Purple heart color stability

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Forum topic by Danpaddles posted 275 days ago 803 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Danpaddles's profile


534 posts in 937 days

275 days ago

Just finished a pretty little box with a purple heart lid. I swear, my purple heart board is darker then it was a year or two back. And when I cut it, there was no brown showing on the new cut edge. Other times I have seen the brown, first time it happened, there was a bit of brown in my shorts I think, worried about the color. Of course, after a few days the color came back. This time- no brown at all!

And I am concerned about the color holding up over time. Does varnish protect the pretty purple color better than Watco Danish oil? The last box I did, that I kept, has turned brown, there is no purple left at all. But it has sat in a South facing window. Would it be better if it was kept out of the sun, or would the color have changed anyway? Far as I remember, all I used to finish was my beloved Watco, with a coat or two of wax over that.

Thanks for your educated input!

-- Dan V. in Indy

16 replies so far

View mrjinx007's profile


1353 posts in 393 days

#1 posted 275 days ago

Well, the sunlight has a way of darkening some wood like cherry and lightning some called greying like oak or cedar. The main think you want to look at is how ultraviolet lights react to various chemicals; in this case the chemicals the woods produce in their natural growth stage. If you want the natural colors to come back, sand a few millimeters and put a finish on it right away or keep the wood away from sunlight.
Best of luck.


View Greg..the Cajun  Box Sculptor's profile

Greg..the Cajun Box Sculptor

4986 posts in 1934 days

#2 posted 275 days ago

I have never found a way to maintain the color of Purpleheart…it is going to turn brown regardless of the finish…unless there is some technique I have yet to learn about it can only be prolonged before the color change. I made a box using purpleheart and yellowheart a few years ago and the yellowheart color has remained constant but the box now looks like poo-poo heart & yellowheart.

Padauk also does looses it beautiful deep rich red color over time and turns to a darker maroon color.

-- If retiring is having the time to be able to do what you enjoy then I have always been retired.

View Tennessee's profile


1447 posts in 1140 days

#3 posted 275 days ago

I’ve got some purple heart guitars out there for almost four years now, and no change in color. Coated with Minwax Natural and multiple coats of lacquer.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View richardwootton's profile


1152 posts in 581 days

#4 posted 275 days ago

I think there need to be some kind of UV protective layer on it in order to keep it from browning. I could be wrong about that, but perhaps some kind of a marine finish?

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View Danpaddles's profile


534 posts in 937 days

#5 posted 275 days ago

I think lacquer might be the key then. Out of time on this little box, but I have some scraps, maybe I’ll play around some.

It occurs to me that a guitar may spend a large percentage of the day closed away in a case?

Greg, do you recall what finish you might have used?

thanks guys.

-- Dan V. in Indy

View bondogaposis's profile


2480 posts in 977 days

#6 posted 275 days ago

Get some varnish with UV inhibitors, that will slow it down but not stop it from turning brown.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View bigblockyeti's profile


1469 posts in 346 days

#7 posted 275 days ago

I made a wine storage rack from purple heart over 5 years ago and finished it with lacquer. It still looks brilliantly purple with no browning at all, but it stays in the basement away from any UV light.

View poospleasures's profile


322 posts in 1110 days

#8 posted 275 days ago

Very interesting discussion. I appreciate the question and all the advice. I have not used much purple heart. Think I will make a project and use lacquer and try to keep it out UV for a while and see what happens. Thanks

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning. Vernon

View CharlieM1958's profile


15684 posts in 2844 days

#9 posted 275 days ago

Reading this post made me get up and go look at something. I have a stash of small boxes I have made over the years on a bookshelf in my garage. Because of how and where this book case is situated, these boxes get no natural light, and not all that much artificial light either. When i found the small purple heart box I was looking for, sure enough, it is now a rich dark brown in color. For what it’s worth, wipe-on poly was the finish.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View stefang's profile


12873 posts in 1960 days

#10 posted 274 days ago

Based on Charlies experience it must be an oxidation process rather than a UV problem. Maybe the lacquer stops that.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Dutchy's profile


456 posts in 794 days

#11 posted 274 days ago


I like this discussion, can learn from it. Thank you.

-- My englisch is bad but how is your dutch?

View 12strings's profile


394 posts in 1010 days

#12 posted 274 days ago

I have some 4 year-old purpleheart, a handplane, a mallet head, and some scraps, all have been in a garage, unexposed to sunlight, and all are still purple…darker, than freshly cut, but purple still. The tools were finished with tung oil only…but even the scraps still have purple hue…Perhaps it is the lack of sunlight…

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View Woodbum's profile


427 posts in 1691 days

#13 posted 274 days ago

Like Greg, I have a purpleheart and yellowheart box that I made and gave to my wife. It sits on her dresser and does not get direct sunlight, but our bedroom is very bright in the afternoons. I sprayed it with three coats of good old NC Sherwin Williams lacquer almost 15 years ago. I used a 15:1 mix of lacquer: retarder Go figure, but it is still purple. I also made a box for a client with purpleheart that I finished with a water based finish that I got from Highland Woodworking. It turned dark brown shortly thereafter. Maybe it is the lacquer.

-- Improvidus, Apto quod Victum-- Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

View bobasaurus's profile (online now)


1217 posts in 1810 days

#14 posted 274 days ago

It will darken with age by oxidation regardless of the finish, but some purple hue will always remain. However, sunlight will turn it dark brown quickly. As others have said, a UV-protectant finish will help. I’ve used helmsman spare urethane for this purpose before.

-- Allen, Colorado

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

1653 posts in 1548 days

#15 posted 273 days ago

Dutchy:........ I like your tag line/ signature!

-- In God We Trust

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