Need suggestions for complimentary wood

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Forum topic by DynaBlue posted 01-30-2011 11:27 PM 2348 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3155 days

01-30-2011 11:27 PM

I am building a frame and panel style ‘sea chest’ for a retiring Navy Master Chief and he has decided that he would like the panels made from african mahogany but he would leave the wood choice for the frames up to me. I ran down a list of several woods with him and quickly ran out of options: maple – too light, boring, red oak – ugly, too ‘busy’, walnut – too dark, etc. I saw a nice chest in the Woodworker’s Journal back in the summerish months which used arched, flat panels in an arts and crafts style that I will adopt somewhat to the chest he likes. I intend to use quartersawn mahogany for the center panels to get the ribbon effect (vertical orientation, I think), I will use straight grain mahogany around that and then I will have that assembly mounted between the frames. The ribboned panels are intended to be the starring role in the piece with the framing just serving as a supporting role.

Does anyone have some suggestions for either a light-colored or reddish-brown, complimentary wood to use for the frames? Staining isn’t out of the question but I prefer to just use the natural color of the wood. I found some nicely colored alder at a good price but the stuff is so darned soft that I think it would be a bad choice for the framing in case the chest is bumped into another piece of furniture or something common, like a vacuum cleaner smacks into it. Any suggestions?

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

11 replies so far

View Bothus's profile


441 posts in 3141 days

#1 posted 01-30-2011 11:52 PM

Hi Dyna,

My first suggestion was going to be curly maple but if he already said it was too light I guess that’s out. You could show him the pix of my daughter’s hope chest if you would like where I used maple next to cedar.

Another thought might be to use a different species of mahogany. When I made the grandfather clock for my son I used left over pieces of mahogany our shop had purchased at different times and before I shellacked it I honestly thought some of them were not mahogany.

Wish I could give you a better answer.

Let us know what you decide.


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3039 days

#2 posted 01-31-2011 12:55 AM

My first suggestion would be bloodwood (aka Cardinal wood). It is a darkish red, more like a maroon. It’s easy to work with and not real expensive. I think it goes great with mahogany.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2815 days

#3 posted 01-31-2011 02:39 AM

The frame stock should not compete with your panels. I’d suggest carefully selected cherry. the grain is very indistinct and the wood will darken nicely over time. It’s easy enough to work, tough enough to withstand the Hoover.

But my first choice would be walnut. The darker tones suggest strength around the lighter shaded panels. It might be worth dummying up a couple samples for him. I’ve done just an L-shaped piece of frame holding the center material in order to illustrate the contrast in woods.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2658 days

#4 posted 01-31-2011 05:19 AM

What about straight white oak? Other than that, maybe some light cherry or dark maple. Lowes usually has a very dark selection of maple. Cedar?

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3707 days

#5 posted 01-31-2011 07:06 AM

How about Live Oak. stuff is on my mind since I just saw Tommy Mac get some from the actual railing of the USS Constitution.
Might be a cool material pedigree for a retiring navy guy to get the same wood as old ironsides. It can be tough to work because it has a lot of interlocking grain. Of course that is what made it stand up to cannonballs in 1812.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View peterrum's profile


153 posts in 2644 days

#6 posted 01-31-2011 07:10 AM

Teak, very naval.

-- Carpe Diem

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2891 days

#7 posted 01-31-2011 09:12 PM

Jatoba would be another one that would compliment, IMHO.

It is very heavy, and a little harder to work, but should look great with African Mahogany.

I have both in my shop now, working on some small projects.

Can send photos of the lumber if you like.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3155 days

#8 posted 02-01-2011 06:40 AM

Some good suggestions and I thank you all. I like the idea of the teak for the reasons mentioned but he sorta balked at the price when I pointed it out to him :D

Jusfine, that would be good to see the pictures. I have forgotten what Brazilian cherry looks like.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View Mike R.'s profile

Mike R.

209 posts in 2610 days

#9 posted 04-10-2011 04:16 PM

jatoba is a good choice and good looking too !

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2658 days

#10 posted 04-10-2011 04:45 PM

Rich, where do you live, bloodwood not expensive? $20/bf in my parts. I see a relationship building. If you could score some reclaimed Navy materials, the choice is obvious. Teak certainly gives a nod to the seafaring gentleman. I always vote walnut, though, whatever the project :)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2923 days

#11 posted 04-12-2011 09:35 PM

I agree the frames should highlite, not compete with, the panels; ash is a wonderful wood, cherry would also be nice, but I guess teak would be the stand out.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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