The longtime favorite of furniture makers everywhere, Genuine Mahogany boasts excellent form along with exceptional functionality. As woodworkers know, its easy workability makes it a dream to tool, and anyone who admires beautiful wood realizes the beauty of finished furniture pieces made from it. Within the past year, however, South American Mahogany has undergone some changes, and they’re not positive. Even worse, they’re unnecessary.
While early issues with sustainability have been reversed thanks to CITES regulations and limits on exports, Mahogany sawmills are still being subsidized and regulated by third-party organizations. While the extra assistance might seem beneficial, it can be counterproductive for the Mahogany market. Think of it this way: The more hands getting involved, the more reaching to take more pieces of the pie.
Politics have led to poor sawing practices that produce more board feet but lower grade lumber, leading to a higher net loss. Those involved in subsidizing the sawmills and managing concessions don’t mind too much, because they take their pick off the top, leaving common grade Mahogany to flood the market.
Should North American buyers lower their standards? Perhaps. After all, lumber is a natural resource, not a manufactured product. At the same time, we have been spoiled with exceptional grades of Genuine Mahogany as well as other tropical species. In the mean time, the global market has become much more accepting of natural “defects,” so basically we’re the only ones complaining.
Part of the fallout from the lower grades of Genuine Mahogany includes South American NGOs trying to assist in conservation efforts. Their current agenda includes pushing for NHLA grading standards to be applied to Genuine Mahogany. While the aim is to level the playing field across all species, both domestic and exotic, there is a definite problem with this proposed plan.
Tropical woods have traditionally utilized a different grading system because of the nature of the trees themselves. Because applying the NHLA standards to Genuine Mahogany would allow more “defects” into each board, the hope would be that more wood would make the grade and, therefore, be accepted by North American buyers. While the plan may work at first, it would likely ultimately backfire, leading to a loss of interest in the species altogether.
The reason NHLA standards don’t make sense for Genuine Mahogany is tied to the purpose for which the standards were written. When it comes to forming furniture parts, defects in Mahogany boards could easily be worked around as woodworkers carved out small parts. However, now Mahogany is used more often as a milled product, making defects absolutely intolerable. If lumber that’s unacceptable for use as a moulded product can pass as top grade, much of it will go to waste, and buyers won’t make the same mistake twice.
Due to these changes, J. Gibson McIlvain is backing away from Genuine Mahogany and recommending other exotic species which have qualities similar to Genuine Mahogany, such as African Mahogany, Sapele, and Utile. We realize that our customers require quality lumber, and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to provide.
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.