Mahogany Mixups: the Lowdown

by Eric Meier

I remember in my (slightly) younger days, stepping into a big box hardware store and picking up some shrink-wrapped boards labeled “mahogany” with prices that seemed just too good to be true. I told the employee that they had very good prices on mahogany, and he half-smirked and hesitantly commented “well, there’s a lot of different types of mahogany out there…” So began my early lessons in this sometimes-coveted and sometimes-disdained wood. Little did I know that these discrepancies stemmed from the woodworking equivalent of comparing apples to oranges.

An Overview of Mahogany

Un-jumbling the Mahogany mess

Hypothetical situation: So you’ve just stumbled across some sort of “mahogany” wood, and you’re wondering if you have the real deal. After all, there are currently over a half dozen types of mahogany listed on The Wood Database. Much like cedar, the “mahogany” label gets tossed around with relative liberality—and not always with regard to the botanical designation of the wood in question. Ultimately, the ambiguous term mahogany remains somewhat subjective. But regardless of where anyone happens to draw the line on what is and is not true mahogany, certain facts and scientific classifications of the trees remain constant, and a general consensus can at least be made on the objective facts surrounding these woods.

But before we sort everything out, it would be helpful to ask a needed question: why? Why bother trying to sort things out? If it looks like mahogany, what’s the difference anyhow? A lot, it turns out. Beyond simply being worth more in terms of dollars per board-foot, there are practical implications to using true mahogany. Listed below are the ideal characteristics (hopefully) found in the wood: chances are most non-mahoganies will lack at least one (or more) of these characteristics.

What makes mahogany so great

“Rosewood.” “Teak.” “Satinwood.” Each well-known wood has along with it a set of expectations. Mahogany is no different. From the top-notch mahogany of yesterday, one would expect to encounter the following characteristics of the wood:

  • Excellent workability. Mahogany is known for its cooperative nature and easy sanding and machining, with a Goldilocks-esque balance of density thats just hard enough but not too hard. When the grain is straight and consistent, there’s not much that can go wrong.
  • Excellent stability. As much as it’s known for its workability, mahogany is equally known for its superb dimensional stability. Flat pieces will remain flat. Joints and glue-ups will remain intact. In the midst of seasonal changes in humidity, mahogany exhibits minimal shrinkage and swelling.
  • Decent rot resistance. Perhaps not to the same level as Teak or other exotic tropical timbers, but certainly respectable. Though younger plantation-grown trees aren’t quite as durable as the older wild-grown trees of centuries past.
  • Beautiful grain. Mahogany can sometimes be rather plain and almost utilitarian, but on other pieces, it ascends to the heights of sophistication. What antique bombe chest would be complete without exquisite crotch mahogany veneer drawer fronts?
  • Large, clear lumber. Mahogany trees get huge. They’re both tall and stout, yielding long, wide, knot and defect-free boards.

The Inner Circle: Swietenia

By even the strictest standards, woods in the Swietenia genus comprise what is sometimes known as “genuine mahogany.”

Cuban Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani)
Cuban Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani)

Cuban Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani)This is the original mahogany. Historically, these huge trees yielded exceptional lumber, but over-harvesting and just plain wastefulness (logs as large as twelve inches in diameter were used as firewood) led to this species’ depletion. In 1946, Cuba banned all exporting of the wood due to over-harvesting and high demand; it has also been in scarce supply from other sources in the Caribbean as well. Today, the lumber has become so obscure that the term “genuine mahogany” now applies almost exclusively to its close relative, Honduran Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). Small boards and pieces are intermittently available: these are usually from storm-damaged trees grown locally (i.e., within the United States).

Honduran Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)
Honduran Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)

Honduran Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)Following closely in Cuban Mahogany’s footsteps, Honduran Mahogany is from the same genus (Swietenia), and it’s closely related in nearly all characteristics. All species within the genus are listed on CITES appendix II, and nowadays a fair amount of this wood is grown on plantations. It’s sold under a variety of common names, including American Mahogany, Genuine Mahogany, Big-Leaf Mahogany, and Brazilian Mahogany. Despite the abundance of common names, they usually all refer to just one species—when in doubt, verify the scientific name: Swietenia macrophylla. It’s every bit a true mahogany as the original Cuban species that became commercially exhausted in the mid-20th century.

