Mahogany is a hardwood timber known for its beautiful appearance and unmatched strength, making it suitable for many applications, ranging from furniture making to outdoor construction.
Are you looking to learn more about Mahogany wood, its types, properties and possible uses? Then, you’re at the right place.
Mahogany is one of the commercially-important and very popular woods and it is more expensive than many hardwoods and softwoods because of its unparalleled properties. Mahogany has multiple types, and many unrelated wood species are also sometimes sold as mahogany because of their similar appearance and/or physical properties.
If you’re planning to use mahogany in your next project, here’s everything you need to know about mahogany wood properties, types, and uses.
About Mahogany Wood
Mahogany wood or timber is obtained from trees in the Swietenia genus, which mainly has three species: Honduran or big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), West Indian or Cuban mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni), and Swietenia humilis.
Mahogany is a reddish-brown tropical hardwood timber that is native to the USA but also found in plantations across countries in Asia and Oceania.
Mahogany is considered one of the most valuable natural woods on the planet and it is the gold standard for use in furniture, panelling, musical instruments, and outdoor applications such as boatbuilding.
While Peru is the largest exporter of mahogany, the US is the biggest importer.
Among other things, mahogany is known for its incredible looks, straight and fine grain, and high durability. However, it has been very difficult to find sustainable mahogany lately due to concerns about over-harvesting and environmental impacts.
Mahogany Wood Properties
Its stunning appearance is among the top reasons why so many people and woodworkers love mahogany. It is a reddish-brown wood that becomes darker with age. Mahogany looks good in its natural appearance and also takes stains and paints very well. It has a straight, but sometimes irregular grain and fine texture. Mahogany is also famous for its unique optical phenomenon called “chatoyancy.”
Mahogany is resistant to water and rot, which makes it suitable for outdoor and marine applications. It requires low maintenance. Mahogany is also resistant to termites but can be attacked by insects.
Mahogany has amazing dimensional stability, as it doesn’t change its dimensions over time and is very stable even under extreme weather conditions.
Mahogany is generally very easy to work with. It is a moderately dense wood that cuts easily and is also easy to carve into. It is easy to nail, drill, screw, paint and stain.
Mahogany wood availability & price
Solid mahogany wood logs and timber are exported and sold worldwide, however, they are quite rare these days and can be very expensive. Honduran mahogany is most commonly available as lumber or veneer and generally comes from plantations. It is more expensive than African mahogany and many common hardwoods. Figured pieces and finished mahogany timber are even more expensive.
Types of Mahogany Wood
There are only three true species of mahogany, all of which come from trees in the Swietenia genus (family). These are big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), West Indian or Cuban mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni/mahogani), and Mexican mahogany (Swietenia humilis).
However, there are multiple other woods and trees that are labelled as types of mahogany. Examples include African mahogany, Santos mahogany, mountain mahogany, swamp mahogany, and Philippine mahogany.
1. Swietenia macrophylla
Big-leaf mahogany, also known by many other names including Honduran mahogany, genuine mahogany, Brazilian mahogany, and American mahogany, is the most common and popular type of mahogany hardwood.
Honduran mahogany is almost similar to Cuban mahogany in terms of properties and appearance, though the colour is slightly lighter compared to Cuban mahogany, which is dark brown-red. Due to its high demand and limited availability, forest-grown wood is rarely seen these days. Most of the Honduran mahogany available in the market comes from plantations in the Americas.
Distribution: tropical hardwood trees found in Southern America, Mexico, and Central South America and also grown on plantations
Tree size: 150-200 ft (46-60 m) tall and 3-6 ft (1-2 m) trunk diameter
Average dried weight: 590 kg/m3
Janka hardness: 900 lbf
Appearance: from a pale pinkish brown to a darker reddish brown
Durability: moderately durable to very durable; resistant to termites
Workability: very easy to work; very stable
Pricing: available in lumber or veneer form at mid-range prices
Uses: Furniture, veneer, flooring, musical instruments, decoration items, boatbuilding, and doors
2. Swietenia mahagoni/mahogani
West Indian mahogany or Cuban mahogany is the original mahogany. It has been in use for many centuries. However, during the past couple of centuries, its population has reduced drastically, mainly due to over-harvesting and wastage. Considered exceptional lumber, this mahogany wood is banned for export from Cuba, where it originally grows. It is also found in the Caribbean but in limited quantity. Due to its rare availability these days, its closest alternative, Honduran Mahogany, is now almost exclusively treated as the only genuine mahogany. The only available supply of small boards and pieces of Cuban mahogany comes from plantations in the United States.
