Purple heart color stability

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Forum topic by Danpaddles posted 11-19-2013 11:35 PM 1536 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Danpaddles's profile


573 posts in 2334 days

11-19-2013 11:35 PM

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 mahdee's profile


3888 posts in 1789 days

#1 posted 11-19-2013 11:45 PM

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 longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3330 days

#2 posted 11-19-2013 11:53 PM

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.

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2536 days

#3 posted 11-19-2013 11:54 PM

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.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1977 days

#4 posted 11-20-2013 12:14 AM

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


573 posts in 2334 days

#5 posted 11-20-2013 12:46 AM

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


4754 posts in 2373 days

#6 posted 11-20-2013 01:00 AM

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

-- Bondo Gaposis

View bigblockyeti's profile


5134 posts in 1742 days

#7 posted 11-20-2013 01:15 AM

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


740 posts in 2506 days

#8 posted 11-20-2013 01:29 AM

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,ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember. Vernon

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4240 days

#9 posted 11-20-2013 01:39 AM

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


15881 posts in 3356 days

#10 posted 11-20-2013 10:14 AM

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


2982 posts in 2190 days

#11 posted 11-20-2013 11:30 AM


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


View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2406 days

#12 posted 11-20-2013 01:15 PM

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


813 posts in 3087 days

#13 posted 11-20-2013 08:08 PM

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.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View bobasaurus's profile


3481 posts in 3206 days

#14 posted 11-20-2013 08:36 PM

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 (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2657 posts in 2944 days

#15 posted 11-21-2013 03:07 PM

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

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

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