Purpleheart (Peltogyne spp.)

Purpleheart (Peltogyne spp.)

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Common Name(s): Purpleheart, Amaranth

Scientific Name: Peltogyne spp.

Distribution: Central and South America (from Mexico down to southern Brazil)

Tree Size: 100-170 ft (30-50 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 56 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .76, .90

Janka Hardness: 2,520 lbf (11,190 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 22,000 lbf/in2 (151.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,937,000 lbf/in2 (20.26 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 12,140 lbf/in2 (83.7 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.8%, Tangential: 6.4%, Volumetric: 10.6%, T/R Ratio: 1.7

Color/Appearance: When freshly cut the heartwood of Purpleheart is a  dull grayish/purplish brown. Upon exposure the wood becomes a deeper eggplant purple. With further age and exposure to UV light, the wood becomes a dark brown with a hint of purple. This color-shift can be slowed and minimized by using a UV inhibiting finish on the wood. For more information, see the article Preventing Color Changes in Exotic Woods.

Grain/Texture: The grain is usually straight, but can also be wavy or irregular. Has a medium texture with good natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores, few; solitary and radial multiples; mineral deposits occasionally present; growth rings may be either distinct or indistinct depending on species and growing conditions; rays barely visible without lens; parenchyma winged, lozenge, confluent, unilateral, and occasionally marginal.

Rot Resistance: Purpleheart is rated as being very durable, and resists both decay and most insect attacks, though it has been reported to be susceptible to attack from marine borers.

Workability: Working with Purpleheart can present some unique challenges: if the wood is heated with dull tools, or if cutter speeds are too high, Purpleheart will exude a gummy resin that can clog tools and complicate the machining process. Depending on the grain orientation, can be difficult to plane without tearout. Purpleheart also has a moderate dulling effect on cutters.

Odor: Varies depending upon the species: most species have no characteristic odor, though some species can have a pungent scent.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Purpleheart has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation. Purpleheart has also been reported to cause nausea. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Widely available as lumber in good widths and thicknesses. Prices are in the low to medium range for an imported hardwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Inlays/accent pieces, flooring, furniture, boatbuilding, heavy construction, and a variety of specialty wood items.

Comments: Sometimes called Amaranth, this colorful Latin American hardwood is tremendously popular for furniture and other designs that call for a unique splash of color.

In addition to its coloration, Purpleheart has excellent strength properties, and can be used in applications where strength is important—a wood for both form and function.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: You can see from the scans below that the wood starts a dull purple, and becomes more rich and full within a few days/weeks. Upon applying a finish, the color darkens even more, to an almost eggplant purple. A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Purpleheart (freshly sanded)

Purpleheart (freshly sanded)

Purpleheart (three weeks later)

Purpleheart (three weeks later)

Purpleheart (sealed)

Purpleheart (sealed)

Purpleheart (endgrain)

Purpleheart (endgrain)

Purpleheart (endgrain 10x)

Purpleheart (endgrain 10x)

Purpleheart (fininshed)

Purpleheart (fininshed)

Purpleheart (turned)

Purpleheart (turned)

 
  • Global Wood Rework

    An excellent wood for small finishes. GWR found long, 2mm thick strips of purpleheart in a skip, apparently as packing for another hardwood to be used for decking. For drawer faces it is superb.

  • Bob

    I do chip carving (art/designs on wooden products). My daughter gave me a purple heart board to work with. Though the wood is extremely pretty, it is one of the most difficult to work with. At times when working (cutting into the work) with my chip carving knife it sounds like cutting into metal. My actual times to complete a project expanded from 3 to 4 times the effort compared to the same project on Bass Wood or Tupelo. I have other wood carver friends that refuse to work with Purple Heart because of the extra effort involved. I personally think the extra effort is worth it, for the results obtained.

  • Global Wood Rework

    Long live Purpleheart!

  • Alexandra

    Does anyone have suggestions for the best types of tools to use while working with purpleheart? I am trying to split a 7 inch piece into a 3 inch piece.

  • Jim Palmer

    I have been making Intarsia for 17 or 18 years and it is a great wood, especially if you are making something to do with grapes, and since I use a band saw with 1/8th” blade, it cuts quite easily for me.

  • Trevor

    Steve how long would it take a (3/4″X3/4″X5″)piece of purpleheart to turn to a dark rich purple?

  • Robert

    Made a ring for my wife for mother’s day. this was my first attempt at working with purpleheart. definitely a specialty thing I wouldn’t want to mass produce, but I loved making it by hand

  • Outside The Box Woodworking

    Paired with live edge Western Maple

  • Mark Myers

    Draconacae Draconus Acerphyla. The Maple-Leaf Dragon. I made a few boxes with dragons on them. One of my classmates from high school wanted one. He said “you choose the wood, you choose the dragon” So this is what came out. Hope you like it!

