Honduran Mahogany

> Hardwoods > Meliaceae > Swietenia > macrophylla
Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)

Common Name(s): Honduran mahogany, genuine mahogany, big-leaf mahogany, Brazilian mahogany, American mahogany

Scientific Name: Swietenia macrophylla

Distribution: From Southern Mexico to central South America; also commonly grown on plantations

Tree Size: 150-200 ft (46-60 m) tall,

                     3-6 ft (1-2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 36.8 lbs/ft3 (590 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.52, 0.59

Janka Hardness: 900 lbf (4,020 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 11,710 lbf/in2 (80.8 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,458,000 lbf/in2 (10.06 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,760 lbf/in2 (46.6 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 2.9%, Tangential: 4.3%,

                          Volumetric: 7.5%, T/R Ratio: 1.5

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color can vary a fair amount, from a pale pinkish brown to a darker reddish brown. Color tends to darken with age. Mahogany also exhibits an optical phenomenon known as chatoyancy.

Grain/Texture: Grain can be straight, interlocked, irregular or wavy. Texture is medium and uniform, with moderate natural luster.

Rot Resistance: Varies from moderately durable to very durable depending on density and growing conditions of the tree. (Older, wild-grown trees tend to produce darker, heavier, and more durable lumber, while plantation-grown stock can be lighter in weight, paler in color, and slightly less rot resistant.) Heartwood is generally resistant to termites, but vulnerable to other insects.

Workability: Typically very easy to work with both hand and machine tools. (With exception to sections with figured or irregular grain, which can tearout or chip during machining.) Slight dulling of cutters can occur. Sands very easily. Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Honduran mahogany has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin and respiratory irritation, as well as less common effects, such as boils, asthma-like symptoms, nausea, giddiness, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Despite export restrictions, Honduran mahogany continues to be available in lumber or veneer form, ideally from plantations. (Though because of CITES restrictions, most US-based retailers are unable to ship the wood internationally.) Prices are in the mid range for an imported hardwood, though the wood tends to be more expensive than African mahogany (Khaya spp.). Figured or quartersawn lumber is also more expensive.

Sustainability: This wood species is in CITES Appendix II, and is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, veneer, musical instruments, boatbuilding, and carving.

Comments: Swietenia macrophylla goes by many common names, yet perhaps its most exclusive name is “genuine mahogany”—a name meant to distinguish it not only from unrelated Asian species (such as those in the Shorea genus that are sometimes called Philippine mahogany), but also the more closely-related Khaya species from Africa. These levels of distinctions are explored in more detail in the article Mahogany Mixups.

Honduran mahogany’s easy workability, combined with its beauty and phenomenal stability have made this lumber an enduring favorite. It’s an incredibly important commercial timber in Latin America, where it’s now grown extensively on plantations.

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. The second sample pictured below is a quartersawn sample of hybrid mahogany—a cross between Honduran and Cuban mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla x mahogani). A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of Honduran mahogany, as well as Thrity Vakil for donating the wood sample of hybrid mahogany.

Honduran mahogany (turned)
Honduran mahogany (psaltery)

Identification: See the article on Hardwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

Honduran mahogany (endgrain 10x)
Honduran mahogany (endgrain 1x)

Porosity: diffuse porous

Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples

Vessels: large, few; brown deposits occasionally present

Parenchyma: vasicentric, banded (marginal)

Rays: medium width; normal spacing

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Khaya species (known commercially as African mahogany) are the closest in both apperance and anatomy. Swietenina species usually have marginal parenchyma bands, while Khaya species typically lack such bands. See the article Mahogany Mixups for more info.

Notes: Ripple marks present on flatsawn surfaces.

> Hardwoods > Meliaceae > Swietenia > Related Species

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Brian Chapman

Hopefully these are better

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Brian Chapman

Thank you! Sorry it took so many pics. I appreciate you helping me on this

Brian Chapman

Here are a couple more one board is much darker red

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Brian Chapman

I recently inherited my grandfathers home and going through his stacks of lumber I came across a bunch of 8/4 mahogany from Honduras. This would had been on racks for as long back as I can remember and if I had to guess age I would say 1950-60’s. My question is do you believe this is genuine mahogany?

