like this, it’s well worth the time to touch them up.

laminated guitar bridge
Padauk footer on a Maple wrapped Rosewood bridge.

This acoustic guitar bridge is made from Rosewood, Maple, and Padauk, with the Padauk being a footer under the bridge, tying the color of the fretboard into the body of the guitar. The main body of the bridge is Rosewood, and then Maple binding strips with purfling were added around the outside.  This was then mounted to a thin Padauk footer and the whole bridge was shaped and sanded.

Padauk is priced extremely well for the beauty, and is a great step into the more flashy exotic hardwoods for any woodworker.  It is not as common to see, so pieces made from Padauk tend to stand out among others made from more widely used woods.

This wood also finishes extremely well, and especially when an oil is used.  The dark grain lines deepen to near black and the reds take on a more saturated punch than before finishing.  You should try some on your next woodworking project.

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What is your favorite inexpensive exotic hardwood?

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

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