Purpleheart for large furniture

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Forum topic by DBordello posted 05-29-2015 05:39 PM 1144 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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132 posts in 1251 days

05-29-2015 05:39 PM

I am planing on building a modern grandfather clock for my house. I was inspired by this design , and am replicating it. My current design is shown here:

I was planning on using walnut. However, I was at the local hardwood store, and both purpleheart and walnut were ~$8/BF. My wife loves purpleheart (it is in cutting board), and thinks it would be great for the whole clock. However, I have some concerns over finishing.

1. How will it age? I have read everything from UV light turns it purple, to UV light turns it brown. It will be near large windows.

2. Is the “aged” material attractive? Obviously I am debating between Walnut and Purpleheart, so brown isn’t necessarily bad.

3. How should it be finished?

Just looking for your two cents.


11 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


7954 posts in 2174 days

#1 posted 05-29-2015 05:50 PM

Purpleheart initially gets very vibrant from UV rays, however it will definitely fade to brown. You can slow this using a finish that blocks the UV light, but it will eventually turn brown. Just a matter of how long it takes.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3333 days

#2 posted 05-29-2015 07:18 PM

I have made several boxes using purpleheart and they all eventually darkened to a brown color that was no way near as nice looking as the original purple. I don’t use it anymore because of this reason.

View JonBikeRacer's profile


69 posts in 1627 days

#3 posted 05-29-2015 07:40 PM

Are you referring to black walnut? ...aka North American Walnut

-- Jon "That's about as close as I can eyeball it"

View JonBikeRacer's profile


69 posts in 1627 days

#4 posted 05-29-2015 07:44 PM

I would take into consideration what type of walnut is being offered. Black walnut has a janka hardness of 1010 while purple heart is considerably harder at 1860. While it is a little more likely to split, purple heart should be more durable.

Check it out:

-- Jon "That's about as close as I can eyeball it"

View DBordello's profile


132 posts in 1251 days

#5 posted 05-29-2015 08:55 PM

I am not entirely sure what kind of walnut I am looking at. At the local hardware store it is simply labeled “walnut” ($8.50/BF).

To contrast to another local store, which as Oregon Walnut, Far East Walnut, and Peruvian Walnut. However, only the Peruvian Walnut is the correct “shape”.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1959 days

#6 posted 05-29-2015 10:02 PM

I was in the exact same position about 6 months ago. I was making my wife a jewelry box and found that walnut was the same price as purpleheart. So, just like you I thought to myself “Why not use it if it’s the same price?”

Big ^$*^@ing mistake

It is really hard, prone to tearout, murders tools, smells horrible, the list goes on. It is a nightmare to work with. I promised myself to never use it for anything even remotely large again. Maybe a handle here or there, but that’s it. I beseech you to use something else. Large projects and purpleheart DO NOT MIX.

If you decide to ignore my advice and use it anyway, go for clear lacquer as a finish. It apparently keeps the purple color for the longest. Mine is only 6 months old, so I don’t have any long term data.

Trust me. Don’t use the purpleheart.

P.S. Don’t use the purpleheart.

Surgeons General Warning: Purpleheart Sucks

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View DBordello's profile


132 posts in 1251 days

#7 posted 05-29-2015 10:04 PM

Alright, I think Walnut is the way to go. I am heading to look at a stash someone has for sale tomorrow. Not sure what kind or condition it is in. However, it sounds like can mill it from logs as well.

It is tough to decide between “rough” Walnut, and cleaned up stuff.

TheWoodenOyster: Unless you think I should use purpleheart.


View splatman's profile


586 posts in 1423 days

#8 posted 05-29-2015 11:14 PM

View DBordello's profile


132 posts in 1251 days

#9 posted 05-29-2015 11:15 PM

Purpleheart over the long term.
From the Wood Database.

- splatman

I did see that. However, it seemed a bit, theoretical.

View lj61673's profile


261 posts in 2424 days

#10 posted 05-29-2015 11:47 PM

Some thoughts about Purpleheart. It is very hard to work and splitters easily. Very difficult to plane as it has crisscrossing grain patterns. It is also very oily and will. It take an oil finish without botching.
Besides that it has a tacky look in my opinion, not a classic look like Maple or Cherry or Walnut.

It should be used sparingly as a small decorative detail wood if at all. IMHO.

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 1246 days

#11 posted 05-30-2015 02:20 AM

I admit the purple heart does darken as it ages, I have numerous projects with PH used more as embellishment than main species a couple going on 6 + yrs and the color is darker but in no way is it leaning toward brown.
I primarily use Tung oil for finish which darkens the PH considerably, again it just deeper purple.

I’d suggest a traditional route using Oak and or Mahogany for the body with Maple, PH and other exotics as embellishments

-- I meant to do that!

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