The first thing you need to know about “Genuine” Mahogany is that its title can be misleading; there are other true mahoganies besides those that grow in Central and South America. Also known as Honduran Mahogany, Genuine Mahogany is scientifically the Swietenia macrophylla, one of two species that are part of the Swietenia genus. A second genus, the Khaya, is also part of the Meliaceae (or mahogany) family of trees. There are three species of Khaya that all find their home on the continent of Africa.
Besides their origins, Swietenia and Khaya mahoganies have many distinctions between them: The major differences are in the areas of appearance, durability, workability, and affordability.
Honduran Mahogany has a coloring that’s closer to orange than its African counterpart; African Mahogany is lighter in color, projecting a more pinkish hue. While Honduran Mahogany is known for its fine, straight grain, African Mahogany enjoys more variety in graining: Bee’s Wing, Ribboned, and Ropey patterns distinguish this wood from any of its counterparts. An additional characteristic that sets African Mahogany apart is its chatoyant luster, which makes the wood appear to have different coloring, as it is moved.
Both Honduran and African Mahoganies are resistant to termites; however, African Mahogany does not have the same resistance to beetles that its Honduran cousin does. Both woods also offer rot resistance that comes with their high density; however, Honduran Mahogany is denser than the African variety.
Long favored by furniture craftsman, the dense Honduran Mahogany performs famously in response to both carving and machining. Add to that stability during drying and responsiveness to finishing, and this wood’s popularity is easily understood. African Mahogany is used for furniture, as well, and boasts similar responsiveness to cutting and finishing techniques. Both woods have tonal qualities, making them ideal for use in musical instruments, such as guitars. Additional applications of both woods include plywood, interior trim, cabinetry, fixtures, paneling, and interior flooring.
The more durable Honduran Mahogany might already be more pricey than African Mahogany, but the disparity has been broadened in recent years, due to political interference in the form of CITES’ listing Genuine Mahogany in a list of endangered species of wild fauna and flora. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species made this addition in 2003, making even areas where Genuine Mahogany can be legally harvested often less profitable for loggers. The resulting decreased supply has clashed with the demand, making the price formidably rise.
At the end of the day, Honduran Mahogany is almost certainly superior for many uses, while African Mahogany is a more affordable alternative that works well for various applications. J. Gibson McIlvain keeps a wide assortment of both woods in stock.
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