Identification: Swietenia species can be very hard to tell from one another, but they can usually be distinguished from other species listed as mahogany (see following species further on in this article). All Swietenia species will have marginal parenchyma when viewed on the endgrain (see 10x endgrain scan). What this means is that there will be rows of light brown cells at the border of every growth ring—somewhat mimicking the annual growth rings found in temperate ring-porous woods. While other lookalikes such as African Mahogany (Khaya spp.) will generally not have these marginal parenchyma bands (though the color of the wood itself may change from light to dark simulating growth rings as well, the tight parenchyma rows will usually be lacking). Presence of marginal parenchyma strongly suggests a Swieteniaspecies, though in rare circumstances, Khaya species can also display these cells as well.

Honduran Mahogany (endgrain 10x)
Honduran Mahogany (endgrain 10x)

In finished pieces: Another trick to tell Swieteniaspecies from Khaya species, especially if you do not have access to the endgrain, is to look for ripple marks on a flatsawn surface of the wood. Basically, on many pieces of Swietenia-genus mahogany, the rays (small reddish brown slits) will collectively be arranged in neat little rows (called storied rays), which appear as minute little ripple marks that are seen clearest on flatsawn portions (see accompanying scan—you will more than likely have to view the full-size image to make out these small details). These ripple marks are sometimes (but not always) seen in Swietenia species (as well as Sapele—see further down this article), but almost never in the African Khaya species. An absence of ripple marks is ambiguous (could be either genera), while the presence of ripple marks strongly points to a Swietenia species.

Flatsawn Honduran Mahogany (x2)
Flatsawn Honduran Mahogany (x2)

How not to tell them apart: By color or weight. Swietenia species of mahogany, depending on the growing conditions and age of the tree, can vary widely in color and density. It’s all over the map. Some can be darker red and with dark streaks, others can be much paler and lighter in weight. Just viewing the facegrain of a wood sample and using your gut instinct to differentiate the two is unreliable.

Mexican Mahogany: It should be noted that a third Swietenia species is sometimes encountered: Mexican Mahogany (Swietenia humilis). This tree is much smaller than the other two species listed above, and as a result, it usually yields lumber of poorer quality due to the inherent problems of smaller trees (that is, knots and irregular grain is usually present, as well as much smaller available lumber). But from a practical standpoint, wood from all Swietenia species should be evaluated objectively irrespective of the actual species. It is the author’s opinion that the primary reason that Cuban Mahogany has been held in such high regard is because the wood was originally collected from very large wild trees which yielded excellent lumber compared to today’s plantation grown mahogany—it’s all based on growing conditions and tree age, and all other things being equal, Swietenia species wood is virtually identical.

The Outer Rim: Khaya

Depending on who you talk to, African Mahogany in the Khaya genus may or not be considered the real deal. For most, it’s close enough in appearance and characteristics to carry the mahogany label without controversy, but purists will be quick to draw a distinction between the mahoganies of the New World and those from Africa.

African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis)
African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis)

African Mahogany (Khaya spp.)

African Mahogany is comprised of a handful of species in the Khaya genus, such as K. anthotheca, K. grandifoliola, K. ivorensis, and K. senegalensis. While these species are from an entirely different genus (and continent) than the wood classed as “genuine mahogany,” taking a step up the botanical ladder from genus to family, both fall into the Meliaceae family, so the two, while not directly related, aren’t far off in the family tree. And the family likeness is apparent in the wood as well. Appearance-wise, most people do a double take and aren’t sure if they’re looking at Khaya or Swietenia mahogany. Both types also come from very large trees, so quality lumber in very large sizes and widths is common. African Mahogany also works well, though it tends to have a more interlocked grain than Swietenia species, so tearout and fuzzy surfaces (during planing or carving) can be an issue, but overall it’s still tolerable to machine.

