Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wood of the Week: Purpleheart

Imagine yourself in a lush green jungle dripping with dew. Rainbow colored birds dart in and out of bright neon flowers. You're surrounded by screeching monkeys and choirs of chirping insects and psychedelic tied-dyed frogs. Bright yellow moss grows with sparkling multicolored mushrooms beneath an old fallen tree. The heart of this tree glistens like a precious purple gem in a sea of bright green coins. You've discovered the treasure of Purpleheart. You begin to weep.

Also called Amaranth, Koroboreli & Saka-is native to Central and South America. It's color varies from light violet to deep purple and burgundy hues. It looks like wood that has been pickled in grape kool-aid.

Purpleheart's vivid color and straight grain make it a very desirable exotic hardwood that's used in wood turning, furniture and oddly enough boat building. The grain pattern and hardness make it feel like the long lost South American brother of walnut wood.
Purpleheart has a dark earthy dirt like smell when it's being milled. It is very brittle and chippy and can be very "squirrely" when ripping on a table saw. Squirrely describes wood that either begins to veer away or towards the straight kerf established by a circular saw blade- causing the cuts to be wavy-or the saw blade to buckle. I like to keep a few shims handy to avoid having this happen in the middle of a rip. I find that it sands very well & planes smooth when run across (as opposed to with) the grain.

Purpleheart is a wonderful accent wood that compliments other hardwoods in parquetry & combined laminations. A gorgeous, unbelievable, exotic gem.

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