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Alexandros

Hello, I stumbled upon some planks of 70 years old mahogany and would be very appreciative if you could verify for me that this wood is honduran mahogany as i suspect, and would make an excellent acoustic guitar. The wood is a lot darker than the pictures i see but it is also very old and in the article it is supposed to get darker and redder with age. In phot no 1 the wood is wet. Thanks in advance.

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Lisa

I would so appreciate if you could tell me about this wood. It’s a solid piece on top of a dresser I got for a song at the thrift store. It was broken, neglected, grungy. I cleaned it up and sanded the top, just in case… I didn’t recognize the wood grain at all, being a New England girl. But then I found your site and eureka! I think it’s good mahogany, flat-sawn if I understand your info. I’d love your expert take on it! Many thanks for this helpful site. These are 1- the raw wood, 2- after I’ve… Read more »

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Lisa

Thanks so much. Here’s the photo of the end. As you say, it’s the finished top of this antique dresser, so I hope it helps. Someone in an online group today “yelled” at me, saying it’s an Eastlake piece and made of walnut. I just don’t know enough to know! :) Thanks for your help, and for not yelling at people haha.

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Tom

Great site, much appreciated! I still can’t decide if an old table I’ve sawn into planks is Cuban or Honduran Mahogany, but at least with your help I got it down to a choice between those two :-)

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Gilberto

Hi, congratulations for the work you have done with the site and with the videos, I am getting closer to the world of wood. Can you help me by telling me if this is a genuine mahogany,comment image [/ img] [/ url]
thank you
regards
Gilberto

George Grabrick

I realize this is an old article, but I was wondering if someone can confirm this wood for me. At first I was under the impression it was walnut, but a friend of mine assured me it was not. After looking into it more, I think it might just be mahogany as he was suggesting. Here is the best macro of the end grain I could get, sorry the focus is off a little.

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George Grabrick

When you mentioned the color, I checked the color balance on my camera and it had been set wrong for the lighting I was working with. I corrected the setting, and retaken the image, along with a face grain shot. I do see what you are saying about the pore arrangement. Just for some background on where I got this piece of wood. I was dropping some junk off at a county landfill and noticed some wood that looked about the size for panel inserts for raised panel doors. I picked up some maple, cherry, and this piece that I… Read more »

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George Grabrick

Ok, so looking for more characteristics to help with the ID…I did a calculation on a sample piece and it comes out to roughly 55 lbs/ft3. That appears to be too dense for mahogany. Using that to filter the woods you have listed, it seems to look similar to black mesquite.

One final picture. This is the backside of a cribbage board I made from this wood. For color reference, it has a cherry slide and is sitting on a piece of maple. The cherry and the board have had a clear wipe on poly applied as a finish.

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George Grabrick

Yes, the most recent photo I provided was from the same original piece as the earlier photos. So, for lack of a better option, I’ll refer to this as a piece of mahogany. Thanks for your time.

John Yezbak

I am a guitar builder and have a client in Japan who wants a guitar built using Honduran Mahogany. I’m worried about the legality of shipping the guitar to him. Can this wood be exported from the U.S.?

Matthew B Christensen

Hi, im having a hard time thisb table. I’ve been told it’s Genuine/Honduran Mahogany. I really would just like something concrete. That I could say. I’ve gotten more questions than answers.

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Micaiah Castro

Hey there. Would anyone help me identify the type of wood this board is? Here is the endgrain. Thank you.

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Micaiah Castro

I’m told this was part of a butcher block counter top. Fairly heavy, definitely hardwood. The fresh cut endgrain smells like vinegar or acidic. Thank you.

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Micaiah Castro

Thanks Eric!!!

J.F.

What type of wood do you think this might be? I sanded it but It does have some red stain in the grain. It is an antique side table and very heavy hard wood.

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J.F.

Thank you for your response! I added some more photos and I can’t seem to get clear magnified pics but I added them anyway. Fyi this is a table purchased in Ontario Canada. The pic of the drawer is the original colour the others I sanded a little by hand. Not sure if these pics will help.

