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How To Make Purpleheart Very Purple

How To Make Purpleheart Very Purple


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)

How To Make Purpleheart Very Purple

How To Make Purpleheart Very Purple

Comments (21)

A BIG ‘’THANK YOU’’ for this great solution to the problem. For a jewelry box, I brushed on the acetone and then applied the heat from a blow dryer. Repeated the process and wow, what a great solution to speeding up the purple-up process. At least the first application of acetone and heat altered the brown more towards purple. However, it still takes time to fully develop that deep purple that I have with aged purpleheart.

Warren Gacsi

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First, thank you for the very informative article.
I have already assembled my cutting board with PH and have final-sanded it. Will the acetone have any adverse effects on my adjoining woods (maple and cherry)?
I doubt that masking would prevent the acetone from seeping under the tape.
Thanks for any advice


I tried this and it only make the piece marginally more purple, but more importantly, it was a thin piece and the process caused it to warp horribly into an useable form. Luckily it was a defective test piece. Nothing seems to warp it back.

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Can I use this method to get great color and then finish with Butcher Block to use as a cutting board

Cherri Marks

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what kine of acetone do you use on the wood

julieanne donnelly

What strength of acetone do u use? What one would u recommend?

Julieann Donnelly

Good information


Very informative


Very useful advice but no one mentioned solid wood flooring.
I used a yacht varnish on a wood handrail outside, about 4 to 5 coats thinking it would last a long time, 2 years later had to redo all again. Sanded down the wood but I’m wondering if I should use an under coat ?, any suggestions.

James Schofield

I’m wondering if this process will work for pink ivory as well?


If I am correct, wood naturally changes color as it ages, faster in the sun than not.
So, does this process eliminate the ageing process or slow it down? Does this process also work with Cherry and other species?

Neil Renney

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?


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


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…


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

Bruce McIntosh

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

Bill Kibby

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