  • Janice

    Hi, is this timber any good for decking? Does it leech, splinter or feather? Thanks

  • Mark Myers

    http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/

    check out this page and look up “Purple Heart” I would say you could get some nasty splinters from this.

    as for decking i do not know for sure. Short answer: NO!! My answer would be from my experience in handling it for inlays. The wood is VERY hard and BRITTLE.

    fastener holes should be pre-drilled for screws or nails and the fastener should slide through easily. Countersink as well. screws should not be torqued very high as the screw head will create lateral force and split the wood. Keep screws at least 1.5 to 2 inches away from very end for same reason. More might be better.

    I’m not saying it would not be a good deck, but to me would be very expensive. Can’t beat it for decorative pieces.

    I’m not the last authority on the subject though so keep looking til you get several opinions supporting one side or the other.

    good luck and if you do it, send pictures!!

  • Global Wood Rework

    An excellent wood for small finishes. GWR found long, 2mm thick strips
    of purpleheart in a skip, apparently as packing for another hardwood to
    be used for decking. For drawer faces it is superb.

  • Robert

    Made a ring for my wife for mother’s day. this was my first attempt at
    working with purpleheart. definitely a specialty thing I wouldn’t want
    to mass produce, but I loved making it by hand

  • Outside The Box Woodworking

    Paired with live edge Western Maple

  • Mark Myers

    Draconacae Draconus Acerphyla. The Maple-Leaf Dragon. I made a few
    boxes with dragons on them. One of my classmates from high school
    wanted one. He said “you choose the wood, you choose the dragon” So
    this is what came out. Hope you like it!

    • tobias smit

      That is unreal , how large is it, Cost, E mail @tobiassmit@hotmail.com.

  • tobias smit

    Found a local guy , Don Mitchell, BC Canada at a farmers market, My wife saw a beautiful jewelry box he had made it was the first time we had ever seen this wood, the box is exquisite. He made it out of 4-5 different tropical woods but the Purple Heart made it a very beautiful anniversary gift.

    • ejmeier

      You do know that there’s a little picture icon in the corner of the comments section where you can actually post pictures of the stuff you’re describing with your comment, right? Just sayin’… :)

  • t4ngent

    purpleheart guitar neck (raw, unsealed), body is made of limba

    • Terry-Cowboy Brown

      Beautiful! I have a Telecaster built with purpleheart. I love it!

      • Matt Culler

        Pushing 2 inlayed control knobs down onto potentiometer shafts is not a “telecaster built with purpleheart”……..

        • Terry-Cowboy Brown

          I’m sorry I failed to specify for the dumbasses, the top cap on the body is purpleheart and the neck is solid purpleheart. Matt Culler, you can bite my fucking ass!

  • Kevin Wendel

    I have been making kitchen cabinets with it on our kitchen remodel. This has been my first attempt at cabinets, made a few mistakes on the face frame but where fixable, just finished 4 of the doors and they have turned out beautiful. I couldn’t find a match for the inserts so we decided to go for a smoked glass.

    I have been trying to figure out how to make my drawer fronts and know they will have to be out of solid wood with routering detail. I have gone with a mitre instead of the shaker style.

    Could someone let me know how long term a glued face would be or if they should be solid. I can get whatever width I like.

  • Arcanek

    I made a strat body out of purpleheart. The board I found was the only one big enough for a one piece body. It was kind of brown, not very purple. When I had finished sanding it, the sun broke through just then, into the basement where I was working. I took the body over to see it in the sunlight. It started turning into a beautiful purple from the light. I ran out side to expose it to the sun, and the whole body turned purple in seconds.

  • Peter Diotte

    I had some barn-board remnants that due to weight I thought were oak. After planning I was stunned to discover they were purpleheart (didn’t know that wood even existed). No idea how a barn constructed of this materials existed over 100 years ago in Wisconsin. I made a hallway/couch table out of it – 5.5 ft by 14 inches x 36 inch high. I used General finishes water-based poly with UV protection:

  • Arnaldo Uliana

    A company located in Brazil http://www.madeireirauliana.com has production with this lumber to Caribbean. A picture of slab doors made with Purpleheart, It´s a really exotic wood, stable , very , very hard and density ! One door constructed of Purpleheart, it will be impossible to be broken up, a very strong wood.

  • Will Fisher

    Purple Heart and Hickory Name Plate. Gloss Lacquer finish

  • Will Fisher

    Unfinished work in progress. Here you can see the Purple Heart has lost quite a bit of color from all the sanding. I will leave halogen lights on it overnight and the color will return and then I will Lacquer it. http://www.westernrevival.net

  • Panatrees Inc

    We ship Purplheart worldwide in round logs. info@panatrees.com

  • John Rice