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What is Purpleheart Wood? Properties, Characteristics & Uses

purpleheart wood pendant

Purpleheart wood is an exotic hardwood species that is widely used for various indoor and outdoor projects. It is praised for its dense qualities and beautiful purple colors, making it a favorite lumber species on the market. Its exotic properties make this wood unique and great for crafting projects such as musical instruments.

Since it is highly durable and strong, it is also excellent for furniture and flooring. Let’s look at some more uses and characteristics below.

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What is Purpleheart Wood?

Purpleheart wood—often referred to as amaranth, violet wood, and peltogyne—is tropical hardwood originating from central and South America. It thrives in tropical climates, most commonly in the Amazon rainforest but also in the tropical regions of Central America. It is famous for its stunning purple hue, which starts as pale gray but progresses into deep, eggplant-purple as the wood ages.

This tropical hardwood has been used for decades simply because of its incredible strength and durability. Purpleheart wood is so strong and sturdy that it is considered to be one of the best on the market when it comes to density.

purpleheart wood
Image Credit: domnitsky, Shutterstock

Purpleheart Wood Properties

Texture

The grain pattern of purpleheart is usually straight, although there are cases when it is wavy or interlocking. The neat and straight grain patterns make this type of wood excellent for flooring, walls, and furniture.

Appearance

The heartwood of purpleheart is grayish-purple and brown when freshly cut, but within a few days, the color changes to deep purple. The older the tree gets, the darker the color is, so you can usually come across a dark brown wood with only hints of purple. You can reduce the changes in coloring by using a UV inhibiting finish, as frequent UV exposure can also affect the wood’s color.

Resistance

Purpleheart is highly durable and excellent at resisting rot and decay. Even though purpleheart is great at repelling insects such as pests and termites, it can be prone to marine borers.

Hardness

Purpleheart has excellent density and strength. Its hardness is best measured using the Janka scale, which gives purpleheart a rating of 1860.

Workability

Purpleheart wood is a bit challenging to work with. It leaks a sticky, gummy resin that can clog tools and create further complications when using tools that cut and heat the wood.

Toxicity

Although purpleheart wood allergic reactions are uncommon, some reactions may occur, such as eye and skin irritations or nausea.

Handmade rectangle purpleheart hardwood pendant
Image Credit: Stratomi, Shutterstock

Purpleheart Wood Characteristics

Scientific name: Peltogyne spp
Family: Fabaceae
Wood type: Tropical Hardwood
Origin: Tropical rainforests of Mexico and southern Brazil
Color: Brownish-purple
Tree height: 100–170 feet
Tree trunk diameter: 3–5 feet
Average weight when dry: 56 lbs
Janka hardness rating: 1860

What is Purpleheart Wood Used For?

Purpleheart wood is highly praised on the lumber market because of its durability, exotic origin, and visual appeal. Purpleheart wood is commonly used to manufacture durable furniture, paneling, and flooring. It’s also used for structural elements such as columns, arches, industrial flooring, heavy construction, and even in boat manufacturing. Purpleheart is a highly in-demand wood, even though it remains costly, with prices rising constantly.

This tropical hardwood is also very valued for crafting musical instruments, such as acoustic guitars or violins, though it is not that common in that industry.

Some other purpleheart wood common uses include:
  • Tool handles
  • Decorative veneers
  • Indoor and outdoor decoration
  • Bridge-building
  • Heavy outdoor construction projects
  • Stairways

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Final Thoughts

Purpleheart is an attractive exotic hardwood that is very versatile and practical in use. It can serve as structural support but can also be made into musical instruments and other specialty wood products. Purpleheart wood is famous for its fine texture and lovely purple hues, making it a favorite exotic lumber for durable furniture. Its properties make it expensive on the market, but very popular nonetheless.


Featured Image Credit: Stratomi, Shutterstock

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