Purple Douglas Fir?

I have been milling the lumber for the top of my workbench.  I blogged about it previously here, The Bench Blog Bench and here, The Workbench Build Begins.

I was running the boards over my jointer to clean and straighten one face.  As the rough-sawn material was removed, it uncovered this in one of the boards.

I found a bright purple area in one end of this board.

I found a bright purple area in one end of this board.

The photos don’t quite do it justice.  The purple is very bright.  It doesn’t run throughout the whole length of the board and is only present at one end.

Here's a better view of the purple area.

Here’s a better view of the purple area.

The purple is very bright.

The purple is very vivid.

The color is strongest nearest to the sap wood.  While is shows on the right edge of the board as seen below, it can’t be seen on the left edge.  The left edge will be on the top when I do the glue up, so it wont be visible in the bench (unless you crawl under it).

The color looks most vibrant closer to the sap wood.

The color looks most vibrant closer to the sap wood.

I’ve used a lot of Doug Fir previously, but I have never encountered this color before. Granted this is my first experience with custom milled lumber that I have dried myself. All the other Doug Fir that I have used has been kiln dried 2 X lumber.  I did a little searching online but couldn’t find any other similar images.

I think the purple is kind of cool looking.  It might be quite striking in the right project if the color distribution was a little more consistent.  However, this board is destined for my workbench top.

Have any of you ever seen this before?


About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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10 Responses to Purple Douglas Fir?

  1. Brian Anderson says:

    Interesting, probably a fungal infection. I got a load of “firewood” for free last summer because it had been sitting out in the woods too long. There was enough sound wood to make it worth the trouble, but amazing variety of different colors of fungus in some of the logs, white, orange, blue, day-glow purple… Could be that if your board had been kiln-dried, it would have just cooked the stuff brown. If you like the color and have enough extra wood, you could maybe cut the section off, wet it down and tie another board to the purple face and set it aside for a while outdoors somewhere. Maybe get enough of the pink wood to do a door panel or frame or something interesting.

    • Jonathan says:


      That’s interesting. I’d never thought about the kiln drying cooking the color to brown. You might be on to something there. Thanks for your input.


  2. Marcus Smith says:

    I’ve cut a lot of firewood for many years. I’ve come across this in several occasions. Usually only in very large close to 100+ year old Doug fir. I disagree with the fungi idea. I believe it has more to do with a particular nutrient in the soil. Only thing I can’t figure out is that it will skip year rings.have three or four rings with it in a row, then not for few, then back again. I know it turns an average wood into something quite beautiful though.

  3. Matthew says:

    I work in a saw mill quite large. When on Douglas fir we run about 100,000 board feet an hour. I run the trimmer and see the same purple wood show up maybe one time in two weeks of running. I also do not know what causes it but it is definitely not a common thing. I’m going to have to do some more asking around, some one there should know.

    • Jonathan says:


      Sorry for the extremely delayed response. I haven’t checked in on my site for quite some time. I really must get back to it.

      100,000 board feet an hour? That’s incredible. Thanks for sharing your observation about how rarely you see the purple in the wood. That must mean that you see it only once in every 4-5 million board feet. Amazing. If you find out anything else, I’d love to hear it. I promise I won’t take so long to respond next time. 🙂

      All the best,


  4. Franm says:

    A friend just had some firewood in the round dropped off and one of the rounds was almost completely purple from wall to wall. I have three chunks right now that are 4x4x16 long and a beautiful purple.

    I’m making some pen blanks.

  5. Chris says:

    hey guys, I ran into this a couple years ago. I was milling doug fir 5x14s down and about 6 of them had a lot of this same purple discolouration. I made a large reception desk and an exterior sign for a local clinic using it… and within 2 weeks all the purple had completely faded. Now they just look like normal fir. I talked with the old guy at the mill we buy from and he said the same thing- he made a jewelry box and after sitting in a drawer for weeks, when he pulled it out all the purple was gone.
    Did you guys experience this? It was pretty crushing to watch the wood go from that day glo purple back to yellow

  6. nick says:

    Work at a mill, lumber grader. was told purple color is early stage of decay (fungal), a bright green color not commonly seen in doug fir is similar deal. Only seen when harvesting logs in certain regions so it may be soil/fungal dependent as the two are linked.

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