African Mahoghany? What To Expect?

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Forum topic by Les Casteel posted 07-01-2010 10:38 PM 1491 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Les Casteel

160 posts in 3022 days

07-01-2010 10:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: mahogany question shaping sanding milling

Hey, gentlemen and ladies, I’ve got an order for several chairs and the person wants to use Mahoghany. She requested specifically African Mahoghany. Could you give me a heads up on working with this. I’m concerned about any hidden toxic or abnormal dust issues. I’v there are issues that its not stable….that it “moves”. Also, I read somewhere that this stuff almost always comes green and there are drying issues. How hard is African Mahoghany….does it compare to say Walnut or is like Maple? I will use my normal finish, begin with oil and finish up with wipe on poly. What color do you end up with? I expect a reddish-orange? ANY information about working with this stuff will be GREATLY appreciated. I might even name a chair after you. : )

Thanks for the help!!

-- Les, Missouri,

8 replies so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3078 days

#1 posted 07-01-2010 10:47 PM

congrat´s with such a fine ordre
I think you shuold talk with
his from south Africa I think he knows about it


View childress's profile


841 posts in 3505 days

#2 posted 07-01-2010 11:59 PM

One thing to keep in mind is that the specific gravity varies from tree to tree and sometimes piece to piece. Make sure when you pick it out that the color is uniform and the “heaviness” is equal in all pieces. This will help keep the color uniform when finished and also accounts for some of the pieces to be as hard as maple and other as soft as walnut or even softer. You will see that some pieces will have some beautiful ribbon striping in the grain which can be absolutely gorgeous when finished but will make it very difficult to plane and even sand.

I’ve always bought it dried, never “green” so don’t know about the drying issues but be prepared for some tension inside the wood when you mill. Sometimes it’s really bad and can cause kickback if not prepared. Other times it mills perfect….

The dust is what the biggest problem is. For me, I absolutely have to wear my “dust-b-gone” mask or I start sneezing like crazy, and it does rather stink when milling. sometimes very bad.

Other than that I think you’ll enjoy working with it and find that it takes any kind of finish. Depending on the hardness of what you get, you can end up with light pink to dark red and even sometimes brownish colors.

Have fun

-- Childress Woodworks

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3540 days

#3 posted 07-02-2010 07:49 AM

It’s much harder to get a good finish on than honduras mahogany . so it’ best to use a grain filler and then a sealer or blotch control like Charles Neils blotch control.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3004 days

#4 posted 07-02-2010 08:56 AM

African Mahogany is somewhere near 900 on the Janka Hardness so they are all pretty close depending on specific species. Google Janka For more specific species and Hardness.

View Les Casteel's profile

Les Casteel

160 posts in 3022 days

#5 posted 07-02-2010 01:09 PM

Hey, David, I read your post and had a question. The term “geniune” mahoghany leaped right out at me. African is not geniune? What would be geniune….South America mahoghany? Doesn’t really matter I guess as long as the end product looks and functions well. could you clarify that?

-- Les, Missouri,

View michelletwo's profile


2726 posts in 2978 days

#6 posted 07-02-2010 01:18 PM

check carefully before you buy..I have gotten some so soft it’s not good for much and some that would be hard enough to hold good joints for chairs.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2385 posts in 3833 days

#7 posted 07-02-2010 03:35 PM

well having just completed a lowboy out of flat sawn african mahogany as well as another project out of sapele, here is what I found, sapele is basically 1/4 sawn, has a ribbon figure, the ribbon finishes easier than the flat sawn, but if a dye or stain is used the riddon can become very dark, basically is sort of like a crotch figure ( endgrain) running in long ribbons and will absorb like a sponge, the flat saw is much more course than genuine , ( honduran or santa dominco) , wiped finish it does ok, sprayed or any typoe of film coating , you have to grain fill it, or be prepared to do alot of backsanding to get the grain filled, it likes to blister, because of the deep grains , which when sprayed or brushed the air tries to escape and as the finish flashes off it bubbles, wiping with a oil or similar finish , which typically dries slower and also can be forced into the grain , does ok, but you will be along time of you expect to get a totally smooth surface, thin coats of shellac do well, but use about 1/2 lb cut , and let it dry well between coats, and brush it , to force it into the grain, the best way i found was as Jim said , grain fill it, , it saves alot of issues, the sapele a clear oil does do nice, or as stated above some good danish oil,( colored) it doesnt have the color concentration of a dye or stain, so while the ribbon will go darker its more of an enhancement, but do use caution, applying alot of coats will continue to darken the ribbon, so stopping when your happy and going to a clear oil may be in order , if you want to dye or stain sapele , you MAY need some form of blotch control to prevent it going too dark, so test , because depending on the density which as stated varies, it may or may not be needed. One thing I have not done is to see how the african ages, but from what I have seen, based on it just sitting around, i dont see any significant color change like i see with a cherry or genuine , so im just not sure, I also wanted to match a period piece I had examined at a museum, which was what we used on the pembroke table we did for Woodcraft Magizine, what I did was to grain fill it with some timbermate mahogany , then dyed it with some General finishes orange ( yep orange) , applied a coat of 1/2 lb shellac to lock the orange in, ( on another piece i had to use 2 coats of shellac), then stained it with General finishes Rosewood , on the sapele , I was also matching a very old period secretary, I used the same orange, but then used the same rosewood, but had to thin it a bit, the orange background, with a red toned stain over it translates to a aged mahogany quite well.. sounds crazy, but it sure works

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3968 days

#8 posted 07-02-2010 03:46 PM

All mahogany seems a pleasure to work with. Damn near the perfect wood if there is such a thing. Check out the horn leg box in my projects for a good example of African Mahogany with a simple stain and satin lacquer finish on it.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

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