Purple Heart Wood – Characteristics, Uses, Pros and Cons

What is Purple Heart Wood?

Purple heart wood is a hardwood species from a deciduous tree (i.e., one that sheds its leaves every autumn), also known as Amaranth, Roxinho, or Violetta. It is native to Central and South America and commonly found in Mexico down to southern Brazil.

Purple heart wood is popular in woodworking and is used for a variety of wood projects. It is commonly used for furniture and flooring. Purple heart wood is known for its beauty, durability, and rot-resistant properties. Purple heart hardwood is an excellent choice for exterior and interior wood projects.

Characteristics of Purple Heart wood

#Purple heart wood
Scientific namePeltogyne spp.
Tree Size100-150 ft (30-45 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 56.4 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3)
Crushing Strength: 12,140 lbf/in2 (83.7 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 3.8%, Tangential: 6.4%, Volumetric: 10.6%, T/R Ratio: 1.7

What is Purple Heart Wood Used For?

Purple heart wood is versatile hardwood. It is commonly used for furniture, flooring, cabinetry, Inlays, musical instruments, and decorative items. Woodworkers prefer to make boats with purple heart wood because it is naturally moisture and weather resistant.

Purple heart wood is one of the most stable flooring choices because it is very less prone to scratches and dents.

Is Purple Heart Wood Good For Outdoor Furniture?

Yes, Purple heart wood is a popular choice for outdoor furniture because it is naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects. Its density and hardness properties makes it suited for outdoor applications where it can withstand exposure to extreme weather conditions and constant use.

Can You Use Purple Heart Wood for a Cutting Board?

Purple heart wood is generally considered food-safe, but the wood has allergic properties that may affect some people. Although purple heart wood should be avoided as a cutting board, if the board has a good food-safe finish, then you can use it.

Wood Appearance

Purple heart wood has a purplish brown to deep eggplant purple color. Somewhere grayish color can also be there. The sapwood ranges from off-white to pinkish-cinnamon. These colors are very light in fresh wood. 

Does Purple Heart Wood Fade?

Yes, the vibrant purple color of Purpleheart wood will fade over time when exposed to sunlight. When freshly cut, it is light-purplish brown, but as the wood dries, it turns deep purple. However, exposure to UV radiation and natural weathering will cause the color to fade gradually.

How to Keep Purple Heart Wood Purple?

The color of Purple heart wood is unique and beautiful, and no one wants it to fade with time. To maintain the natural purple color, some people choose to apply a protective finish or UV-resistant coating to the wood. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and re-applying the protective finish, can help extend the lifespan and appearance of Purple Heart outdoor furniture.

Why is Purple Heart Wood Purple?

The distinctive purple color of purple heart wood is primarily due to its natural pigments. Purple heart wood contains a class of pigments called anthocyanins, which are responsible for its vibrant purple hue.

How to Make Purple Heart Wood More Purple?

If you have Purple heart wood that has faded or you want to enhance its purple color, there are a few methods you can try:

  • Staining: Applying a double coat of stain is a proven method to enhance the color of the wood.
  • Sanding: Sanding the wood surface can expose fresh layers and restore some of the original vibrant purple color.
  • Avoid exposure to sunlight: Purpleheart wood can fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight, while short exposure to sunlight can darken the wood.

Advantages of Purple Heart Wood

  • Attractive Color: Purple heart wood is known for its unique, vibrant color that gradually darkens to a darker purple or brownish color over time. This unique and eye-catching appearance makes Purple Heart wood an ideal choice for furniture, flooring, and decoration.
  • Density and Hardness: Purple heart wood is very hard and dense, making it less prone to scratches and dents.
  • Extremely Durable: Purple heart wood is a very durable wood that requires low care and maintenance as compared to other woods.
  • Rot Resistant: Purple heart wood contains natural oils that make it naturally resistant to rot and insects, making it a great choice for outdoor applications, such as decking, outdoor furniture, and fencing.

