purple heart advice


Dec 30, 2003
Beresford, SD
A good customer of ours wants four frames out of purpleheart. Any suggestions or advice when chopping and joining it? Are there any potential pitfalls we should be aware of?

The wood has been dried and poly-ed approbriately, and the profile is very simple.

You'll surely receive a few excellent answers to your query, evenutally.

But let me be the first to respond with what I suspect will be the most popular response: I don't know.
Ron Eggers, where are you? Are you OK? Did Dogzilla lock you in the bathroom again?

If you don't post in the next fifteen minutes, we'll call 911 for you.
The only real problem I can see is if your customer wanted the finished frame to have a natural black walnut look! :eek:

Hey, go ahead and chop away, purpleheart is just another endangered species of hard to find wood from the dwindling rain forests of South America. It splits easily so, if you are nailing it (as in shadowbox joining), drill some holes first. And, if you are V nailing the frame, stay back off the corners as far as practical and still get a good joint so the outside of the miters don't split out.

Good luck, beautiful wood in my book.

You will need to use an industrial strength glue when joining. It is virtually impenitrable and has a lot of natural oil in the wood that will repel water based glue. I use an epoxy like glue called Resoursinal (spelled phonetically...no spell check at home). Messy and will stain anything it touches, but it makes one durable bond (you could also use Marine Epoxy). I used it on two Purple Heart frames about 15 years ago and they're still doing great.
You probably wont be able to chop this on a chopper...way too hard. Has to be cut with a saw.
I joined it using brass brazing rod that I cut off and filed down flush.
When first cut it is a deep brown, later turning to its classic purple color. I have seen flooring made from Purple Heart ( and its cousin Green Heart) in homes on Antigua.
It was available in several unfinished profiles from Xylo.
Emily, You have no idea how much this pains me, and all do respect to the wisedom of the other guys....BUT.

Being a Washington Huskey, I have INTIMATE knowledge of this wood.

FGII, Purple Heart was the Second wood from Caribean and South America to be certified as FARMED. It is far from endangered, it's not going to show up on even the treatened list anytime soon. And currently it sells for $2-$3 LESS than steamed Cherry.

Wally, you must have been thinking about all that teak. PH requires no phenol or epoxy, it responds to a good anapropalene or woodworkers yellow just fine. Emily: use Corner Weld or what ever you normally use then under pin with shorts and clamp.

Jim, smart answer.

Emily, treat it about the way you would walnut. (the body wood is about like a first cousin). It wants to splinter out something grand, yet it will take a profile beautifully. If you are working the wood with hand planes like I did making all of this moulding, the blades must be scarey sharp. Routers will destroy more than perform. Most commercial shaping is done with abrasive wheels that "heat" the wood to oxidize the menial oil that turns the deep purple.

That is beautiful, Baer. Do you have any idea of how long it took you and what you charged for it?
Emily, info below was found here: http://www.advantagelumber.com/purpleheart.htm


Purpleheart heartwood is a deep purple-violet when freshly cut, maturing to a dark brown. The original color is restored when re-cut. Grain is straight, but often irregular, wavy and sometimes interlocked. Texture is moderate to fine. Weight varies from about 50lbs to 63lbs per cu. ft.

BOTANICAL NAME - Peltogyn Pubescens

OTHER NAMES - Amaranth, Violetwood, Koroboreli, Saka, Pau Roxo, Morado, Tananeo.

MECHANICAL PROPERTIES - High strength in bending, stiffness and crushing. Medium resistance to shock loads. Moderate steam bending characteristics.

WORKING PROPERTIES - Difficult to work. Moderate to severe blunting effect on cutters. Exudes gummy resin when heated by dull cutters. Recommend running material slowly through machines equipped with HSS knives. Pre-drilling needed for nailing. Takes glue well. Stains and wax polishes easily.

WORKING PROPERTIES - Difficult to work. Moderate to severe blunting effect on cutters. Exudes gummy resin when heated by dull cutters. Recommend running material slowly through machines equipped with HSS knives. Pre-drilling needed for nailing. Takes glue well. Stains and wax polishes easily.

DURABILITY - Very durable. Sapwood susceptible to attack by powder post beetle. Heartwood is extremely resistant to preservative treatment. Sapwood is permeable.

SEASONING - Dries rapidly with little degradation. Air drying is slow with some end and surface checking or case hardening. Small movement.

