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magnificent adult Peltogyne purpurea tree (photo by Reinaldo Aguilar)

magnificent adult Peltogyne purpurea tree (photo by Reinaldo Aguilar)

Imagine a huge tropical tree with a heart of deep purple. OK—you don’t have to imagine it. Such trees exist: they are the Peltogyne genus of flowering trees. The Peltogyne are native to Central and South America. They are part of the larger Fabaceae family–the bean family–a vast family of plants which are extremely important to humankind. The beans and legumes make up subsistence food for much of the world’s population and are instantly familiar…but it is hard to see the family resemblance between a little bean runner and a purpleheart tree. The latter grows to heights of up to 30–50m (120–150 ft) tall and can have trunk diameters of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet). Only in the pod-like seed is there a ready family resemblance (at least to laypeople like me).

Agerminating purpleheart bean...er seed (Reinaldo Aguilar)

Agerminating purpleheart bean…er seed (Reinaldo Aguilar)

Purpleheart is one of the hardest and stiffest woods in the world. The heartwood cures into a rich purple hue of great beauty. The trees are coveted by woodworkers (even though craftsmen need razor sharp implements of hardened steel or carborundum to work the obdurate wood). As you can imagine this has put great pressure on the wild trees and some species are now endangered.

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Here are some pieces made from purpleheart wood. The wood is ideal for bows, gears, gun handles, tools, and any other application which requires hard wood which does not deteriorate, however because of its rarity and prohibitive price it is generally only seen in small accents and art pieces. If you are lucky enough to have an item made of purpleheart you should treat it carefully. Exposure to ultraviolet light causes the purple to deepen to an opaque medium brown (although it is still pretty and just as hard).

Purpleheart recurve bow (by bowyer for "Lumberjocks")

Purpleheart recurve bow (by bowyer for “Lumberjocks”)

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It has been a long time since I blogged about anything gothic! I was going to make up for this by writing about some high gothic ladies’ fashion from the era of darted hoods, three-foot-long sleeves and wimples. Unfortunately when I looked up “gothic ladies” on Google image search all sorts of crazy pictures came up. The things which I have seen have left me baffled, scared, and riled up. I am abandoning gothic ladies fashion until some indeterminate point in the ambiguous future and seeking something safer. Chastened, I present you with a small gallery of gothic benches and church pews.

Carved American Gothic style oak bench circa 1910

Carved American Gothic style oak bench circa 1910

Medieval-style pine bench

Medieval-style pine bench

French Gothic Church Bench Solid Oak Turn of the Century

French Gothic Church Bench Solid Oak Turn of the Century

Gothic Settle

Gothic Settle

Antique French Gothic Hall Bench

Antique French Gothic Hall Bench

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

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