Why Mahogany Wood is the Best Choice for Furniture
Carpenters, cabinetry crafters, and woodworkers around the world will often say that Mahogany is their wood of choice when it comes to making furniture. Mahogany wood in furniture has been one of the prevalent choices for not only years but centuries. What makes this wood type so special to work with? What makes Mahogany one of the top choices for bespoke furniture by clients and carpenters alike?
Let us talk about why Mahogany wood is better for furniture, why it is chosen by master craftsmen, and why we always choose Mahogany over any other material for furniture making.
Where Does Mahogany Wood Come From?
The Mahogany tree (Swietenia mahagnoni) is a lovely shade tree that can only grow in USDA zones 10 and 11. The USDA zone system is a Plant Hardiness Zone measurement and a standard by which gardeners, farmers, and growers can use to determine which plants thrive best in which area of the country.
In the United States, the perfect growing zones for the Mahogany tree is Southern Florida and Honduran Mahogany is found on the Pacific coastal region of Central America. Both Mahogany types are listed as Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, known as CITES. This means that Mahogany gathered for woodworking today must be traded from a verified source that is legal and sustainable and all trade work must come with paperwork to show the origin.
Mahogany became the essential wood to use for furniture during the 18th century, entering the political venue as both Europe and Colonial North America raced to harvest it in the West Indies. The wood was used to make ships, cabinetry, and fine furniture and became so well known for common household furnishings that items made from it were often referred to simply as, “the mahogany.”
However, by the end of the century, supplies dwindled quickly while demand kept growing. Mahogany was over-harvested, forestland and nations fought for control over this prized wood until it was very nearly gone. Measures to preserve and prevent deforestation and complete extinction of this tree were needed, as Mahogany became incredibly rare due to unregulated logging.
The Mahogany tree itself, especially in Florida, is an interesting and attractive tree that grows large and is evergreen. As it is casting a wide canopy with dappled shade, it is also a popular landscaping tree in Florida. The Mahogany tree’s wood is dense and can hold against strong winds, which makes this a useful ornamental tree in areas that experience hurricanes and tornados.
Hardwood or Softwood?
Hardness is one of the simplest ways to distinguish whether a type of wood will be useful for furniture crafting. In botanical terms, hardwood comes from flowering trees and softwood comes from conifers and both hard and softwood can be used for everything.
Mahogany is a Hardwood
- Hardwood grows slower compared to softwoods, which makes hardwoods relatively more expensive. There are some exceptions, for example, the gum is a hardwood that comes at a comparable price to most softwoods.
- Hardwood is durable, less likely to succumb to decay, and rot. It is also a close grain that requires less maintenance than soft.
- Hardwood has low sap content, good fire resistance, is often treasured for natural and varied styles, colors, and perforation plate patterns.
Properties of Mahogany
The Janka scale or Janka test is the industry standard scale for wood hardness for woodworkers, carpenters, builders, hobbyists, luthiers, and carvers. A Janka test measures the force required to embed a .444-inch steel ball into the wood by half its diameter. It is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear.
10 on the Janka scale is the hardest, while Mahogany ranks a 6. Compared to oak or maple, Mahogany is a relatively light wood which makes it easier to mill, to cut and carve than other hardwoods. And, unlike other hardwoods that can be brittle, Mahogany is straight-grained, resilient, and stronger to resist shattering or cracking. Mahogany wood is prone to have fewer voids, pockets, knots, and other defects that can detract from the look of a piece of furniture.
The Beauty of Mahogany
Not only is Mahogany still one of the most outstanding kinds of wood for handmade furniture, durability, and ability to be carved with the most intricate details—it is truly one of the most beautiful as well.
Mahogany wood has an enthralling range of colors, ranging from pinkish to a deep reddish-brown and streaks of these colors in all ranges. As Mahogany ages, the pink to reddish hues grow darker and more vibrant, with both almost flawlessly straight grain or interlocking grain. This wood also features some fairly large rays that are close together and has a natural shimmering luster. Few other kinds of wood can boast of having an inner radiance as Mahogany does.
his effect of shimmer within Mahogany is called chatoyancy in gemologist terms, also known as chatoyance or cat’s eye effect. This effect happens where stresses from the weight of the growing tree result in denser patches, or where stresses cause burl or bird’s eye. This creates a visually stunning three-dimensional appearance that is highly prized by woodworkers and their clientele alike. These denser patches take on figures or shapes. Some of these are referred to as flame, ribbon, tiger stripe, and quilting to name a few.
Not only does Mahogany wood begins as exquisite, it simply grows more and more beautiful with its colors and cat’s eye effects growing in intensity as the wood ages. This makes it a rare and precious wood, perfect for becoming precious heirloom furniture.
Why Mahogany is Better for Furniture
- Color and appearance. Honduran Mahogany's heartwood shades range between pale pinkish-brown to rich, dark brown. As it ages, this shade intensifies.
- Mahogany is one of the few kinds of wood with the cat’s eye effect. An almost 3D visual appearance of an inner shimmer or glow that also deepens as it ages.
- Grain and Texture. Mahogany grain can be straight, interlocked, irregular or wavy with a gorgeously smooth medium texture and natural luster.
- Rot-resistant. Mahogany wood is durable and is resistant to termites, moisture, and changes in temperature.
- Workability. Mahogany is easy to work with by hand and with hand tools, sands easily, turns, glues, stains, and finishes exceptionally well.
Mahogany is the best choice for handmade furniture today because of its extraordinary longevity, endurance, and ageless beauty. This is why at Laurel Crown, we choose to make our furniture from Honduran Mahogany for our clients to certify home furniture that will be a joy to look and live with for generations to come.
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