Purpleheart smell

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 12-03-2013 02:54 PM 2207 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2117 days

12-03-2013 02:54 PM

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 2062 days

#1 posted 12-03-2013 03:46 PM

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


273 posts in 2855 days

#2 posted 12-03-2013 04:08 PM

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


608 posts in 1948 days

#3 posted 12-03-2013 04:14 PM

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

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2272 days

#4 posted 12-03-2013 04:14 PM

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


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384 posts in 1692 days

#5 posted 12-03-2013 10:47 PM

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


915 posts in 2117 days

#6 posted 12-04-2013 03:26 AM

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


1550 posts in 1727 days

#7 posted 12-04-2013 03:32 AM

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


915 posts in 2117 days

#8 posted 12-04-2013 11:38 AM

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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