Paulownia is a soft hardwood native to China. The heartwood is light in color and the sapwood even lighter. Color differential between the two is not distinct. The wood is without odor or taste and is mostly free from knots. Planed or sanded, it has the feel of spun silk.
The demarcation between heartwood and sapwood is not clear and the wood is straight grained and lustrous.
Paulownia is comparatively soft and light in weight for a hardwood. Physical weight is slightly less than kiln dried western red cedar. It is low in overall strength, but has a high strength to weight ratio. The shrinkage coefficient is smaller than most commercially harvested coniferous and broad leaf woods. The wood dries rapidly and does not easily warp, cup, end check, splinter or split. Movement in service is rated as small.
Paulownia has one of the lowest thermal conductivity values of any wood; therefore the wood has very high insulation properties. Low thermal conductivity contributes to the low shrinkage in use.
Compared to most woods, Paulownia has a high resistance to fire and flames and a higher ignition/flash point. Paulownia is naturally decay resistant and any rot is generally superficial. The wood is also naturally resistant to insect attack.
Paulownia has no measurable pitch, resin or tannins so it is not subject to extractive bleeding.
Paulownia is easy to work using hand or machine tools. It is easy to plane, sand, saw, rip, route, and carve, and even during quick processing there is no danger of splitting or chipping. It easily absorbs glue, paint and stains.
Information Sources: USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin World Tree Technologies, Phoenix, Arizona Global Tree Technologies, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada International Development Research Center, Ottawa, Canada