Wow, it’s so lightweight!” or “No, I really didn’t think it would weigh so little”: Just two common reactions we get to hear from our customers that first time they hold a Paulownia wood top in their hands.
Outdoor kitchens should be especially mobile, small and compact, which is why keeping the weight down was my number one priority from day one. During my research, I discovered paulownia wood, whose defining characteristic is its extreme lightness.
Its other two main properties are low moisture content and a high flash point at around 425 °C, with an overall water content of about 10-12 %. Once Paulownia has dried, it hardly absorbs any water thanks to its firm fibre and particular cell structure.
All its unique properties make the wood suitable for a wide range of applications. It is often used for surfboards, snowboards and skis, as well as for flooring, blinds, furniture and saunas. It is also of great interest to the transportation industry due to its low weight, like for pallet construction. Paulownia wood has excellent acoustic properties and is hence also increasingly used for building musical instruments.
While its surface is very soft, its firm fibre structure makes it one of the hardwoods. Also worth noting is that Paulownia contains tannins, which makes it resistant to woodworms and thermites.
Paulownia originates from Asia, with its 7 species all native to Eastern and Central China.
Nevertheless, we felt reluctant to ship our construction materials for the KiBo from as far away as Asia. The carbon footprint of our KitchenBoxes and their materials is crucial to us. We also would like to support the local or at least European economy, which prompted us to look for a closer supplier.
At last, we found the perfect solution to our problem by cooperating with germantrees – a company running Paulownia plantations in Spain, in the region of Valencia.
In the first year, the Paulownia tree grows leaves of up to 60 cm in size. Because of their composition, they are mainly used for animal feed. The leaves contain approx. 19% protein and have similar properties to the lucerne plant.
They also contain substances that positively impact the liver, kidneys and gall bladder and show promising effects on respiratory distress. In China, where leaves and plants have been used for centuries in cosmetics as well as in medicinal applications, those properties have long been known.
The larger the crown grows, the smaller the leaves become. The Paulownia’s flower is light pink to violet in colour, and after four years, beautiful, large and edible flower panicles that produce excellent honey pollen appear.
Paulownia does not need replanting: thanks to the already developed root system, a new seedling will grow faster from the stem even when cut down low.
All that said, I hope that I was able to interest you in Paulownia wood and perhaps encourage you to think twice about whether to use an Acacia wood top or perhaps Paulownia instead.
Special thanks go out to Mrs Hartelt from germantrees for both images and information.