Other Names and Species:
North-middle part of the Brazilian Amazon region of South America, as well as in tropical regions of Central America.
The off-white or lighter cream colour of the sapwood of purpleheart contrasts sharply with the heartwood, which is brown when freshly cut, changing to a deep, vibrant purple or purplish brown over time. The texture of this wood is medium to fine, with a medium-to-high lustre and a grain that is usually straight, or sometimes wavy or irregular.
Purpleheart is a very hard, dense, strong wood, with excellent dimensional stability. It is very resistant to dry-wood termites.
Its hardness is 1860. As a flooring option, purpleheart is one of the harder wood species. It is nearly identical in hardness to pecan or hickory (just over two per cent), is roughly thirty-six per cent harder than white oak, about fourteen per cent harder than wenge, and approaches eighty-four per cent of santos mahogany's ranking of 2200.
Frequent sharpening of tools may be required when working this wood, due to its hardness. The wood may exude a gummy resin when heated by friction with dull tools. Carbide tooling and a slow feed rate are recommended. It sands satisfactorily and takes finishes well. Water-based finishes tend to hold colour better.
Purpleheart is prized for its uniquely vivid purple colour, and so it is used in many speciality items, such as billiard cue butts and decorative carving. As a flooring material, the wood makes for very dramatic edgings, inlays, and accents. It is also used widely in parquet, fine furniture and cabinet work, marquetry, tool handles, diving boards, and shipbuilding. Because of its acid-resistance, it is also used in making chemical vats.