Identification: As mentioned previously, the wood of African Mahogany features an endgrain that is, for the most part, absent of any discernible annual or seasonal growth rings. Though the color of the wood can gradually change color through different seasons, Khaya species usually (rare exceptions do exist) lack the marginal parenchyma that are so common in Swietenia species (see the endgrain scan of African Mahogany to contrast the relatively bland endgrain with the clearly delineated growth boundaries of the Honduran Mahogany endgrain sample shown further up).

African Mahogany (endgrain 10x)
African Mahogany (endgrain 10x)

Interlocked grain: In addition to the lack of ripple marks (explained above under Swietenia species), Khaya species also tend to have a more interlocked grain, and will exhibit more pronounced ribbon-stripe patterns, especially when quartersawn. However, as with nearly all characteristics differentiating the two genera, there are outlyers and exceptions to the rule. But taken collectively, when considering the marginal parenchyma, ripple marks, and interlocked grain, an increasingly confident identification may be made of an unknown or questionable sample.

The Periphery: Meliaceae

Along the outermost fringes of what most consider to be called mahogany, there are a handful of other genera and species that are technically related to mahogany: much like the African Mahogany species in the Khaya genus, this somewhat eclectic group of hardwoods are all members of the Meliaceae family.

Utile (Entandrophragma utile)
Utile (Entandrophragma utile)

Utile (Entandrophragma utile)

Similar to mahogany: Sometimes called Sipo, or even Sipo Mahogany, this wood has similar mechanical and working properties to genuine mahogany, and the overall appearance, while generally a bit darker in color, isn’t too far off either.

Different from mahogany: Spotty availability coupled with its overall obscurity has probably kept this wood out of the limelight. It lacks the exceptional dimensional stability of genuine mahogany, though it is by no means an unstable wood.

Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)
Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)

Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)

Similar to mahogany: Very large trees yield clear quality lumber that resembles genuine mahogany in both appearance and mechanical properties.

Different from mahogany: Sapele is a star in its own right, and has its own unique characteristics. It’s darker in color, heavier, and exhibits more varieties of figured grain (pommele, ribbon-stripe, etc.). Its interlocked grain also mean it’s a bit more challenging to work with than genuine mahogany.

Identifying Sapele and Utile: These two species are both in the Entandrophragma genus and are very closely related. They may be separated from Swietenia and Khaya mahogany on the basis of their endgrain. Both Sapele and Utile have banded parenchyma (visible as horizontal lines in the accompanying scan) that occur consistently throughout the wood—not just at the annual growth boundaries. Additionally, the two woods tend to be heavier and darker than Honduran or African mahoganies, and both have a pleasing cedar-like scent when being worked. Sapele can usually be separated from Utile on the flatsawn surface by checking for storied rays. Sapele will have ripple marks (formed by the storied rays) evident on the flatsawn surface, while Utile lacks this feature. If the woods are quartersawn, Sapele has narrower, tighter, and more uniform ribbon stripes, while Utile’s are wider and more erratic.

Sapele (endgrain 10x)
Sapele (endgrain 10x)
Bosse (Guarea cedrata)
Bosse (Guarea cedrata)

Bosse (Guarea spp.)

Similar to mahogany: Bosse is closer in color and grain to genuine mahogany than the two previous species, and its the weight, stability, and mechanical characteristics are also comparable too.

Different from mahogany: The grain of this species is all over the map: sometimes it’s straight, sometimes it’s interlocked or highly figured. The inconsistent availability and figured grain have primarily limited this wood to decorative wood veneer applications.

Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata)
Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata)

Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata)

Similar to mahogany: Grain can be somewhat similar to genuine mahogany, though color is much paler. Good stability and workability.

Different from mahogany: Considerably lighter in both color and weight. Much softer. Very aromatic. Not a practical mahogany replacement in most instances.

Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliata)
Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliata)

Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliata)

Similar to mahogany: Sometimes referred to as Indian Mahogany, this wood is known to woodworkers in North America as Australian Red Cedar. It was once placed in the Cedrela genus alongside Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata), and the two are very similar in most respects. The color can be a bit more reddish than Spanish Cedar, but still not quite the same shade as true mahoganies.

Different from mahogany: Still lighter in both color and weight, and softer. Very aromatic. May be a practical mahogany replacement in some instances.

Andiroba (Carapa spp.)
Andiroba (Carapa spp.)

Andiroba (Carapa guianensis)

Similar to mahogany: Sometimes sold under the name “Royal Mahogany” by flooring dealers, the overall appearance, weight, and mechanical properties are very similar to genuine mahogany.

Different from mahogany: Slightly more difficult to work, and not quite as stable, but still an underrated and obscure species.

Avodire (Turraeanthus africanus)
Avodire (Turraeanthus africanus)

Avodire (Turraeanthus africanus)

Similar to mahogany: Sometimes called White Mahogany, Avodire fits the description well. It has similar grain, weight, and mechanical properties—it looks like a blonde version of African Mahogany in the Khaya genus.

Different from mahogany: Besides the obviously color difference, Avodire has poor outdoor longevity, which restricts its use to interior/protected applications. Also, irregular or interlocked grain present can make working and machining troublesome at times.

African Walnut (Lovoa trichilioides)
African Walnut (Lovoa trichilioides)

African Walnut (Lovoa trichilioides)

Similar to mahogany: Despite its common name, African Walnut is not closely related to the true walnuts in the Juglans genus. The grain and density can closely mimic genuine mahogany on some pieces, and its mechanical properties and stability are comparable to mahogany as well.

Different from mahogany: Color is much more variegated and streaked, and is generally darker and redder than most mahogany. Also, the interlocked grain can make working this lumber less pleasant than Swietenia species.

Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)
Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)

Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)

Similar to mahogany: Botanically, it’s in the Meliaceae along with the rest of the woods listed from here on up. Also, it’s weight, strength, and workability properties are similar to genuine mahogany.

Different from mahogany: Being a ring-porous hardwood, the grain isn’t really too similar to mahogany, and its dimensional stability isn’t quite up to standards either—at least not in comparison to mahogany. In terms of appearance, it’s probably the least likely to be confused for mahogany of all the woods on this entire list.

Outliers: Not in the Family

Despite any superficial resemblance to genuine mahogany, there are still a number of wood species that are completely unrelated to any of the mahoganies in the Meliaceae family. You have to trace pretty far up the hierarchal tree to find any sort of botanical commonality between any of these woods. Basically, about all you can say that they have in common is that they are all hardwoods (angiosperms).

Light Red Meranti (Shorea spp.)
Light Red Meranti (Shorea spp.)

Philippine Mahogany (Shorea spp.)

Sometimes called Lauan, this wood is frequently made into plywood. Of all the various trees that are outside of the the Meliaceae family, perhaps the many species within the Shorea genus come the closest to genuine mahogany in terms of overall appearance and working properties. Unfortunately, there’s a great variation within the Shoreagenus—even more of a window of variation than that found in the Swietenia or Khaya genera. Also, the rot resistance of most Shorea species is much poorer than most types of mahogany. This wood is (thankfully) being called by more honest terms as of late—it goes by the common name Meranti.

Santos Mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum)
Santos Mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum)

Santos Mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum)

Of all the woods with “mahogany” in their common name, this one perhaps is the one most likely to be a sales gimmick to help sell more wood (which figures, since it’s primarily used for flooring—an industry rife with imaginary and flattering names). Although this wood may have a superficial likeness to true mahoganies in terms of grain pattern, it’s much heavier, and quite difficult to work—a far cry from the ideal that one would expect of a wood bearing the name “mahogany.”

Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius)
Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius)

Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus spp.)

