If you’re anything like the average person, then you probably aren’t an expert on woods. Chances are, you were under the impression that Mahogany was Mahogany and that any differences were disparities in name alone. This common assumption is actually incorrect. There are a number of different types of Mahogany, including, among others Genuine, Honduran, Santos, Cuban, African, Phillipine, and Brazilian.
The majority of Mahoganies’ prefixes simply detail the region from which they were harvested. Brazilian Mahogany, for example, is harvested in Brazil, Cuban Mahogany is harvested in Cuba, and both types have numerous differences in characteristics. But what about Genuine Mahogany? Where does that name come from?
Genuine Mahogany’s name originated in the 18th century, when Mahogany first garnered popularity in the United States. During this time period, when the international trade market was expanding rapidly, new variations on domestic raw materials were being imported from distant countries. One of these materials was Mahogany, imported from South American tropics. This was the most common type of Mahogany used in the United States, and it was highly coveted by furniture makers because of its durability, workability, and aesthetic appeal. The Mahogany lumber imported from South American countries was – and still is – considered the finest Mahogany available in the world, which contributed to its being designated “Genuine Mahogany.”
African Mahogany, on the other hand, is not as highly prized as Genuine Mahogany, but it is a very viable substitute. The rise in demand for Genuine Mahogany was matched only by the rise in price. As a result of Genuine Mahogany’s hefty cost, the industry searched far and wide for alternatives that could be marketed as Mahogany at a lesser price. Some of these species are Mahoganies in truth, while others are only related to Genuine Mahogany in terms of appearance. The most popular of these many substitutes was African Mahogany.
African Mahogany actually does come from the same family as Genuine Mahogany, but there are some important differences in the characteristics of the two woods. For example, African Mahogany is much pinker in color than the Genuine variety. Also, African Mahogany’s interlocking grain pattern, combined with its increased level of hardness, often results in difficulty during machining processes. This is a far cry from Genuine Mahogany’s prized workability. African Mahogany also splinters more easily, meaning the wood requires a large amount of sanding in order to finish properly.
This is not to say that African Mahogany is not a good alternative to Genuine Mahogany. It is important to realize, however, that the differences in price between the two woods also result in some differences in qualities. There are some pieces of African Mahogany lumber with better aesthetics and workability than others, but, in order to secure them, you must locate the right high quality supplier.
J. Gibson McIlvain is proud to say that we are this supplier. We supply both Genuine Mahogany and the best African Mahogany available, and our representatives travel to forests all over the world to ensure that every lumber mill, every tree, and every piece of wood meet our strict standards. Every single board is inspected no less than three times- at least once during every major step of processing- before being passed on to the consumer, so we are confident in our quality products. We pride ourselves in providing customers with the world’s finest lumber. For more information about Mahogany and other species of wood from J. Gibson McIlvain, visit us as www.mcilvain.com.
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