Working with Ribbon Mahogany and Brazilian Cherry

Tips on machining and staining two very hard, and very visually interesting, exotic hardwoods. October 27, 2005

I have an order for a church pulpit that will be made from Ribbon Mahogony (wavy grain, African hopefully qs) and Brazilian cherry. I've never worked with either species. Any ideas about how this stains, what stains work the best, and any other ideas and any top-coating surprises I might have in store would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I would suggest starting off by making samples with just clear coats. You will find these two are very colorful woods, and you may not need any stains. Make up the samples, and then decide.

From contributor B:
Contributor M is correct. You may not need any stain at all. I've worked many times with ribbon mahogany veneers and some African mahogany. It’s not graded as ribbon but can be very ribbon like (it can get real furry when planning/jointing). If anything, use a light water-based aniline dye to pop the grain.

I've used marine varnish, Sherwin Williams’s conversion varnish, deft and water-based poly and all have looked/worked great. I don't have any experience with the Brazilian cherry. As Contributor M said, make to use samples.

From contributor R:
Brazilian cherry is some hard wood, and if you’re going to mill it yourself you will have to have your planer blades and jointer blades and shaper blades re-sharpened once you’re done because they will be duller than dull. Aside from that, the woods should finish up quite well.

From contributor J:
The Brazilian cherry will be an adventure. I had no idea how hard it really is. You can only remove about 7-10 thousands with a new 36 grit belt in your wide belt sander. You have to have a very good nailer (fastco is the only one I know that can drive a nail in the stuff) with an extra driver on hand.

Also you cannot use color putty or other fillers on nail holes or bad joints because the wood changes color (just like regular cherry). Also, you might have to figure extra for hinges because it is so heavy. If you build face frame cabinets you won't be able to screw the frames together even with pilot drilling.