Purpleheart smell

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 267 days ago 679 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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777 posts in 725 days

267 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: purpleheart

Like many I’m throwing together cutting boards for possible Christmas gifts. And I had some questions about purpleheart.

When I’ve worked with purpleheart I’ve noticed than when I saw it and sometimes when I sand the wood smells like moldy cheese. It isn’t pleasant. But it fades pretty quickly and doesn’t come back. Except….

I made a cutting board (long grain) out of purpleheart. When the board gets used (I think it’s water that does it) it starts to smell like moldy cheese again. Once it dries out the smell stops. I haven’t heard of the stinky scent being transferred to the food cut on it. And yes, the board was coated several times with mineral oil and then Howard’s butcher block conditioner.

It’s made me reluctant to make another for fear of destroying someone’s nostrils. But I’ve seen plenty of pictures here with people making cutting boards out of purpleheart or at least using pieces of purpleheart in the boards.

Anyone else run into the smell? If so, how do you deal with it? Is there a way to permanently deodorize the wood? Does it not occur with end grain purpleheart?

8 replies so far

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 670 days

#1 posted 267 days ago

I didn’t remember ever smelling anything bad while cutting purpleheart, so I just went out to the workshop and sliced the end off a 1.5×1.5×12 turning blank.

Nothing. Not a whiff of ugliness. Hope something’s not living in your workshop and peeing on your lumber pile.

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View dpwalker's profile


265 posts in 1463 days

#2 posted 267 days ago

I also can’t remember any bad smell from Purple Heart. Zebra wood however is another story. ;)

-- You have not really lived until you do something for someone who can never repay you.

View darthford's profile


532 posts in 556 days

#3 posted 267 days ago

I don’t know about purple heart but zebra wood smells like a dung heap.

View lumberjoe's profile


2833 posts in 880 days

#4 posted 267 days ago

The only way I can describe purpleheart smell is “old M&M’s”. Anyone with kids knows what I mean.


View retfr8flyr's profile


193 posts in 301 days

#5 posted 267 days ago

I agree with the rest. I just got through cutting some purple heart, for cutting boards and didn’t notice any unpleasant smell.

-- Earl

View Purrmaster's profile


777 posts in 725 days

#6 posted 267 days ago

From what I’ve pieced together not all purpleheart has the moldy cheese smell. But the stuff I’ve used does. I read somewhere that it’s caused by the dark streaks running through purpleheart. That may or may not be true.

Zebrawood does indeed smell awful.

Old M&Ms sounds about right for purpleheart.

View PaulDoug's profile


533 posts in 335 days

#7 posted 267 days ago

I just cut some PH on the bandsaw. Love the smell of it. Never smelled old M & M’s. How do they stay around long enough to get old??

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View Purrmaster's profile


777 posts in 725 days

#8 posted 267 days ago

I’ve run into the moldy cheese smell on all the boards I’ve used. Most pronounced when running it through a circular saw blade. Also with planing, I think. I think it’s the friction heat of the cutting that does it. I once read a post about someone who put the stuff in his oven to try and bring the color out. It worked but it smelled awful.

My theory is that the wood is angry and trying to get back at me. I can just hear it saying: “You chopped me down, sliced me into planks, and dehydrated me. Now you want to cut me into little pieces? Screw that!”

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