In Love With Purpleheart

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  • March 2, 2011
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While the trend for darker woods continues, along with celebrating the month of love, we thought we would spotlight a very prominent, exotic wood type called “purpleheart”. This worldwide favorite wood may come from about 20 species of Peltogyne (trees of the Leguminosae Family), and is found throughout Central and South America. The wood from each species is so similar in appearance to one another that the lumber industry accepts them all to be allocated and distributed as one. Tall and large trees grow abundantly, sometimes reaching a diameter of five feet with clear, knot free lengths – it’s a great tree that yields a lot of high-quality lumber! Purpleheart has a creamy, white/gray sapwood, and when freshly cut, the heartwood is a dullish gray, purplish, brown (darkening into a deeper purple or brown with sun exposure & age). There is a high degree of variability in cutting characteristics, depending on the piece of wood or possibly the exact species of Peltogyne. Some wood seems to be relatively soft and easy to cut while other wood is incredibly hard. The grain is typically straight but some material may exhibit a particularly interesting curly grain pattern on quarter sawn surfaces. The wood is hard, heavy and can be pretty rough on tools. On the upside, Purpleheart glues easily, polishes well, and brings a nice “wow” factor to the finished project. Foster Planing Mill offers two of their stocked profiles in this gorgeous wood – profile #530 can be found on p. 8 of our catalogue, along with profile #700 on p. 18. You may also request to have another profile of choice custom milled with this wood type (minimum of 200′ required).

Helpful hints for finishing purpleheart:
Before applying the finish, put your project in the sun for a few hours, as this will make the color more intense. Over time, with exposure to ultraviolet light, purpleheart will inevitably darken to a brownish color – this process can be slowed (although not completely stopped). To prolong the length of time that the wood remains a lustrous purple, it’s recommended to periodically apply a UV-resistant finish to the completed piece. Also, if your project calls for screws in the joinery, take precaution by pre-drilling the holes.

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