If the naming of Santos Mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum) seemed to push the limits in terms of comparative density with genuine mahogany, then Mountain Mahogany is completely over the top. It is actually one of the densest and hardest woods in the United States—the dried wood is heavy enough to sink in water. To its credit, the wood’s color and overall appearance are vaguely reminiscent of mahogany, and it does have good stability, but that’s about where the similarities end. But the ambitious naming is much more forgivable as this wood is not commercially harvested, and was not done with the motive of increasing sales.

Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta)
Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta)

Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta)

Despite its common name, this “mahogany” is actually a full-blooded member of the Eucalyptus genus—one of the botanical trademarks of Australia. Even though Australia is considered its own continent, in the world of trees it could almost be considered its own world. Australia has its own version of nearly every type of wood common to outsiders: they have their own maple, walnut, ash, beech, and so forth. However, just because the common name sounds similar doesn’t mean that the wood itself is a close match. In the case of Swamp Mahogany, the wood is slightly more dense and difficult to work, and the dimensional stability is much worse.

Are you an aspiring wood nerd?

The poster, Worldwide Woods, Ranked by Hardness, should be required reading for anyone enrolled in the school of wood nerdery. I have amassed over 500 wood species on a single poster, arranged into eight major geographic regions, with each wood sorted and ranked according to its Janka hardness. Each wood has been meticulously documented and photographed, listed with its Janka hardness value (in lbf) and geographic and global hardness rankings. Consider this: the venerable Red Oak (Quercus rubra) sits at only #33 in North America and #278 worldwide for hardness! Aspiring wood nerds be advised: your syllabus may be calling for Worldwide Woods as part of your next assignment!

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Jerry

What type of wood is used in dresser drawers looks like a lighter mahogany .

Gene

I have a slab of hardwood which I picked up somewhere decades ago. It still lays perfectly flat. It has lovely dark and light graining with very dark flaming and a rather large knothole on one side. It is just under 3/4″ thick, 11″ wide at its base and 18″ long, with 14″ of length above the 4″ knothole, and all edges are raw except for the sawn end. From the photos, does it look like it is real mahogany? Would such a piece have any purpose or is it best applied as firewood? Thank you.

slab-001.jpg
Fabian Reeves Whymark

Firewood? You’re kidding. Look at it…. It is black walnut

Alexander

I think it was a bit darker than i previously stated, it looks a lot more red-ish, guess i remember wrong. Second image to give a better perspective.

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Alexander

Going to try and restore an older boat, probably built/restored by my grandfather in maybe the 1940-60s something maybe. So was wondering if you could gauge what type of mahogany it is, or if its a type of teak. Want to know because i want to treat the wood the best way while restoring it. It used to be a honey looking color, i think, at least not especially dark. When it looked good it reminds of Honduran Mahogany , because of the dark spots and streaks
 
Would greatly appreciate any type of input, have a good one

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Meaghan

I just bought a Craftsman Tudor house in Oregon with all the original woodwork-unpainted! It’s stained dark brown/red to mimic mahogany, but I know it used to be fashionable to dress up other species like mahogany in the early 20th century – this house was built in 1910. I know it’s got a lovely smell when sanded and doesn’t gouge with my fingernail, but the grain doesn’t look like any of the sample images I’ve seen. Any ideas what species this is?

D84A5432-9A7A-47AB-8D16-8F25DBED228C.jpeg
Myung Nam Kim

According to your comment on “Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)”, I think “Chinese Mahogany” or “Chinese Toon” (Toona sinensis, syn. Cedrela sinensis) is more likely expressing the characteristics of mahogany family. Although it looks similar, but two spices are native to different regions and have different characteristics.

Florian Ro

Eric,
The first wood is 580kg/m³ and the second wood is much heavier with 700kg/m³. The second smells when sanding it, but it’s difficult to explain. A bit sweet and earthy I’d say. The first wood does not smell that strong and sands much easier. The wood was stored indoor. In the first wood I can clearly see light brown stripes of marginal parenchyma (it can’t be seen very well on the picture), so I hoped that it would be honduran mahogany…
thanks,
Florian

Florian Ro

Here the second…

2nd endgrain.jpg
2nd flat.jpg
Florian Ro

Hello,
I got a 2nd hand mahogany table. I want to use it for guitar necks but I’m not sure which wood it is. Any Idea? Apparently two different types of wood where used. Here the first type of mahogany.
thanks,
Florian

1st endgrain.jpg
1st flat.jpg
daniel barber

Any ideas on what this may be?

