Substitutes for Mahogany
Either lyptus wood or luan (also called "meranti") may be an acceptable lower-cost alternative to mahogany in cabinets. March 12, 2006
I have to match Spanish mahogany for a commercial wall unit job. The client wants to save money. Can I use luan? The color of the sample unit is dark brown with a matte finish. How can I finish the luan to simulate the Spanish mahogany?
From contributor C:
Will you be doing the finishing on luan? Lots of difference in finishing luan and mahogany. There's an old saying in finishing, "hard to shine crap."
From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Luan is also called Philippine mahogany and if you select the boards/ply sheets for uniformity of grain and color, you can finish it to look very good. It won't be quite as nice as the Spanish mahogany, but will do as an inexpensive alternative.
I've done some pretty nice looking finishes on luan. I've heard the expression "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" a lot, but I don't think your goal is that bad. I've done some pretty nice looking finishes on luan.
Related article: Finishing Mahogany
From contributor M:
This is just one way of finishing luan to look like mahogany.
Related article: Factory Finishes for the Small Shop
From contributor R:
We recently did a job using lyptus instead of mahogany. It was less expensive than the mahogany and was almost indistinguishable. It was not as inexpensive as luan would be, but it is a great compromise. Is this all panel finishing or will there be hardwood integrated into the job? If so, have you considered what you will use to substitute the mahogany there? That can be more of a problem than the sheet goods. If you can help it, try to avoid luan. It is doable, but often it is inconsistent in the way it accepts finish. If you must, take Paul's advice and try to hand select it and get it all in one batch.
From contributor D:
I second the lyptus. The saying I'm familiar with is "you can't polish a turd."
From contributor K:
If time allows, check with your plywood supplier to find a good grade of luan, which he will probably call "meranti." It can be ordered in any thickness, almost any size, and several grades. A plain sliced would work well. I ordered 4x9-1/4" meranti (full units only) a year ago with 3 month lead time direct from the mill in Indonesia. Lyptus is a good choice as previously stated, if in budget.