Figs. A and B: Paulownia artifacts from the World
Paulownia Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Fig. C: If you don’t
have a fine-tooth saw, it’s easy to score and snap slats
of paulownia wood.
Figs. D and E: A plastic wrap dispenser made from scrap
1"× 2" lumber, a dowel, and a few paulownia slats. Remove
the serrated edge from the plastic wrap’s packaging and
attach it to your box.
and even paid a visit to Tokyo, where the Tanaka
furniture company maintains the World Paulownia
Museum adjacent to its production facilities (Figures
A and B) — visit them online at
(and for an always amusing English translation use
After researching, playing a paulownia guitar, and
seeing evidence of the wood’s fire resistance, I’m
The tree is sustainable, reduces soil erosion, and
grows up to a very marketable 12 meters high in
just seven years. After harvest, new trees grow from
the stumps. Planted alongside food crops, it boosts
yields by creating a windbreak and an improved
microclimate. It serves as a biomass fuel and has
been shown to grow nicely in swine lagoons, where
it provides waste remediation. It has a very high
ignition point and is relatively rot-resistant. And
apparently it was named for a Russian princess.
after shortening the blinds, but it might even be worth
buying blinds just for the slats: they run 6. 25 cents per
linear foot, and you get the mechanism as a bonus.
Here’s a look at some of the techniques of working paulownia slats. I mostly use a dovetail saw,
simply a small back saw with fine teeth. You can find
one at the hardware store for $10–$15. Any saw
will do, but the fine teeth make clean cuts and let
you easily hold the piece steady with your hand.
No saw? You can score and snap (Figure C) or
even cut all the way through the slats with a pocketknife or utility knife.
Gluing can present a problem, as there is a thin
layer of lacquer on the slats. For a strong joint using
carpenter’s glue, sand the slat to expose the bare
wood. The coating seems light enough that polyurethane glue worked well even without sanding (I like
Gorilla Glue because it’s available in small quantities).
Quick Paulownia Projects
Working with Paulownia My first project was a quick-and-dirty plastic wrap
Dimensional paulownia lumber is slowly becoming dispenser made from scrap 1"× 2" lumber, a dowel,
available in the United States, but Ikea has helpfully and a few slats (Figures D and E).
processed a bunch of it into 12"×E" (35mm×2mm) Next, my daughter and I built some doll beds. We
slats complete with precisely located holes good for used a bit of tree branch to give a rustic look, and
making all kinds of stuff. There are plenty of extra slats bent the slats to create a nice Gothic arch (Figure F).
170 Make: Volume