African Versus Honduras Mahogany

Woodworkers compare the grain characteristics, color, and machinability of different Mahogany varieties. November 19, 2005

I am going to build a bar using either Honduras or African mahogany. My supplier has told me I can save significant money by using the African variety. Does anyone have any experience with the African variety? I know over time Honduras ages to a much deeper color than when it starts out. Is this the case with the African also? Any help with this would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
We have used 1000's of bd/ft of African for exterior millwork in the past 5 years. The most obvious issue with African is "ribbon striping". This is when the grain switches back and forth every four inches or so. It looks very attractive as veneer on furniture, but it is a real pain to mill (tearout). I've had my distributor sort out the ribbon stripe. Color wise itís usually a pinkish/purple. I would recommend using a dark stain.

From contributor R:
Iíve used African before, and the main problem I had was checking that only showed up after the finish was applied.

From contributor G:
I've used a great deal of African, and am fairly happy with it. Contributor A and Contributor R mentioned a few of the problems. It can get "stringy" when machined. I also have seen stress cracks that run perpendicular to the grain.

We use a great deal of quartered, because it has the ribbon striping on the face. I personally think the grain looks much nicer in "ribbon". But, Honduras can have that look too. I just don't see it as prevalent. I wouldn't hesitate using it again.

From contributor W:
Stringy - you got that right. I was recently dadoing 3" wide African mahogany on my router table. Once I was finished, the bottom of the dados were so stringy and rough that it took over two hours to get them sanded smooth and not to mention all the fuzz and stringy material in the router collet and bit. It seems to me that that species always seems to have high moisture content and it seems to bow quite a bit after being ripped to size. Itís always a gamble. I donít really like it but it does finish quite nicely.

From contributor J:
I have inspected, bought, sold and machined both species for over thirty years. The guys that said it is "stringy, tears easy, etc...." are somewhat correct. Actually if all of your knives are sharp and your machinery is well maintained, you will not have those problems. African gets somewhat darker, but takes 15-20 years before you notice it. Also, to anyone who gets his/her distributor to lay out the "ribbon stripe", your distributor gladly does that. It brings a premium of anywhere from $600-$800 more. Almost all "true mahogany" moulding is African, but the laymen/general public has no idea.

From contributor P:
Availability is the biggest issue here, along with price. I've had poor luck with the lighter colored mahoganies and Iíve had them fuzz from machining. Neither is very stable - rip a board on your table saw and watch it snake every which way. Spanish cedar is a pretty good cost effective option.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor M:
I have used a lot of both species. The African does not hold its color very well. When itís exposed to light it will fade a lot more than the Honduras. The Honduras is heavier and finishes better, and probably is more stable. I do not want to use the African because it will not match the existing Honduras.