USES - Heavy outdoor constructional work, bridge building, fresh water piling, dock work, cladding, vats, flooring, tool handles, turning, furniture, decorative veneers, inlay and marquetry.

COMMENTS - Spirit based finishes remove the purple color. Lacquer based finishes preserve the color.
Andrew!! Your the greatest.
I'v been looking for that site for about 6-8 months. One of the other knottheads around here had seen it but didn't remember to write it down. To bad it didn't also include the Cert numbers. That's what we are all looking for. Dept of Agrivation says it's out there but they don't have it. :eek:

Jo: The retail is $3,200. :D The "image" is 5.5"x7.5". "Recommend running material slowly through machines equipped with HSS knives", and I laugh in the face of such statements. HAH I say.
HSS (High Speed Steel - contains ductial-ability: which means that it wont become brittle or case harden under high tempatures achived through cutting. Such as router bits.)
HSS also retains an edge good but not best. High carbon steel retains edge best of steels but rusts like crazy. So then we come to Stainless Hybrids much like the chopper blades on a Morso. Low rust incident, good edge retention. Relative ease to grind new edge.
So when I had replacement blades made for my antique hand planes, I went with HSS.

So as to your question. Two long evenings sharpening all of the blades I would need to make the mouldings.
2 days to form 12' of each moulding.
1 day to turn and form columns & 2 hours in leafing.
12 hours building frame over a weeks time. Glue up time is overnight.
4 hours finish time with hot penitrating wax.
1 hour fabric mat, fillet, museum glass & fit.

50+/- spread over a month.
Cornell does it faster, but not in Purple Heart.
Univ. Washington colors are Purple & Gold.

Some might say that $2-3,000 is an extreem amount of money to pay for a diploma frame. But does laying out $385,000 to get a medical degree, and then sticking it in a $28.41 ready made from Michael's make any more sense?

Baer, for the love of pete, when is your woodworking book going to be published? Frames book? Cookbook? What have I forgotten-something about Harley's, I'm sure...

Stop teasing us and get a move on. An instructive DVD would be nice, too. ;)

To make this post relevant to the thread- wow. Didn't know all that about purple heart. Thanks for all the great info. and the website!
Baer, that frame you made out of purpleheart for that certificate is, without a doubt, a very beautiful piece of work. It makes me wonder though, what are you emphasizing, the frame or the certificate?

The last time a joined purpleheart I used nails and woodworkers glue, worked just fine. I think if it came up again I would be more inclined to use my Hoffmann joiner. From the above posts I am starting to wonder if that would work. Any thoughts?

John, never heard of a Hoffman joiner. I once knew a guy who had a "joiner cup". When anyone was drinking he whip out his cup and join 'em.

I have used very successfully bisquits and I last year got the Kreg system which I have been very happy with. The only system I have been very frustrated with is dove tails. I cut all of mine by hand and the PH just wants to break out something fierce.

I'll google the Hoffman and get back to you.

As for what is being emphasizing:

UW - Purple & Gold
UWs four columns of wisdom.
She was a Chi Omega and therefore a temple to the princess....

So John, Jana, would you think a 3/4" blk Gem-Line is more appropriate?

It's hard to get a feel for the size from the picture, I would be willing to bet Sam Marion would have gone for the #50 black, or was that 51, can't remember it's been so long. ( Sam was, or is, the founder of Gemline Frames.)

The Hoffmann is a dove tail joining system. It can use wood, plastic, or metal dovetail inserts. The wood ones are for decorative purposes only. The concept is similar to Thumbnails, except the machine is considerably more sophisticated and the inserts will not break. The corners line up perfectly and you can join things like 1/2" wide hardwoods or five inch deep oak shadowboxes, perfectly, every time.

The system is made for the cabinet trade, most frame shops think it is two expensive for them. The machine starts at around $1,000.00 and goes up to many thousands. They even have one that will saw your miters and rout the dovetails all in one pass.

After owning one, much like a CMC, I can not fathom running a custom framing shop without one.

Oh gosh John. You remember when Sam used to drive around to the shops with that '62 Cadillac Sedan de Ville? Back seat was out so he had a huge cavern of a trunk. Man, those were the halcyeon days.....

On the Hoffman, do the insert look like little "bow-ties"? I think of of the chop companies uses those. I'm thinking DJ's out of Boise.... I do like them better than thumbnails. But I like the Max better (Garrett). But with purple heart, I can't see any reason that they all but thumbnail won't work. (to brittle for thumbnail).

Thanks for the memories. I's forgotten Sam's last name.