Purpleheart

Latin name: Peltogyne spp, Peltogyne pubescens, Peltogyne venosa var densiflora


Durability:

Moderately durable

Treatability:

Extremely difficult

Moisture Movement:

Small

Density (mean, Kg/m³):

880

Texture:

Medium

Availability:

Limited availability at specialist timber merchant

Price:

High

Use(s):

Heavy structural use, Flooring

Colour(s):

Purple brown

Notes on terms used navigation-arrow

Environmental

Not listed in CITES. Believed available from well-managed sources. Check certification status with suppliers.

 

Distribution

The commercial species of purpleheart are distributed widely throughout tropical America. Their combined range extends from Mexico through Central America and into South America to southern Brazil. There appears to be little need for discrimination between the species since all the timbers have about the same general appearance and structure regardless of their source.

 

The tree

Purpleheart of Guyana is a semi-deciduous tree with small plank-type buttresses about 1.0m high in P. pubescens, and 1.8m to 3.6m high and sometimes spread out over a 4.5m diameter in P. venosa var densiflora. The trees reach a height of 50.0m with straight, cylindrical boles 18.0m to 27.0m high above the buttresses and with considerable taper. The diameter is generally 1.0m or slightly more.

 

The timber

The sapwood is creamy white to light pinkish cinnamon streaked with light brown, from 50mm to 100mm wide, and sharply demarcated from the heartwood which is most often recognised for its unusual colouring. It is greyish-purple when freshly cut. later becoming a violet purple to deep purple through an oxidation process. In due time. the purplish colour is lost and the wood turns an attractive dark brown ; this is only superficial, and by removing only a thin layer the original colouring is restored until oxidation occurs again. The uniform texture of purpleheart varies from fine to medium. The grain is usually straight and seldom interlocked, but is sufficiently irregular, along with variation in lustre and colour to give the wood a pleasing stripe figure on quarter-sawn surfaces. The weight of purpleheart is variable, but averages 880 kg/m³ when dried.

 

Drying

Moderately difficult to dry in the open air and in the kiln. It air dries slowly with light to moderate degrade, usually in the form of slight end and surface checking and slight casehardening. Thin timber kiln dries readily, but thick material requires special care to overcome the difficulty of removing moisture from the centre of the heavy pieces.

 

Strength

Purpleheart is intermediate between American white oak and greenheart in strength properties, but is outstanding in its ability to withstand suddenly applied loads and difficult strains.

 

Working qualities

Medium to difficult - Moderately difficult to work; the wood resists cutting and dulls cutting edges. It also exudes a gummy resin when heated by dull tools; the resin clings to cutter teeth and other tool parts and complicates machining operations. Material is best run slowly through machines equipped with high speed steel knives. A cutting angle of 15° is required to properly machine material with interlocked grain. The wood turns smoothly and requires little sanding to bring out a good finish. It glues v/ell, and takes stain and wax polish easily, but its purple colour is dissipated by spirit polishes; it is reported that a lacquer finish holds the purple colouring. The timber should be pre-bored for nailing to avoid splitting. Purpleheart is knife-cut, but more generally sawn for veneers without preparatory steaming. It is considered inadvisable to steam the wood as the colouring matter known as phonicoin is partially soluble under prolonged steaming.

Suppliers

Brooks Bros (UK) Limitednavigation-arrow

Maldon

Capricorn Eco Timbernavigation-arrow

Stafford

Gilmour & Aitkennavigation-arrow

Alexandria

James Latham plcnavigation-arrow

Hemel Hempstead

NHG Timber Limitednavigation-arrow

Croydon

Timber Focusnavigation-arrow

Manchester

Vincent Timber Ltdnavigation-arrow

Birmingham

W. L. West & Sons Ltdnavigation-arrow

Petworth

Suppliers

W. L. West & Sons Ltdnavigation-arrow

Petworth

Vincent Timber Ltdnavigation-arrow

Birmingham

Timber Focusnavigation-arrow

Manchester

NHG Timber Limitednavigation-arrow

Croydon

James Latham plcnavigation-arrow

Hemel Hempstead

Gilmour & Aitkennavigation-arrow

Alexandria

Capricorn Eco Timbernavigation-arrow

Stafford

Brooks Bros (UK) Limitednavigation-arrow

Maldon