Mahogany Supply and Varieties

More info on what "Mahogany" really means, and information on the availability of various types. April 6, 2007

I build period reproduction furniture. I use a lot of genuine SA mahogany. I am trying to match the no longer available Cuban or Santa Domingan mahogany used in the 18th century. Does anybody have experience with any of the African mahogany substitutes for genuine mahogany, such as utile or sapele? South American mahogany is becoming very scarce and very expensive in our area. It is especially hard to find thicker stock. Anyhow, the lumberyard is pushing utile as very similar with just lighter color that can be dyed to look like genuine. I am very concerned about using this for period furniture that contains hundreds of hours with carvings, veneers and inlays. My inclination is to order the real mahogany and pay shipping charges on top.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor E:
The African mahoganies I've seen are just not the same. More coarse, not the same grain or coloring.

From contributor L:
Sapele looks pretty close; the graining is a little more pronounced.

From contributor C:
What we refer to as Honduras mahogany is always available in the better pattern grade in most thickness FAS rough 5.50 and up. Sapele is more like the typical Honduras from 15 years ago, but very similar. I usually buy 40-50% extra to allow for picking and choosing to assure decent grain match-ups. African mahogany is similar in some boards, but I notice more variation in color and weight than I would ideally like.

From contributor D:
If you are doing period reproduction, then the Cuban would be first choice, then Honduras. I would stay away from the others since they are not mahogany except in the minds of the marketers.

Cuban is somewhat available in Florida after the big storms take down trees, but it is not inexpensive. We buy a lot of 10/4 and 8/4 Honduras from a great source, but they - like others - are not taking new customers on the mahogany. We can all hope Brazil gets it together and returns to exporting the Honduras they have been holding. Hey, if we normalized relations with that oh so evil Cuba, then we would have easier access to the Cuban mahogany. Politics!

From contributor K:
I have been seeing good supplies of Spanish cedar in my area. Have you tried it?

From contributor J:
I've been experiencing the same issues with mahogany. It's been explained to me that there are different species of "African Mahogany" - some nice and some not so nice. For what it is worth, I have had pretty good luck with Okoume when it comes to hardwoods.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
There are only two African mahogany species. The Latin names (genus and species) are Khaya grandifoliola and K. senegalensis.

Okoume has the name of Aucoumea klaineana, so it is not even in the same genus as African mahogany. Its properties are not that close either.

Sapele is Entandrophragma cylindricum.

"Tropical Timbers of the World" by Chudnoff is online. Many local African names are often difficult to relate to Latin names; further export names may not be easy to relate either. The names are so variable and sometimes locally creative too.

From contributor F:
Spanish cedar is becoming tight and Honduras mahogany may not be available at all by the end of 2007. Check out the endangered species and CITES lists to avoid surprises.