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Manuel

Based on accounts of several wood worker here in the Philippines, mahogany doesn’t seem to be that stable (it shrink, expands and splits frequently)- I think the reason behind it is that most of the mahogany lumber being sold here are harvested from immature trees (10-15 years old). I think the best plantation mahogany lumber can be sourced from the old reforestation project of the government (I once hiked in the Permanent Forest Laboratory Areas of Mt Makiling National Park and I noticed that the lower slope of the mountain is dominated by these gigantic, old invasive species (most mahogany… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Manuel
Ali Benavides

Hello, i wish to know what kind of mahogany do we have here in our farm! The owner says that it is Honduran Mahogany, but i dont know. I posted a picture to help

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Jon

Is this wood (in the photo) also Mahogany? From Honduras?

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Kyril

Here are the photos.

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Kyril

Hi, here are a couple of photos of what I think is Honduran mahogany. Would you agree? The board is 146″ long and 34″ wide. It was probably milled about 40 years ago, perhaps even earlier. It came for a lumber yard in Pennsylvania which closed for business in 1994 and auctioned all of its lumber. The photos show the board right after it was hand-planed. The ends of the board are painted with red paint and a 1/8″ thick strip had been stapled to prevent splitting. Well, the board split anyway. Boards of this size (and age) are probably… Read more »

Brad king

I refinish and restore antique furniture. And find that there is a lot very beautiful mahogany prices from the 1800’s. Restored and with a new finish this wood out standing.

Craig

Hello, I need an expert to help identifying what type of mahogany I have and will be happy to send pictures. I’m thinking these planks and other boards are Genuine/Honduras mahogany. In 2014 I found the wood stored in an under house garage, the owner told me its been sitting there for at least 30 years. Then as we talked more she told me her husband actually picked it all up 30 years prior when his university was replacing the chapels organ, he was a professor there. Knowing of university I did an internet search of it’s history and found… Read more »

Laurence Libin

Could you give the name of the university in order to learn about the organ that was replaced?

sacha hall

Hi there Craig what a amazing story and great research. i build stuff from timber with a identifiable past life extending its use on for another generation. how great would it be for you to do the same thing. im sure you got some think special in mind for it.
Sacha

Gonzalo

Honduras mahogany have stratified rays that are very clear even in the pictures shown here. that could help you tell if its a swietenia genus. african mahogany doesnt seem to have that characteristics and the other “mahoganies” just dont

Noppadon

I have a plan to plant them for building my children’s house. But I’m not sure How old of this tree we can apply from them?
I have heard about them can apply when 15 year.
Is it correct?

OROWoodworks

According to this: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255632653_Growth_of_big-leaf_mahogany_Swietenia_macrophylla_in_natural_forests_in_Belize

It will take at least 30-40 years for a mahogany tree to reach the “commercial diameter” of 60 cm for harvesting. So…you could probably get away with harvesting smaller trees, but I doubt you’ll get enough in only 15 years.

Gonzalo

Depending on where you live that might even be problematic. Honduras mahogany like many other species of the Meliaceae family are susceptible to a pest called the meliaceae borer (hypsipyla grandella). That borer is the reason commercial plantations of mahogany are not successful in South America. The borer eats the main shoot causing the tree to start to branch out very early leaving you with a very short clean bole.

emman

This tree has become an invasive species in the Philippines. Its leaves makes a red mat under the tree that prohibits any growth of the native trees.
I’ve planted several mahogany and I hate myself. Id rather have the fake mahogany (shorea spp.) because it’s native despite being “inferior” in wood quality.

J Cameron Hollis

Be very careful with the wood dust if you have a history of any allergies. I ended up in the ER four days in a row before we finally realized it was the mahogany dust from the shelves i was making. It started as just a skin rash on my legs. Over a week this rash get severe. Then it spread to my entire body. Three days later in went into anaphylactic shock. This happened four days in a row. Resilting in four ambulance trips to the ER. It’s crazy to think some wood dust was trying to kill me… Read more »

Larry G. Wilson

I build solid body guitars maple cap with mahogany body and need a supplier of 5 – 6 2″ solid single piece body slabs at a time and having a hard time finding one that ships to the U.S.. Any ideas? Thanks, Larry

David trest

I got it

Edward Tonner

I have a customer who has inherited a house with honduras mahogany double-hung windows, they have been neglected for some years externally. What would be the best treatment for them, trying to keep the natural colour as best one can.