Emily

Walnut?

Aaron Apostol

Sapele

Andrey Kudryavtsev

Hello all,

could you please tell me what wood is it? Very few knots, hardness (looks like) 30% more than pine.

Many thanks, Andrey

Emily

Looks like oak

Kim

Picked up these chairs. Sanding now. Kinda curious on why the black grain. Supposedly Mahogany wood.

Bobbie capobianco

What is this wood

Nate

Looks like black cherry, wild cherry, rum cherry. From my experience, cherry seems to show the burning easily from too slow machine feed.

Bobbie capobianco

I just had an old piano, Hardman Peck restored and the 3 layers of paint removed. I was told the wood is mahogany.
I am thinking I will use a clear stain and poly on the wood.
Can you identify this wood? Am I ok using what I suggested or can you recommend something else.

Mark L Chason

I’ve had a hardwood flooring business for almost 40 years as well as being a woodworker and occasional furniture maker, but I’m stumped (no pun intended). I thought at first that it was Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba) but the Architect who had it installed years ago swears it’s a kind of mahogany. The current owners love the variation, especially the light pieces with the striations (I assume quarter sawn). Anyone know what it is?

Steve

Looks like Australian red gum to me….

Jayspn

Can anyone identify this wood?

DD

Koa or Mahogany mini Taylor – does the label help?

mark

A China factory is trying to convince me the moisture content of 30% is ok for chairs I want to buy because they are using african mahogany. Does this make sense to anyone?

Valerie Shaw

What does “banded” mahogany mean?

Joso Panceta

Hi,

I have classical guitar that master luthier claims is made of mahogany for backplate and sides.
However, to me it looks more like zebrawood. Can anyone comment on this ?

Joso Panceta

I see now that is not zebrawood . but what mahogony has the look as this back side of the guitar?

Dave

Looks like Sapele.

Joso Panceta

Hi,
iside photo of baskplate . Can you identfy this kind of mahogony?

Alan

It would be either African mahogany (khaya ivorensis) or more likely sapele mahogany (entandrophragma cylindricum).
The two can appear similar.
One way to distinguish the two – African mahogany has no obvious smell. Sapele has a nice aroma, so smell the inside of the guitar at various times of the day depending on hot/cold/dry/humid.
If the timber is solid sapele, you should be able to smell it at some stage!
Good luck!

Steve

That is sapele no doubt.

Michelle Crunkleton

Continued from other post. The wood of the porch also splintered shortly after installing before we sealed it, which the contractor fixed with wood glue. Should mahogany do that?

Michelle Crunkleton

I had a my porch redone with mahogany. However, after it swelled and buckled over the summer, I am wondering if it is indeed mahogany. From what I understand, mahogany is not supposed to do that. What do you think?

Robert Danforth

In reading all the notes there in one important (to me at least) test that is not referenced, but might be of considerable interest to many. As I am using a laser to cut and engrave on wood what happens in terms of flames and cutting ability can be quite variable so some like wenge need a lot of power but does not char badly while Zebrawood will ignite and a tiny coal is likely to grow and consume the whole piece while others go out quickly. What I have as mahogany is the worst of all that I have… Read more »

Andy S.

What an amazing resource.

Eric, I own a large, heavy bookcase that has been in the family for about 70 years (likely 1930s built). I would like to get it professionally refinished. Lore is that it is “blonde mahogany” but I know nothing about wood and am wondering what I need to know before asking someone to restore/refinish it. I don’t know whether it’s veneer, etc. (Sorry for glare from camera flash, but it’s stored in a dark space where there’s not enough light to take a photo w/o flash.)

