How To Make Purpleheart Very Purple

Oxidation purpleheart


The coloring comes variety of organic compounds called conjugated dienes, that reflect visible light in both the high and low end range of the visible spectrum (from 400-700nm). Some of which have solubility in polar protic compounds like water, others of which are only soluble in organic solvents.

That’s where the magic of acetone comes in. It is highly polar, but it is non-protic, therefore it dissolves them all. And by dissolving them, they work their way to the surface and bring all of their bright beautiful purple color with them.

The ultraviolet rays from the sun then do their part and kick off the first oxidation reaction to finalize the effect.

But don’t store your piece in the sun. Further oxidation will result in chemical changes leading to brown. And nobody wants brown Purpleheart.

Follow these steps for best results:

1) finish sand your piece.
2) wet with acetone thoroughly
3) set piece in full bright sun
4) flip piece every 30 min.
5) re-wet with acetone each time you flip
6) repeat cycle for 3-4 hours.
7) let piece rest indoors for an additional day or more before finishing. (Oxidation is continuing)
8. seal thoroughly with top coat of choice. (Mine is lacquer) about 4 coats
9) put UV protectant over that (ie spar urethane, to keep your purple color. (Stops further oxidation)

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  • James on

    I’m trying this out, in full sun, but not getting much purpler. I’ll let it sit for a day as recommended. Does anything work as well as acetone?

  • Homerlex on

    Can spar urethane be put over any type of lacquer (oil based, water based)?

  • Keith on

    Maybe try a UV bulb from the Hardware store? Just a thought. Being in Michigan, now Winter, sunlight can be sparse too. I’ll be trying this out tomorrow…

  • Bruce McIntosh on

    Hmmm… acetone, huh? That presents a problem, since I’m using the purpleheart for solidbody electric guitar tops, and acetone will eat the binding. :D

  • Bill Kibby on

    Interesting idea James, will definitely try this out. Your steps above are all good for me except #3 where you leave it in full bright what? Sun? Being from Seattle I barely know what that is :) During the winter time it can literally be weeks between patches of blue sky. Because of this I created what I refer to as Frankenpurple ( ) which uses the better part of a roll of UV LEDs to augment purpleization.

    Thanks too for the tip on spar urethane to halt the oxidation, I’m a lacquer lover as well but sadly it doesn’t offer much in UV resistance.

    Good information, thanks again!
    - Bill

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