While renowned for its often deep, rich purple hues, Purpleheart is actually one of the toughest woods in the world. It is considered one of the stiffest, hardest woods — boasting an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It is also extremely water resistant, which, combined with its toughness, has seen it frequently used in outdoor decking and even as truckbed flooring. The wood is typically straight or wavy grained (though sometimes irregular). Its texture ranges from fine to medium, and it has a nice natural luster that emerges when fine sanded. The wood works and turns well, although sharp tools and blades are a necessity. It glues and finishes well, also.
Sustainability: Not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Veneer, flooring, parquee flooring, decking, paneling, musical instruments, furniture, cabinetry, inlay, boatbuilding, carvings, turnings, decorative items and small specialty objects.
Comments: When freshly cut, Purpleheart is actually more a dull brown with feint purple overtones. Within minutes, these colors quickly change into a variety of different purple hues (depending upon species, growth environment, etc.), but generally mutate back towards a darker brown with purple tint with continued exposure to UV rays. This process can be slowed and minimized by using a finishing product with UV-inhibitor additives.
While the wood is generally very cooperative when worked, given its hard, dense nature, dull tools and blades can be an issue. When resawing a board with a dull saw blade, it hardness can cause the wood and blade to overheat, producing a black, tar-like resin which requires some very patient sanding to completely remove.
Despite its large natural range and 23 different species, recent surges in popularity in this new millennium have led to some isolated cases of “near extinction” levels of tree population reduction in several Central American regions where it grows.