Andy S

Thanks, sorry about photo limitations (all due to my access to the piece right now). My basic question is: is there such a thing as “blonde mahogany” or is that just a reference to the way the piece was finished? Thanks.

Scott McGrady

Hi, I recently obtained many pallets of wood that supposedly came from Boeing shipping crates collected during the 80’s and 90’s in Tacoma, WA. I was told it was “Brazilian Mahogany, violin/guitar wood”. They vary in color, pattern and density. Research gives me the impression it may be very valuable but I’m skeptical. Some have stenciled words like “Amazon Rainforest Brazil” “New Orleans” and others which I think are origins and destinations. Any information? Restrictions/potential infections/value? Thank you for any assistance!

Jack McLeod

I just bought some Boeing shipping crate slabs from a salvage place. They said “tropical hardwoods”. Looks like mahogany to my untrained eye – no idea what type which is what led me to this article. What surprised me was how light (density) it is and how quickly it sands making me think it’s not a hardwood. Photos attached. Possible to ID from these pics?
Thanks for the site and the advice!

maybeMahogany1.jpg
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Aleks

This site was very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to assemble it. I am refurbishing a 1969 eb0 Gibson bass guitar that had been stripped and drilled into and made monetarily worthless. These guitars are made of solid mahogany. I had drilled out the holes and cut some plugs from some “mahogany” I reclaimed from a table I made in college, only to find it’s color and grain to be very different from the wood in the guitar. This led me here. Your photos and descriptions lead me to believe that what I have to use is Khaya.… Read more »

Mark

Can someone help me identify this wood

Kenny Sellers

I used to have lots of that wood. It is very heavy and dense. I believe it is teak.

Tim Keating

I don’t think this is teak. It has the look of one of the ‘redwoods’ coming out of Asia: kempas, kapur or keruing.

Eric Meyer

The “mahogany” nomenclature in mountain mahogany is told to have come from it’s resemblance to the bars the cowboys leaned on frequently. I have heard there is an actual bar made from it in Eastern Oregon (one on my bucket list) It was used for roller-skate wheels, and there are restauraunts that specialize in mountain mahogany smoked meats. I work it everyday for a living and have done so for thirty years. Ironically my name is also Eric Meyer.
https://www.meyerfittings.com/

peter gray

hi having problems i am not a skilled tradesman, i never got the skills to work with wood even though i loved the smell, anyhow have purchased a new build property and we have remodeled the kitchen with regret cabinets are no longer available according to paperwork they are light mahogany alas the units we have been able to buy are from b&q they were the only ones that we found 300mm wide and 150mm wide anyhow after getting them i was planning to redye them with gel i have seen in the USA but looking on your pages i… Read more »

Andy

I’m trying to identify some wood my father recently reclaimed from old “mahogany” interior doors. The two pieces (from the same door – top and bottom frame pieces of a glass panel door) have very different grain patterns, but I’m not sure if this is just the way they are sawn.

The house they came from is in the UK, and likely was built in the 80s.

Andy

Apologies for the double post below…here is a close up picture of the grain on the bottom half…

Andy

Hi! My father recently reclaimed some wood that was originally used in the top and bottom of a glass panelled door frame. It looks like “mahogany” to me, but the two parts have very different grain patterns. I’m not sure if this is just because they are sawn differently or if they are different species completely.

Is there any chance anyone could hazard a guess at what these are based on the photos attached? If it helps the house that the wood was used in is in the UK, built probably in the 80s…

Annette M.

Several months ago, I special ordered a guitar that was advertised as being made of “Mahogany”. Since they did not qualify it, I believe they were referring to Swietenia. My guitar order has been delayed. They’ve now changed the official specifications of the guitar from “Mahogany” to “African Mahogany”, and it appears I will be receiving a guitar using the new specs. I only know this from my own research. Should I care? I mean, would I be rationally justified in raising an objection to the switch to African Mahogany? I guess a legitimate rephrase would be to ask: If… Read more »

Murphy

I bought a “Mahogany” guitar in July of 2018, the difference being that the Taylor Guitar company made it perfectly clear that the wood they used to build the guitar was Sapele. I played the guitar before I bought it and it was the tone, not the price or description of it that caused me to buy the guitar. If you get as lucky as me, your guitar will be as clear, full and loud as my Taylor and you will forget about that which is out of your control. (Do you care about the contents of the glue used… Read more »

Tim Allan

Last one I promise?

