Question on sanding & finishing Purpleheart wood

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Blog entry by buckeyedudes posted 12-31-2009 12:22 AM 32906 reads 4 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Does anyone have tips on maintaining the beautiful purple color of the purpleheart wood after sanding and then finishing?

It seems that when I begin the sanding, the purple color fades into a washed out flat reddish color.

Also, what is the best way to finish purpleheart and enhance the purple coloration?

Thanks much – Perplexed Jeff in Ohio

-- Before you louse it up, THIMK!

10 comments so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3368 days

#1 posted 12-31-2009 12:24 AM

When the wood gets hot from sanding it turns brown, it will turn back in a day or so. I always use waterbased poly on woods like purpleheart to seal the wood and keep the bright colors.

View SNSpencer's profile


133 posts in 3112 days

#2 posted 12-31-2009 01:03 AM

Yep, give it a day or so. The color will come back. Just make sure your lighting on the project is even. Otherwise you will find two shades of purple on the project. I finish with spray lacquers alot with great success.

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

View drfixit's profile


318 posts in 3143 days

#3 posted 12-31-2009 01:51 AM

The purple color of purple heart is a brownish color , but after exposed to UV light and air it will turn purple. The best way to keep the color ,from what i understand, is to use lacquer finish, and keep it out of direct sunlight. Hopefully this helps.

-- I GIVE UP!!!! I've cut this @!&*!% board 3 times.... its still too short!

View Andy's profile


1694 posts in 3907 days

#4 posted 12-31-2009 01:58 AM

If you check the edge of a fresh cut board of purpleheart you will see a richer purple color, often a violet to black color where the blade has rubbed longer in those spots. This is due to the blade heating up the resins. Sanding removes the oxidation the purple color and the wood turns brown…depending of course on the specific piece of wood and its resin content. It will reoxidize and purple up again over time, but the color will vary on whats in that board. This can be speeded up with heat or sun lamps since UV rays work too. Another option is to place your boards in the oven prior to final sizing and finishing. Too much heat can cause the resins to come to the surface unevenly and make for a splotchly finish, and may warp the board.
Dont put your finish on until you are happy with the color.

Paul Hinds explains this much better with his in depth testing and photographs than I can.
Follow this link:

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View buckeyedudes's profile


155 posts in 3127 days

#5 posted 12-31-2009 03:31 AM

This really helps, thanks for all the great responses <and>.


-- Before you louse it up, THIMK!

View ward63's profile


351 posts in 3086 days

#6 posted 12-31-2009 07:07 AM

I’ve used tung oil with good results-I made a purpleheart & maple tissue box about 10 years ago. The maple yellowed but the purpleheart is still a beautiful purple. Just keep it out of the sun.

View MRWZX10's profile


2 posts in 551 days

#7 posted 11-21-2016 08:25 PM

Hello. I’m new to LumberJocks, but have read some interesting threads on coloration of Purpleheart. I had never heard of it, but a friend picked up a 2 1/2” thick x 16” wide piece of it about 18” long on the side of the road. He saw it fall out of a contractor’s trailer who was hauling a Bobcat or something. Looks like it was being used for equipment blocking. It was completely black and covered in gunk … so he gave it to me. I trimmed the ends and saw they were purple, and figured out what it was through some research. After initial sanding it was really purple, but then decided to sand it further to remove all of the rough sawn lines. It turned brown but edges are still purple. I went ahead and finished it with Old Masters water based Spar Var. Is there any chance it will turn back to purple with the finish on it? Or will I (gulp) need to sand

the finish back off and let it be exposed to air for a period of time? A pic is attached for reference. Thanks for any help that can be provided!

View buckeyedudes's profile


155 posts in 3127 days

#8 posted 11-21-2016 10:37 PM

Nice find!
It makes sense to me with what Andy says below; the color will ‘pop’ back up and until you give a finish to it.
Now, that being said, I’ve never personally applied a finish to PH when it was browned up – only when it was purple.

I’ve had two pieces of heavily figured PH resting and seasoning on my stack of walnut and it is just as beautiful as you can imagine. It is only exposed to overhead lighting and some glass block window daylight. This has been enough to really improve its purple coloration even deeper. (BTW – purpleheart and walnut are magnificent when used together if you like contrasts – wow!).

If I were you, I’d strip whatever you put on it, sand it, and then give it some time to basque in the sun.

-- Before you louse it up, THIMK!

View MRWZX10's profile


2 posts in 551 days

#9 posted 11-22-2016 04:33 PM

Thanks for your response buckeyedudes. Yea…......... I knew I would need to strip it ….. just was hoping someone would tell me what I wanted to hear. Andy wrote up a really nice piece on maintaining the color. I am jealous of the pieces you have that are heavily figured! And thanks for the tip about matching it up with Walnut. That is the primary hardwood I work with. By the way, the purple color has came back a bit in 5 days, but not nearly as bright as it was before. I am going to wait to strip it to see if it comes back some more. See pic.

View TimmyJimmy's profile


1 post in 88 days

#10 posted 02-27-2018 10:06 AM

Dang!!! I had NO idea.
I purchased some purple heart lumber to make a frame for project because I love purple heart.
I do not own a lathe or do much wood working.
I build buskers tables for lots of magicians.
So I thought I would build me a small “Card” table to use for my magic.
It is built but I haven;t finished the wood because all your comments have me SO confused!
It is too large to fit in the oven!
Leave it in the sun. Don’t leave it in the sun. Which is it!
I just want it to look good and finished.

-- Whatever you do, do it heartily... Col.3:23a

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