Mahogany Tree - High Value Timber Plantations
Mahogany is one of the most valuable tropical hardwoods in the world prized for its beauty, durability, and color.
There are three main varieties of Mahogany tree; Honduran, West Indian and Central American. Honduran Mahogany is also know as “Genuine Mahogany”, a name that was coined a generation ago to separate it from Mahogany trees of less quality such as those grown in the Philippines. West Indian Mahogany was used extensively by the United Sates to build planes during the Second World War. Although of less quality than Genuine Mahogany, it was close and available at the time. By the end of the war, it had been logged extensively and fell out of favor when metals like Aluminum where used to build aircraft. Also known as Cuban Mahogany, West Indian Mahogany can be found in scattered plantations in parts of Florida and the Caribbean. The third type of Mahogany is found growing in its natural habitat along the coast of Central America. A short, knarly tree, it is of little commercial value.
The Mahogany tree has a straight, fine with an even grain, and is relatively free of voids and pockets. Its reddish-brown color darkens over time, and displays a reddish sheen when polished. Mahogany is a wood workers dream. It turns and sands easily and has remarkable stability. Mahogany is the number one wood choice for high end furniture worldwide. Mahogany is also popular for cabinetry, veneers, musical instruments (Mahogany is one of a few natural tonewoods), boatbuilding, and carving.
Price Per Board Foot
Mahogany wood retail pricing depends on species, quality and wood source. The lower end Mahogany tree from the Philippines for example costs between $6 and $8 per board foot, while high end Honduras Mahogany may range between $10 and $15 per board foot. Wholesale price (you can pre-order A Honduras Mahogany tree direct from the plantation) ranges between $5 and $8 FOB but you must order enough to fill at least one shipping container.
Mahogany Trees – endangered and expensive
Mahogany is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of more than 30% the last 60 years in its natural range. Brazil, once the number one exporter of Mahogany has been effectively shut out of the market because of a ban on exports initiated by the government since 2001. Peru has now supplanted Brazil as the number one exporter of Mahogany from South America. Several countries have now issued bans on export throughout the region, which has increased the price for Mahogany significantly. The bans prompted several viability studies to see if the Mahogany tree would grow in other parts of the world. Some of these areas proved well suited and today, the world's supply of genuine mahogany comes from Asian plantations, notably from India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Mahogany tree seed can be sourced directly from the country of origin. Fortunately, unlike Mahogany wood, there are no restrictions on the importation and/or export of Mahogany tree seed. To germinate, Mahogany seed is usually soaked for overnight for at least 12 hours before planting. A good rule of thumb is to plant 2 or 3 seeds together to ensure you get at least one tree to grow.
In its natural habitat, a Mahogany tree grows relatively fast much like most tropical trees - about 3 to 4 feet per year. Where Mahogany competes with other plants it can grow even faster. Mahogany is a dominant first story tree and as such does not grow well in shade. Tree Plantation has developed a proprietary tree tray that stimulates tree roots to enhance top growth. In these containers, growth rates can double those in the wild.
Mahogany Tree Plantations
An incredibly important commercial timber in Latin America, Honduran Mahogany is now grown extensively on plantations. It has been widely exploited, which limits the international exporting of Mahogany wood. Certification is only granted to Mahogany tree plantation owners that satisfy the stringent qualifications set out by government authorities. This certification allows export out of the country. Mahogany wood cannot be re-exported from a receiving country like the United Sates because they were not the Mahogany wood source in other words; the Mahogany was not grown in the U.S.
The following comments where collected from a national wood products discussion forum using Mahogany in the United States.
Comment from contributor A:
Not all Mahogany is the same to work with. African Mahogany is 3 times harder than Mahogany from Florida. Both are a lot more brittle than Honduras Mahogany as well. So bending these types of Mahogany will be a challenge. If you can afford to work with genuine mahogany then you can steam bend one-piece boards. If not, then you will have to bend pieces that aren’t so thick and glue laminate them together to get the thickness you want.
Comment from contributor B:
Remember that when woodworking with mahogany, gradual sanding is key. Start with a 120-grid and make a decision whether you'd like to have a very smooth finish and close up the pores on your wood's grain. If you use a wood filler, always read the instructions when mixing with a paint thinner. Fillers need to dry completely for at least 24 hours before you can start sanding again using a 150-grit sandpaper. Once you're done sanding, use a staining brush or even an ordinary cotton cloth to apply your stain - be sure to wipe off the excess stain. Finally, apply a protective coat such as trung oil, shellac, or polyurethane to complete your work.
Comment from contributor C:
I found Honduran Mahogany not only beautiful, but also incredibly easy to work with. You won’t regret the price you paid in the end. Unlike several types of hardwoods like white oak, walnut and black locust, Honduran Mahogany is easy to glue and screw. All Mahogany stains well, but Honduras Mahogany finished best. I really like working with Honduran heartwood, which is beautiful dark brown color, much darker than Mahogany sapwood. I am impressed with how strong it is and now I plan to refinish my boat deck over the winter. My wife wants Mahogany paneling in the basement – boat first.