Distribution: Southern Florida and the Caribbean countries of Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas
Tree size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1.0-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average dried weight: 600 kg/m3
Janka hardness: 930 lbf
Appearance: dark reddish brown
Durability: moderately durable to very durable; resistant to termites
Workability: very easy to work
Pricing: Not commercially available; very expensive
Uses: Furniture, veneer, flooring, musical instruments, cabinetry, turned objects, boatbuilding, and carving
3. Swietenia humilis
Commonly known as Mexican mahogany, this species of genuine mahogany is less known and used. This is because Mexican mahogany trees are quite small and produce lumber that is undersized and of poor quality in terms of strength. It also has irregular grain and there are knots present all over its surface. However, the basic properties and appearance are similar to other genuine mahogany species. It is less popular because the timber produced is usually very small for any practical use.
Other species being sold with the name “mahogany” are not genuine mahogany species. Based on similarities, here are some other popular types of mahogany (but not related to true mahogany):
4. African Mahogany
African mahogany, commonly known as khaya, is found in tropical Africa. It looks similar to mahogany and has a reddish-brown heartwood with darker streaks. It is moderately durable but has poor resistance to insects. Common uses of khaya wood include furniture, boatbuilding, plywood, veneer, interior trim, and turned objects.
5. Mountain Mahogany
This wood species is found in the Western United States and northern Mexico. It is an extremely hard wood (3,200 lbf Janka rating) and has a reddish brown heartwood with a fine texture. It is most commonly used for firewood and also sometimes for making turned objects.
6. Santos Mahogany
Native to Southern Mexico and Central and South America, Cabreuva or Santos mahogany is strong and extremely dense. It has brownish-red or purplish heartwood with interlocked grain. It is resistant to decay but not easy to work with. It is commonly used for furniture, flooring, and construction.
Uses of Mahogany Wood
Mahogany is a wonderful timber in terms of appearance and physical properties. It is strong, durable and easy to work with. It is used in many commercial applications, from the construction of furniture, cabinets and floors to boatbuilding, veneering, and making musical instruments such as guitars and violins.
Mahogany is used in many applications, but it’s an absolute favourite of furniture makers, who use it to build premium-quality, highly durable and valuable furniture items. Mahogany is used in all kinds of furniture, including bed frames, sofas, chairs and tables, cabinets, and more.
Mahogany is a strong and dense wood, which is why it is also used for making plies or veneers for the construction of highly durable and strong plywood. The plywood made from mahogany veneers is almost as good as solid wood. It is strong, good-looking, and flexible. Mahogany veneers are also used to enhance the appearance of other wood species.
Some experts believe that certain types of mahogany wood are well-suited for flooring, thanks to their durability and aesthetic appeal. It is a strong, durable and stable wood that doesn’t catch dents and scratches easily and is also prone to expanding or shrinking too much due to changes in weather. It is also water-resistant and easy to maintain.
Mahogany wood properties, such as its inherent resistance to moisture and exceptional weathering capabilities, make it an ideal material for marine applications like boatbuilding and ship-making. Mahogany is also resistant to termites and it is also a very stable wood that doesn’t shrink or expand a lot even when in contact with water.
Mahogany is a tonewood that makes it one of the best woods for making musical instruments, especially guitars. It is used for making the necks and bodies of a variety of musical devices.
Where to Buy Mahogany Wood?
Genuine mahogany (Honduran mahogany) is not easily available at all locations. Also, there are many fakes or duplicate mahogany woods in the market, you must always buy your wood from a reputable wood supplier like the White Knight Consulting Ltd.
We deal in sustainable wood species and can export the best quality, genuine mahogany timber to your address anywhere in the world. Contact us to know more.