Wood Profile: Redheart

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Wood Profile: Redheart

Don’t let its density deter you from falling in love with this tropical hardwood

By Staff of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts

Redheart can refer to a number of wood species that boast a similar deep red color. The most common variety called redheart is also known as “chakte kok,” and grows from Mexico to as far south as Brazil and Paraguay. Its actual color can vary from a bright watermelon red to pink to a dark brownish-red. Like most tropical hardwoods, redheart can be dense and difficult to cut. But its rich, natural color makes it worth the effort. After learning about redheart, try incorporating the exotic wood into our heart-shaped boxes project.


Redheart cuts and finishes similarly to the other ‘hearts’: yellowheart and purpleheart. It is the softest of them at 1,210 on the Janka hardness scale, which measures wood’s resistance to dents and wear—whereas yellowheart comes in at 1,790 and purpleheart comes in at 2,520. Redheart is actually comparable to white oak in hardness (1,360 on the Janka scale). 

Like black cherry, another popular red wood, redheart scorches easily when cut, so you need to use caution. I always apply tape when cutting either of these woods. Manufacturers apply a light lubricant to the back of the tape to keep it from sticking to itself; this greases the blade and helps to prevent burning. Some folks like clear packaging tape, but I prefer blue painter’s tape for easy removal. As redheart can be a bit splintery, applying tape will reduce the splinters and make it easier to remove your pattern after cutting. 

Selecting the right blade is also important when working with redheart. Choose an aggressive blade with deep gullets (the spaces between the teeth); a skip-tooth or premium blade is ideal. The right teeth will help clear the sawdust and reduce burning. Use the largest blade you can and change blades often. If the wood does scorch, I suggest hand-sanding the darkened spots; once you warm up an area, the friction from power sanding (unless you’re using a coarse grit) will continue to darken the area. 



Redheart sands well. Unlike some of the oilier tropical hardwoods, you don’t need to pretreat it before gluing or applying a finish. Unfortunately, as with purpleheart, the vivid color fades to a reddish-brown when exposed to sunlight; a finish with UV inhibitors, such as spar varnish, will slow—but not stop—this color change. I suggest keeping it away from strong light as much as possible. 


At a Glance

If you want to branch out and try a new species of wood, consider redheart. Its vibrant, natural color is worth the additional effort it takes to cut. If you equip yourself with the proper saw blade and finish, you may well find yourself working with this eye-catching wood more often.


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