Best Wood to Use

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Forum topic by DonJ posted 03-02-2009 08:40 PM 1259 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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250 posts in 3555 days

03-02-2009 08:40 PM

I’m going to make a box and I want to inlay a cross on the top. I would like to have the cross stay a red/purple color over the years. The top will be walnut burl. What is the best wood to use? I’ve heard that purple heart will brown up over the years, if not sooner. What about bloodwood? My current thoughts are to rub in an oil to “pop” the grain and then after it drys, lacquer for the top coat. Thanks for any suggestions.

-- Don, San Antonio, TX

8 replies so far

View jeh412's profile


129 posts in 3403 days

#1 posted 03-02-2009 08:52 PM

Yes, purpleheart will turn brown. If you use a finish with UV protection and the finished piece doesn’t get much sunlight, you can slow the process. I’m not positive about bloodwood, but I have a piece in my “someday I’ll use this” pile in the shop and it really hasn’t changed dramatically, definitely not as much as purpleheart would.

-- John, co-owner Sawdust 'n Stitches

View Homers's profile


42 posts in 3437 days

#2 posted 03-02-2009 09:59 PM

While I’ve never seen Purple Heart turn brown, I’ve never seen Bloodwood turn at all. I have a couple of chucks of each laying in my “I’ll use this someday” pile (John, I couldn’t pass it up.) and the Purple Heart does produce a rich purple color, especially in contrast to the pale grey color it displays just after milling. The Bloodwood piece I have has not changed shades appreciably in the two years I’ve been planning on using it.

—Homers, Muphy, TX

-- Homers / Murphy, TX

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 3464 days

#3 posted 03-06-2009 10:51 PM

if you are set on a deep purple red color, well, I can not help, but if you are not bound to the bloodwoood color, you could consider cocobolo, it is a deep red and I built somethign with it a couple of years ago, a kitchen knife holder actually, and it is still a deep red, actually it has gotten a deeper red… but what I wanted to say, european yew, which starts off a reddish orange color, turns a dark burnt red orange with time… also consider, european cherry, starts almost a tan pink color but with time (although I am guessing this also depends on finishing, and I am not certian 100% on how much time) it turns almost a mahogoni red, perhaps not so deep, but a nice red color none the less. Mahogoni, Sapele, Makori, all are woods that are red and stay red, and deepen with time, as well as Bubinga, another good choice, but does brown a bit (the bubinga)

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4128 days

#4 posted 03-06-2009 11:18 PM

I would think that the walnut burl with an inlay made of the woods that you are thinking of will create a fairly muted contrast, but I would have to see them side-by-side. Cherry could be an alternative because it turns a dark reddish brown or brick-red color over time and it can be accelerated with just a few days in the sun.

If you made a cross shaped routing template to use with Porter-Cable style routing guides, you could do a larger inlay of maple. Then you would step up a size in guides to route the shape again and use one of the contrasting woods that you are thinking of. This would create an outline in a light color to separate the darker colors. I have heard that bloodwood and purpleheart can bleed into a light wood if wiped with oil. The safest way to avoid any bleeding is to spray and start with a light sealer coat.

Solvent based lacquers will pop the grain without any oil. I have never used oil to pop the grain on my projects because the lacquer and oil based poly’s do it automatically. These types of finish bring great depth and clarity to the wood, especially the lacquer. Oil based poly imparts much of a golden tone and the lacquers that I use pop the grain without the golden tone, they are called “water white” lacquers. It may make a difference if you are using a waterborne finish because they leave the wood feeling a bit “cold” especially black walnut.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3397 days

#5 posted 03-07-2009 12:11 AM

I have always liked Redheart for decorative inlays. It stays a bright red color and you will need that if you want the cross to “pop” against the Walnut burl. JMHO

View DonJ's profile


250 posts in 3555 days

#6 posted 03-07-2009 01:35 AM

Thanks for all the input. To be honest, I have never heard of Redheart. I googled and found a small board and it has been mailed. For future reference, is there a preferred source? Thanks!!

-- Don, San Antonio, TX

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3397 days

#7 posted 03-07-2009 07:18 AM

I have only found small boards of it at woodcraft where they have the dowel rods and small pieces. This Poker chip cabinet is about 6 years old now and the Redheart is still just as bright as the day I inlayed it. adding a pic didn’t work, have to figure that out for this site.

View LesB's profile


1750 posts in 3471 days

#8 posted 03-07-2009 09:43 AM

It appears everyone is sort of in agreement about colored woods darkening and losing their color. Which is my experience too.
If you really want the inlay to say red or purple I would use a white wood that I would stain with aniline dye. A clear straight grain would work best. Probably the biggest problem with the dye is that it will have to be done before the piece is glued in so the dye doesn’t bleed into the surrounding wood. Even then I would make sure to put sealer on the walnut first to stop any possible bleeding of the dye. That means you will have to fit the inlay carefully because you won’t be able to sand it (much) after gluing it in or you could cut through the dye.

Another possibiilty is that “crushed” colored rock and epoxy inlays they sell at Wood Crafters and other retailers..

-- Les B, Oregon

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