Wood of the Week – Genuine Mahogany

What Is Genuine Mahogany?

True Mahogany is a hardwood that was once thought to be a type of Cedar. It includes three species within the genus Swietenia and is native to North, Central, and South America. These trees can easily grow to 130 feet tall and can be up to 5 feet in diameter.

All three species of the Swietenia genus are now protected in their native locations. However, two of these species – mahagoni and macrophylla – were introduced in Asia around the time these restrictions were put in place and are now successfully grown, harvested, and exported from plantations within several Asian countries.

Genuine Mahogany has a straight to interlocked grain with a medium to coarse texture. Its endgrain is Diffuse-porous and has very large pores, although very few. Its heartwood ranges from pale pink to deep red-brown in color and sometimes has dark brown streaks. The heartwood is distinct from the yellow to white-ish sapwood and displays some ribboning when quartersawn.

Why Choose Mahogany?

Not surprisingly, Mahogany is prized for its beauty, durability, color, and character. It is naturally resistant and can withstand literally hundreds of years of use as a dining room table, yet is classy enough to be the choice material for accent pieces in luxury cars. 

Due to its close, straight grain, true Mahogany is very stable. When properly dried, a Mahogany timber will resist warping and twisting for many years. One of the more obvious reasons to choose Mahogany is its color and beauty.

Genuine Mahogany typically has a reddish-brown color that is commonly seen in furniture. Though it has a relatively high density, it is considered one of the softer hardwoods and its more flexible quality allows it to bend and give without splintering like other hardwoods.

Mahogany in Woodworking

Genuine Mahogany is relatively easy to work with machines and hand tools, but can sometimes tearout if the grain is interlocked. It sands well, takes glue well, and finishes excellently. Because it is so stable, genuine Mahogany joints and glues up well and will remain intact many years later. In areas where seasonal changes are great, it displays minimal shrinkage and swelling. Because mahogany trees get so large, they yield large size lumber with minimal defects and knots. It has been used in custom paneling, wood furniture, boats, and in automobiles.

Cuban Mahogany, one of the three “genuine” Mahogany species, was banned from export by Cuba in 1946 and has also been scarce in supply from other Caribbean sources as well. Though Cuban Mahogany is indeed a Genuine Mahogany, its close relative – also one of the three species in the “genuine” category – Honduran Mahogany is almost exclusively called “Genuine” Mahogany nowadays.

cuban mahogany wood grain closeup

Genuine Mahogany is much regulated and very hard to come by, so we will probably never get the opportunity to work with it!

Contact us to pick the ideal wood and finish for your next custom piece of furniture. The D.P. Juza team is ready to help!