Disadvantages of Purple Heart Wood

  • Allergic Reactions: Working with Purple Heart wood can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation in some individuals. Especially when they come in contact with wood dust.
  • Difficult to work with: Purple heart wood is very hard and dense. It can be a challenge to cut, shape, and machining. So it requires more resources and time to work with it.
  • Color Change: The vibrant purple color of Purple Heart wood is one of its most appealing characteristics. However, when exposed to sunlight, the wood tends to fade over time. So, wood needs an extra finish to protect its natural color from UV light and weather impact.

How Hard is Purple Heart Wood?

Purple Heart Wood is one of the most hard and dense wood species. Its Janka hardness value is 2,520 lbf (11,190 N), and its average dried weight is 56.4 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3). Purple heart wood is about twice as hard as Yellow Birch and about four times as hard as Hemlock.

Here are the hardness values of some popular wood species to give you an idea of how hard Purple Heart lumber is.

Wood speciesJanka Hardness Value
Red oak1,220 lbf (5,430 N)
African padauk1,970 lbf (8,760 N)
Honey Mesquite2,340 lbf (10,410 N)
Bubinga2,410 lbf (10,720 N)
Purple Heart Wood2,520 lbf (11,190 N)
Brazilian rosewood2,790 lbf (12,410 N)
Cocobolo2,960 lbf (14,140 N)
Gaboon Ebony3,080 lbf (13,700 N)
African blackwood3,670 lbf (16,320 N)

How Much is Purple Heart Wood?

Generally, Purple heart wood is rare and premium hardwood, more expensive than common woods. Purple heart wood typically ranged from $10 to $20 per board foot. But The cost of purple heart wood can vary depending on various factors such as availability, location, quality, and market.

Is Purple Heart Wood More Expensive than Teak?

No, Teak wood is more expensive than Purple heart wood. Prices for high-quality teak lumber typically range from $20 to $45 per board foot. Teak wood is prized for its durability, strength, and natural resistance to decay and insect infestation.

Working with purple heart wood

Working with purple heart wood can be a challenging experience due to its hardness and density. Being extremely hard, it dulls and heats the blade and leaves dark stains on the wood. Use sharp tools and a high-quality cutting blade to work effectively with Purple Heart wood.

Purple heart wood can be difficult to cut and shape, especially with hand tools, so machine tools would be preferable. Sanding and finishing can also be a bit challenging. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and gradually work your way to finger grits for a smooth finish.

How to Bend Purple Heart Wood?

Bending a hard and dense species of wood can be a challenging task, and not all types of wood are suitable for bending. Purple heart wood is known for its extreme hardness and density, which can make it difficult to bend. However, turning Purple Heart wood is possible with the right techniques and tools. 

Steam bending is a successful and safe method of bending wood like purple heart wood. Steam in a steam box or chamber for one hour for every inch of wood, and make sure the wood chosen is dry and free of any defects or cracks.

How to Clean Purple Heart Wood?

Purple Heart Wood is a beautiful and expensive wood, so it needs regular care and cleaning to maintain its beauty. In such a situation, the biggest question that comes to our mind is how to clean Purple Heart Wood.

For general cleaning, you can use a solution of dishwashing soap. Mix a small amount of dishwashing soap or wood cleaner in warm water. Dip a soft cloth or sponge in the soapy water and squeeze out excess moisture. Gently wipe the surface of the Purple Heart wood, following the direction of the grain. Avoid excessive moisture, and do not soak the wood.

Remember that if you use a wood cleaner, it should be chemical-free. Otherwise, it will spoil the natural color of the wood.

Is Purple Heart Wood Toxic?

Purple heart wood is not considered a toxic wood, but it has been reported as a sensitizer. Common problems like eye and skin irritation have been noticed while working with Purple Heart. So be careful and be safe while working with Purple heart wood.

Where to Buy Purple Heart Wood?

Although Purple Heart Wood is a rare wood, it can be purchased from various sources such as Online retailers, Woodworking forums, Specialty wood suppliers, Local woodworking clubs, and associations.