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Project Information

I would post many of my frames on Lumberjocks but I often give them away. In the case of this frame it houses a diploma I recieved so I decided to keep it. I'll start by saying that Purpleheart is some very cantankerous wood. It don't like machines, sandpaper, glue or some finishes. I would recommend wearing a dust mask when working with it and I can vouch that splinters are painful. With a little perseverance I was able to make this nice frame as evidenced above. I went to a local hardwood dealer and picked a hunk of Purpleheart, it looked like it might make an elegant frame. The guy at the hardwood store warned me about this wood - now I'm glad I took his advice. He mentioned it might want to stray on me. I remember thinking to myself, "what the hell is it going to do grow legs and run away". Anyway I brought it home to acclimate to my Uncles gararge for three weeks like he said to do. After checking that it had not checked, warped or twisted I cut it near to the finished size I needed. I took some more of this old man's advice and cut some of it off and tried different glue and finishes on it BEFORE final machining. A Forrest blade didn't seem to have too much trouble going through this tough Equatorial wood, but I remembered what the old man said and compared the forrest blade to Oak and the Purpleheart. He was right; the Oak cut like butter up against this stuff! So I found out that gorilla glue worked the best when the end of the wood was slightly moistened. I never used biscuits in the corners of this frame and 7 years later it still is together. (Better get your joints tight if you try this type of foolhardiness! Hey, I was learning…) In the meantime I was trying different finish combinations. I finally went with one coat of linseed oil and several coats of Watco satin wax. I wet sanded the coats down to about 2000 grit after starting with 600 grit wet or dry. I didn't want to ruin the color of the wood. But not before some serious scraping, it didn't seem to like sandpaper. Meanwhile while I'm waiting for the machined pieces to acclimate, grow legs or do something weird my Uncle is on my back, "What are you going to do with this damn wood"! I told him what the old guy said and he Replies, " I don't care, and if I get one more splinter from this stuff I'm putting on some gloves and giving it to Mike next door to burn in his fireplace". As I gathered up my demonic wood to put in the corner of the garage I reminded him that, "The old man says it's toxic and it doesn't like electricians or School maintenance men". I left before I got 86'd from the shop. The rest is easy, I came back the next week and routed the profiles. The week after I spent the weekend scraping with broken glass. I did do some light sanding but as mentioned before it don't like sandpaper. The piece I selected had a couple of spots where it seemed to get furry when the grain changed direction. The more I sanded the more it grew hair. I tried to plane it off but the blade just dug in. Hence the reason I remembered the old violin maker from my Dad's glass shop and decided scraping was the answer! Did I mention it ate up a brand new Dewalt router bit? My uncle was ready to dismiss me until he found out it was one of mine! Between routing and sanding I cut the glass and cut the mat for the frame. You should wait to do this after the frame is done, but I was under some pressure. My Dad came down the next week and asked what I was doing and my uncle tells him sarcastically, "He's making a Purpleheart frame". My dad asked what the hell is that? And then we got into the Oak is the king of all woods debate and why can't I be like everyone else jabs! In September of 2007 my Dad called me wanting to know what kind of wood that was I used on this frame. He wanted to make tortilla presses for his new wife and their family. I conned him into premium walnut I spotted at the hardwood store. We finished the presses before Christmas, my Dad died on Valentine's day 2007. Guess who came home a couple of weeks ago with some really nice purpleheart, good 'ol Uncle Tim. Anyway I finished the frame as described above and the moral of this story is… No matter how hard the wood, or the circumstances surrounding it, YOU CAN DO IT! Don't ever shun the advice of those who know, but never ever let anyone tell you can't do it, because the truth is you can! You may inspire somebody to think outside the box over a simple picture frame. That old guy is still down at the hardwood store in your area, selling wood and giving advice. He's been waiting for you…

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Nice story, and nice looking frame.
 

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Thanks Forkboy, It's the hardest wood I've worked with yet! I am looking at it now and it is still as smooth as a baby's bottom. If you don't mind me askin', how'd you get the name forkboy?
 

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Don't mind at all. Its a song by the band Lard. Been using this "handle" for years.

 

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Great story. I really like the purpleheart frame. You did a good job on the profile and mitering. I tend to view framing pictures simply as an extension of woodworking. All the same elements are present. Obviously the frame itself involving working with wood but the other elements- matting, foamboard etc.- involve simply cutting and fitting materials into a specific dimension.

Nice job. I have never worked with purpleheart but may have to give it try for some framing that I have been assigned (along with a growing lists of other things that she wants me to do).
 

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That's quite a story for one frame! I'm not so sure I want to fool with purpleheart after reading all that.
 

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Really its not that bad. I just wrote it how I remembered it and I am troubled with the 1 year anniversary of my Dad's death coming up soon. You can do it Charlie, the old man at the hard wood store is waiting for you. He's been saving a special piece of Purpleheart just for you!
 
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