my purpleheart ain't purple!!

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Forum topic by intheshop posted 11-13-2011 11:39 PM 15800 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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58 posts in 3041 days

11-13-2011 11:39 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I bought a piece of purpleheart the other day, and the faces of it are a deep purple (excuse the inadverntent reference to the great ‘70s rock band, please). But when I cut into this board, it is essentially brown. I turned a couple of pens with it, and they are just brown as well. What gives??

-- Fast is fine, but accurate is final. The real trick is learning to take your time when you're in a hurry. - Wyatt Earp

23 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


7053 posts in 2801 days

#1 posted 11-13-2011 11:46 PM

It is known to dull, and lose the purple color over time and sun light exposure. Strange that it would be purple on outside and browner on inside. Hopefully someone can give insight as to why/how that happened.

View mpmitche's profile


428 posts in 3179 days

#2 posted 11-13-2011 11:47 PM

Purpleheart is very odd with its coloring. When new wood is exposed it is brown but it will turn purple again. I’m not sure if it is light or oxygen that changes it but it will come back. On the other hand it may turn black or grey over a long period of time. It is also difficult to keep looking good when finished. I built my daughter a trinket box and tested oil, shellac, varnish, and wax on some test pieces. All the finishes drastically changed the color and in my mind ruined the color. The wax was the best but still not satisfactory. I finally gave her the box untreated. She has had it in a dark place in her room for about a year and it still looks very good.

-- Mike, Western New York

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2687 posts in 3125 days

#3 posted 11-14-2011 01:48 AM

when I cut purple heart and it turns brown I just set it out in the sun for a few hours and it goes back to purple. I think it is the heat that does it.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View intheshop's profile


58 posts in 3041 days

#4 posted 11-14-2011 02:33 AM

Thanks all, for your insight.

-- Fast is fine, but accurate is final. The real trick is learning to take your time when you're in a hurry. - Wyatt Earp

View mpmitche's profile


428 posts in 3179 days

#5 posted 11-14-2011 02:51 AM

You may be right Jim, I’ve heard that putting it in the oven can change the color as well. Never tried it though.

-- Mike, Western New York

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2896 days

#6 posted 11-15-2011 12:53 AM

An oven will bring out the color and make it bolder.

All the purple heart I’ve worked with seems to work like this:

newly exposed surfaces are gray or tan.. After a few hours to a day in the sun, it changes back to purple and keeps getting darker and darker (after years of exposure) until it is a dark, featureless brown.

Be careful when sanding/cutting. The heat can bring out the color, but any burning is a huge pain to get rid of.

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View Jeff's profile


489 posts in 3397 days

#7 posted 11-15-2011 01:01 AM

Once the purple color returns polyurethane will maintain the color. At least it does on projects I’ve done that are a few years old and kept inside.

View ChuckV's profile


3179 posts in 3730 days

#8 posted 11-15-2011 02:24 AM

Here is just another personal experience. A box that I made almost four years ago has purpleheart on the lid. I finished it with Danish Oil. It is inside, out of the sun, and is still purple.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2838 days

#9 posted 11-15-2011 06:52 PM

That is like my White Oak. It is brown and no where near white and my Red Oak is tan, Black Walnut is deep brown and the list goes on.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3473 days

#10 posted 11-15-2011 07:08 PM

As for why it is browner on the inside would relate to where this cut was taken from the tree. The heartwood is the purple color….the sapwood is browner as it is more exposed to the sun and elements. I would suspect that you got a piece of mostly sapwood…with a bit of heart on the edge. Purpleheart is pretty solid to begin with, so I would think that the sapwood (being softer) is still pretty solid. Of course it is not that vibrant purple color….but is still good to go for whatever you want to use if for.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Andy123's profile


226 posts in 2677 days

#11 posted 11-18-2011 06:47 AM

I sit mine in a window in my shop and within a day it will turn purple again.

-- The mistakes I make in woodworking are not mistakes they just give my projects character- Me

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2681 days

#12 posted 11-18-2011 07:31 AM

id putt my 2 bits worth bit the topic seems well covered i was told by my wood guy to put the project under a tanning bed and it will turn color it worked on my project 2 hours in the bed and it was dark purple from ugly brown

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2717 days

#13 posted 11-18-2011 08:30 PM

I’m surprised about the sunshine thing. When I cut it for my guitars, it does the gray/brown thing, and I just leave it on the bench in my dark shop for a couple days and it’s bright purple again. Once coated with lacquer or poly, it seems to stay the same. I’ve been told it’s a reaction between the purpleheart oil and the oxygen in the air. Now I’m confused, but I do know mine is always purple when I coat it, and I have guitars out there two years in purpleheart that are still bright purple.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View ChuckC's profile


843 posts in 3138 days

#14 posted 11-18-2011 08:44 PM

To add one more thing: If you use a water based PU the purple color will last longer. Anything oil will darken it. I use Minwax water based PU and then wax it afterwards. Good luck!

Coincidentally, I cut some purpleheart last night and I am now waiting for the brown to switch to purple again..

View intheshop's profile


58 posts in 3041 days

#15 posted 11-19-2011 12:37 AM

Thanks for all the input guys. I’ve noticed it is getting a little “purpler” the last few days.

-- Fast is fine, but accurate is final. The real trick is learning to take your time when you're in a hurry. - Wyatt Earp

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