Tips & Tricks: How to tell if Mahogany is genuine

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Forum topic by Byron posted 11-20-2011 09:26 AM 12267 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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92 posts in 1801 days

11-20-2011 09:26 AM

So I learnt this trick from Richard Newman, a man who seems to know everything about wood. The trick to tell if Mahogany is genuine is really quite simple but put on your reading glasses.

1. Find a place of the board, or create one, where the wood is perfectly flat sawn, this is the only way this will work. This means that the growth rings are perfectly tangent to the surface of the wood, ensuring the right angle of the medullary rays.

2. Take out your finest honed plane and get a very clean polished surface without damaging the grain. This means no sanding although it may still work, just not as clearly.

3. Get good light and look really closely at the pattern made by the medullary rays. They should appear as little ovals or ellipses. What you are looking for is for them to stack up in neat rows, making ladders almost. The direction you are looking in is with the longer side of the ellipse as the top and bottom. If they do not stack perfectly but there is still a vertical linear pattern then the Mahogany is genuine, if not it could be African or numerous other similar Mahogany cousins.

Will try to post a picture soon

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

7 replies so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2536 days

#1 posted 11-20-2011 09:48 AM

thank´s a picture with some arrows on for us newbie´s wuold be very nice of you :-)


View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2060 days

#2 posted 11-20-2011 09:53 AM

If I have some what-I -think-is mahogany, it would be altogether better that I not find out I was misled by somebody. What is the species of the fake mahogany ?

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

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Rick M.

7703 posts in 1801 days

#3 posted 11-20-2011 11:27 AM

Is getting African Mahogany sold as Honduran still a problem? I thought with the big Southeast Asian plantations that genuine mahogany was now plentiful.


View shopdog's profile


575 posts in 2906 days

#4 posted 11-20-2011 01:39 PM

I’ve seen Phillipine Lauan sold as Mahogany…to be used for outdoor applications…decking or pergolas.
I don’t need a magnifying glass to tell the difference.
People on my decking forum complain about how their Mahogany decks are rotting so quickly. They don’t know, but the price of Lauan or Meranti should be a clue.

African mahogany is much harder to is Sapele. They are also beautiful woods.
Now I have to go to the shop and get out my magnifier.

I have a Mahogany gloat. I was in my local yard 2 weeks ago…picking out some Ipe for a deck job. The guys there know that I make crafty woodwork out of small scraps, and told me to check behind the radial saw table for “scrap” cutoffs. I checked that day, and there was a 5’ 1×12 piece of H. Mahogany with a splintered edge. They let me take it. It could have been ripped to a 1×10, but those guys don’t care. I think they sell 1×12 Mahogany for $15 a lineal foot. I made a puzzle out of a small piece, and gifted it to the guy to give to his wife. She loved it. I see lots of “scraps” in my future.

-- Steve--

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3426 days

#5 posted 11-20-2011 03:37 PM

I think the premise is skewed in thinking there is a such thing as genuine mahogany. There’s just wood and it’s all subjective to people’s taste and preferences. I personally prefer african mahogany over honduran for example.

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

View Dusty56's profile


11804 posts in 3109 days

#6 posted 11-20-2011 11:11 PM

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7703 posts in 1801 days

#7 posted 11-21-2011 05:15 AM

They also grow genuine mahogany (Swietenia) in the Philippines and elsewhere as opposed to Lauan (Shorea). As I understand it, only a small minority of genuine mahogany comes from South America due to it’s protected status in most countries. It’s kind of annoying that so many different species are called Mahogany… get your own names!


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