Tim Allan

All these photos are same wood. Old railway sleepers

Fabian R.W

Hi Mark, if it is heavy, very heavy, then it is probably red angelim. It could be an Australian wood if not, if you look at the endgrain, weight and hardness that will narrow it down a lot.

Tim Allan

Can anyone ID this wood

Tim Allan

Can anyone ID this wood?

Ron Blake

A local woodworking shop gave me some 4 x 4 x 8′ Mahogany they salvaged from packing crates used in the importing of granite slabs from China and Brazil. They said Mahogany in those regions is as common as oak in the U.S. I doubt it is actually really Mahogany, but wondered if you had heard of using any type of Mahogany for crating heavy objects for international transport. Thanks

Allen Keeney

I have the same thing. It certainly looks like real mahogany….but is it?

Archetype

Back in the early 90’s I’d see equipment from Taiwan come in on wooden pallets. Once in a while, the pallets would have stringer boards or, better yet, blocks of various mahogany-like woods. If the pallet was a throwaway, I’d pull off the blocks and give them to an accquaintence who was a wood turner.

Karen

I have two campaign chairs, at least one of which is from about 1880. They were made in London. They are described on most sites as mahogany but one needs two new cross spokes. What wood might they be and what woods could I use to make replacements? It is dark but being from that era I know it is likely stained.

Karen

This is a photo.

Arlen

What mahogany steams the best?

Steve Ashley

Looking at this info in the hope of finding a Seyrah mahogany listed. We have a 1920’s boat built by JW Brooke of Lowestoft UK, which the original spec sheet shows as SEYRAH mahogany.
Anyone heard of this type of mahogany?

Steve

Thank you for that information Eric. I think you are right, it does seem very likely to be the same.

When our wood was revealed in restoration it proved to be a very hard, pinkish wood.
Would that be classed as a “heavy” wood in your description and do you think it is a wood that would be more suitable for painting than to be shown varnished?

Angelica Henderson

Trying to identify some wood. The unique thing is how it makes shreddy hairs when sawn, almost like it’s rubbery. It looks like mahogany more or less and doesn’t have much of a fragrance when sanded. Maybe someone recognizes that rubbery quality? I tried using it for a xylophone and it doesn’t have good tonal quality.

Bunga Bening

Can I ask where you feel Indonesian mahogany falls on the spectrum? I believe it is a member of the meliaceae family and it’s species name is toona sureni. Does that put it in the periphery group? Can anyone tell me more about its characteristics or pros and cons?

Bunga Bening

Thanks for the reply Eric. My brothers-in-law sell Indonesian mahogany here in Java but would like to begin exporting. If toona sureni resembles Red Cedar, a prized wood, do you think exporting is a feasible proposition or is the wood simply not special enough to interest overseas buyers?

Yudi Eko Santosa

Toona / Surian Red Cedar / Malapoga
We can supply from Malaysia
If you interested, please contact us : sdienizhar@gmail.com

Renay Cooper

Hi, I bought timber lining about 15yrs ago in Australia and need to buy more but can’t remember the name. I thought it was American hardwood, western cedar in colour with blond through it which thought stripe was in the name. Sorry vague description if anyone can help as can’t find it. Can supply photo.

emjaysea

I used to see something sold as African Ribbon Mahogany, which looking at the pictures above seems to more closely resemble the Santos Mahogany than the African Mahogany? Anyone know what it is?

Steve Earis

as eric says, it simply refers to quartersawn timber from either the khaya or entandrophragma genuses. you often get utile and sapele displaying a very attractive ribbon stripe figure on larger quartersawn boards. it is also fairly common in african mahogany which could be 3-4 different species within the kaya genus.