What's so great about mahogany?

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 12-26-2014 07:53 AM 1819 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2298 days

12-26-2014 07:53 AM

I keep thinking I need to make something out genuine (Honduran) mahogany. I keep hearing it described as the best furniture wood.

But whenever I’ve seen genuine mahogany at the store it doesn’t grab me. The color and grain don’t seem very exciting. It doesn’t feel dense or heavy and the pores are rather large. And it’s awfully expensive. In short, I don’t see what the big deal is about mahogany.

Can someone enlighten me why I should love this wood so much?

20 replies so far

View Redoak49's profile


3672 posts in 2194 days

#1 posted 12-26-2014 12:56 PM

Not all woods are for everyone. Your observations about it are pretty correct. It does have a very uniform grain without any of the wild or interesting grain that other woods have. It comes down to what you like and the use for it. Mahogany has its place just like some other woods.

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407 posts in 3240 days

#2 posted 12-26-2014 01:17 PM

furniture makers liked it for carvings, cuts nice like soft wood but holds crisp lines , it will darken with time but I think it looks best with some kind of stain an clear coat

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8154 posts in 3581 days

#3 posted 12-26-2014 01:23 PM

It does have a chatoyance that most woods don’t possess, and it’s really nice to work with….cuts easily, works easily, stays straight, hard enough, etc. But overall, it’s not my favorite wood by a long shot.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Dautterguy's profile


51 posts in 3967 days

#4 posted 12-26-2014 01:40 PM

Try” Santos Mahogany”. VERY dense, very close grain, not to $$$, Holds it’s color. Burns fast,if your saw blade and fence are not alligned correctly, (smells great).

View bobro's profile


320 posts in 1516 days

#5 posted 12-26-2014 03:25 PM

It does have a chatoyance that most woods don t possess, and it s really nice to work with….cuts easily, works easily, stays straight, hard enough, etc. But overall, it s not my favorite wood by a long shot.

- knotscott

That’s about it- mahogany got its reputation in the days of hand tools. It’s hard for us to imagine today, but a couple of hundred years ago mahogany was stained and finished way beyond what we’d consider “good taste”, and they’d also paint mahogany, walnut, and other fine cabinet woods. Workability, stability, strength-to-weight, were more important before machines, plywood, and so on took over.

Now that there’s a kind of hand tool revival, I predict we’ll see some woods coming into style for custom furniture. Pear wood is fantastic to work by hand for example.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

View Julian's profile


1401 posts in 2896 days

#6 posted 12-26-2014 03:48 PM

Use whatever wood you like best that suits your needs. I like mahogany for certain projects but that’s a personal preference. I have used inexpensive poplar and made it look very nice with different finishes.

-- Julian

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5098 posts in 2557 days

#7 posted 12-26-2014 05:10 PM

It is a dream to work with. Machines well and takes a finish beautifully, weather resistant to boot. The color deepens over time like cherry.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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1853 posts in 2522 days

#8 posted 12-26-2014 06:20 PM

Yes, mahogany is one of the nicest woods to work with. It also takes stain better than just about every other wood I’ve used.

Despite the above, we seldom build anything with the wood. I do like some of the figured veneers though.

-- See my work at and

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2720 days

#9 posted 12-27-2014 01:28 AM

As an instrument maker, Honduras Mahogany, African Mahogany, and Sapale are all prized as easy to work woods that when finished, give off a really deep glow and are fairly tonal. Personally, I love to work with Sapale. Easy to shape, not too brittle, cuts easy, lightweight. African is my second, with its rich grain and deep glow which only shows up with a grain enhancer clear stain or oil finish. Once you start to use these woods, you know…

Just look at the backside of any Gibson or Epiphone guitar with a mahogany backside. You’ll see what I mean.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2298 days

#10 posted 12-27-2014 06:24 AM

Thanks for the replies. Very enlightening. Just to be clear, I’m not knocking mahogany. I just don’t understand the allure of it given the price.

I do like the chatoyancy. But I thought that only shows up in quarter sawn mahogany? I’ve looked at both flat sawn and quatersawn African mahogany (and used the latter) and I’ve only seen the ribbon stripe/chatoyancy in the quarter sawn variety. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I tend to dislike staining wood. I usually get wood that I like the natural color of (for example, walnut) and staining it changes that color. (One of my main exceptions is oak. I almost always stain oak). What does mahogany look like unstained?

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15705 posts in 2824 days

#11 posted 12-27-2014 08:13 AM

I’ve run across / worked with (maybe) four types of mahogany, and haven’t enjoyed any of them very much at all. Wasn’t fun to cut, or particularly easy. And I work mostly with hand tools. Maybe I just got bad stuff, who knows. In other words, it’s been interesting to see the other comments so far. Good post!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2720 days

#12 posted 12-27-2014 03:02 PM

Purrmaster, I’m not sure when it shows up. I do know that I have both in the sapele I bought from the organ company. I was lucky enough to answer a CL ad about an hour after it went up and got about 120 bd. ft. of select sapele for $300. Most of it is F2S 4/4, but some of it is F4S 8/4. Most of it is 6” to 9” wide planks, and they were nice enough to cut them down to 8’ for me to put it in my Suburban.

Anyway, here’s some pics. You can see the upper board is sapele, flatsawn. The large plank on the bottom is sapele, with flame running through it. It looks to be more quartersawn. The little piece is a cutoff of African mahogany I had lying around that I put on to show the difference. All wood is raw, planed.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View ric53's profile


194 posts in 1725 days

#13 posted 12-27-2014 03:38 PM

Creates a lot of fine dust when you sand it. I need to use a dust mask and then vac the shop. Not my favorite but have use a lot of african mahogany and most projects come out looking fine. I really like the ribbon effect.

-- Ric, Mazomanie

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915 posts in 2298 days

#14 posted 12-28-2014 12:12 AM

I too like the ribbon effect on African mahogany. It’s quite striking. The downsides I’ve run into with African mahogany (aside from price) is that it’s quite soft which makes it liable to get dented or gouged. Also, I think the color fades over time. I have a box made out of the stuff (finished with shellac) and it looks duller and less colorful than it was when it was new.

Perhaps I’ll pass on genuine mahogany for now an try sapele and santos mahogany. I keep wanting to try wenge but I can’t justify the cost.

Wish I could get a little osage orange locally and try it out.

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7053 posts in 2404 days

#15 posted 12-28-2014 12:19 AM

For boat building, it’s better than teak.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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