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Why build with paulownia wood?

Umqua race SUP fishbone framework kitOk, I will admit upfront that I sell paulownia wood.  That being said, the reason I do is that I want to make it available to my customers and also individuals that design and build their own hollow wood SUP’s, surfboards and kayaks.  This wood is mostly unknown to the woodworking “community” outside the hollow wood SUP and surfboard markets but it is a quite remarkable species of tree and makes very strong and light hollow wood boards.  The paulownia tree is a native of Southeast Asia and is the highest weight to strength ratio hardwood on Earth.  It’s also fast growing and is plantation grown in many parts of the world.  

The attributes of paulownia wood for use in building hollow wood sup’s surfboard are wide ranging.  In addition to its high weight to strength ratio, paulownia wood is quite stable, resists end checking and saltwater absorption. Paulownia wood is also reluctant to absorb salt water and from a woodworking stand point works as well as any wood I have ever worked with.  The dust is not toxic and the better grades are 100% “clear”.

The longer boards that I have built with paulownia wood have been quite light in comparison to production boards of similar size so that if you build with it you will not end up with a heavy board that is difficult to handle off of the water.  Personally, I want to build the lightest board possible for ease of handling off the water and responsiveness on the water.  I also consider the fact that hollow boards take many hours to build and I want the time I invest in these projects to have the very best outcome.  

So, is it worth the extra cost?  I guess each of us must answer this question for ourselves.  My personal “take” is that it might be better to save one’s money for a little while longer and be able to buy the best lumber/timber available.  Of course there is the other side of the coin, so to speak, which is the side that builds the least expensive board possible.  I like this approach for smaller surf style boards but the bigger touring and racing SUP’s can become quite heavy if light weight woods are not used.  Weighing these trade off’s is part of the process we all go through and some truly beautiful boards have been build that are not particularly light.  But if you paddle or ride often, you will really appreciate the lighter weight of a board built from paulownia wood.