Purple heart wood is a wood taken from one of the 23 species of Peltogyne flowering plants. As the name suggests, what is known as purple heart wood is an actual heartwood that, when cut, turns a rich violet shade of purple. Traditionally used in furniture, cabinetry, and woodturning, the allure of purple heart wood lies with its unique range of colors and high density, both of which can be negatively affected by the application of certain kinds of paint and finish. In order to properly paint purple heart wood furniture, certain considerations must be made before treatment.
Step 1 - Choose Coloration
The first step is to decide what color you would like your purple heart wood to take. The color of purple heart wood can go anywhere from a bright, almost pink-ish purple to a purple-tinted brown to a deep purple that is almost black at first glance, The color your wood will take is dependent on several factors; how old the wood is, how much exposure to sunlight the wood has had and how oxidized the wood has become.
The first factor is largely out of your hands unless you're extremely lucky, but the other two can be influenced. To test the coloration of your wood, simply use the wood shaver to take a small amount of shavings of the wood. Place these shavings in sunlight and record how long it takes to get the color you desire. Then, leave the rest of the wood out for just a little less than that long. The next few steps will darken the wood, so if you leave it for the same amount of time, it will become too dark.
Step 2 - Oil it Up
Most oil finishes will enhance the finish of the wood, but the best one for the purposes of bringing out the rich, vibrant colors of purple heart wood is tung oil. In order to use this on your wood, simply apply generously to the wood with a thick coat and leave it to stand for 15-20 minutes. After this, wipe off the excess oil using a cloth, leaving only a thin layer of oil on the surface of the wood. Leave this to cure overnight. The next day, take the steel wool and rub out the surface, removing any dust nibs or bleed back.
Step 3 - Lacquer in The Color
Once the oil is applied, the color should have darkened to become very close to the shade you wanted. If the color is drastically too light or dark, you can sand off the darker layer and repeat the previous steps to get closer to your desired color. Once you have reached the color you're looking for, take the nitrocellulose lacquer and apply it across the wood. This will have the effect of "locking" the color into the wood, preventing it from changing due to UV exposure or oxidation, keeping your purple heart wood the color you wanted.