Substitutes for Mahogany Veneer

Maple and birch have different grain structure from mahogany, but some sustainably harvested tropical species may come closer. May 28, 2006

We have a client that is sensitive to the rainforest and harvest of Mahogany. They are looking for a substitute material that has a similar look to Mahogany (we can stain it if necessary). I was thinking about just using maple or birch veneer, and then toning or staining to match natural Honduras Mahogany. Any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor J:
Weyerhauser has introduced a material they call Lyptus. From what I understand, it is a eucalyptus hybrid grown on plantations in South America. They sell it in lumber, veneer and veneered plywood. It looks a lot like mahogany. I have not used it, so can't speak from experience.

From contributor L:
It is always a bad idea to substitute maple or birch for Mahogany. The simple reason is that the grain structure is so different that you may get the color, but it will always look like maple or birch with a stain. In New York it has become very difficult to purchase plywood with Mahogany on it due to restriction on importation. Suppliers now have a very similar species as a substitute.

From contributor S:
I am getting ready to do a molding job where a sub for mahogany was needed and after experimenting with many samples, I'm using sassafras with a red mahogany stain. Alder and locust were both considered.

From contributor F:
I saw some passage doors at the new offices of my hardwood dealer and I thought they were mahogany. They were Lyptus.

From contributor T:
Have a look at Sapele, aka African Mahogany. Get it in quarter cut if you want ribbon stripe grain. It's from western Africa. Smells nice when machining, like cinnamon.

From contributor C:
"African Mahogany" refers to many species, usually varieties of Khaya. Sapele is a different specie and commands a premium price. Don't expect to order African Mahogany and get Sapele. There is substantial color variation between logs in Khaya, so if color is an issue, make sure you get a live sample. Otherwise, it is a credible substitute for Honduran and is increasingly available in sheet goods as a warehoused item.

If your client really wants Honduras Mahogany but has guilt issues, you might want to explain the technicalities of CITES listing to them. In a nutshell, once a wood is listed as HM has been, it cannot be imported unless it can be documented as being sustainably harvested. Ergo, any HM in this country is (at least in theory) old or sustainably-harvested wood.

From contributor B:
We recently provided lyptus veneer for a project in Utah. It was my understanding that they were using it for a mahogany substitute.