Types of Mahogany Wood – Identification & Uses

mahogany wood types and uses

Mahogany wood is eagerly sought after for its exotic look that becomes deeper and richer over time.

As a result, mahogany is used in a wide variety of situations, from ornate wood carvings to cabinetry, to floors, and even to musical instruments where it creates beautiful violins and guitars.

What’s interesting about the wood is that marketing has taken over the term Mahogany and we now have a range of unrelated trees falling under the Mahogany name and being sold as such.

When choosing the wood – it’s important to understand the different Mahogany woods, their characteristics, how to best use each different type, and how to ensure you’re getting genuine Mahogany.

Read along to get all of the information you need on Mahogany Wood for whatever project you have waiting for it.

Different Types and Species of Mahogany

Genuine Mahogany is still available through Honduran Mahogany suppliers, and many consider African Mahagony as genuine as well.

However, there are a wide range of other trees being marketed as Mahogany and may come with the same price but not the same features as genuine Mahogany.

So, you need to be wary of what exactly you’re buying and not just assume that Mahogany is all the same type of wood.

They’re certainly not, and aside from a similar color, the characteristics can be wildly different.

Check where your wood comes from, as that will be your first sign of whether you’re getting genuine Mahogany or not.

1- Cuban Mahogany

Historically this is what people talked about when they discussed Mahogany.

It was used extensively throughout Europe and the United States for cabinetry, furniture, and a variety of other uses.

However, overuse has depleted the supply, with Cuba no longer exporting it and other locations having minimal supply as well, so it’s very rare to see except in old pieces that may get reused. 

Uses

Not a lot of Cuban Mahogany is going to be used anymore; however, you’ll find it in older furniture, cabinetry, veneers, carvings, and even musical instruments.

It’s also historically been used in boatbuilding.

Color Texture & Grain

Cuban Mahogany heartwood varies in color, but it is generally pale pinkish-brown to darker reddish-brown.

The denser and older the wood, the darker it becomes.

Cuban Mahogany has a large range of different grains you’ll find; it can be wavy or irregular, interlocked, or even straight. It’s got a medium and uniform texture and has a reasonable natural luster to it.

Cost, Availability & Durability

Cuban Mahogany is extremely expensive due to the rarity of the product.

Therefore, you are unlikely to see it for sale, and if you do happen to, you’ll recognize it based on the price it’s selling for.

Extremely rare, you’re unlikely to find Cuban Mohogany at Home Depot for your flooring needs.

If it does become available, it’s extremely expensive, simply because of its rarity.

This wood is moderate to very durable depending on how it was grown and how dense the wood is.

Older growth trees produce much more durable wood, while plantation-grown trees are only moderately durable.

It’s resistant to termites but still vulnerable to many other insects.


2- Honduran Mahogany

Honduran Mohagany is what’s left of genuine Mohagany, now that Cuban Mahogany is not available.

However, due to the exploitation of the wood, it’s now becoming more challenging to get outside of the countries it’s being grown in.

Uses

Depending on what country you’re in, you can still find Honduran Mahogany, so it’s used extensively in furniture, cabinetry, turned items, and carving.

You’ll also find musical instruments like guitars made out of it and may still be used in boatbuilding.

Color Texture & Grain

You’ll find Honduran Mahogany in a variety of colors that you see in most Mahogany; it can be pinkish-brown to a dark red-brown color.

As with almost every Mohogany variety, it will darken more as it ages.

Honduran Mahogany has an almost identical variety of texture and grain as you find in Cuban Mahogany.

You’ll discover irregular or wavy, interlocked, and straight grain options. It has a medium and uniform texture with a slight natural luster to it.

Pricing, Availability & Durability

You can still find Honduran Mahogany, even though there are export restrictions in some places.

You’ll find lumber and veneers readily available from plantations, which does have the downside of being lighter colors and less durable than old-growth Honduran Mahogany.

Honduran Mahogany is a relatively durable and hardy wood; depending on where and how it was grown, it’s moderate to very durable.

Similar to Cuban Mahogany, it’s resistant to termites, but other insects can be a problem.


3- African Mahogany

African Mahogany refers to a number of different trees, all from Africa. It’s the most widely available substitute for genuine Mahogany.

While it’s a very close comparison, it lacks some of the deeper color and durability that you get with Cuban and Honduran Mahogany.

Uses

African Mahogany is exceptionally easy to work with, so it can be used in an extensive range of different areas.

You’ll find veneers available, plywood, turned items, as well as in the construction of furniture and even for boatbuilding.

It can be used for general construction, but it’s generally only used for interior trim and outward-facing uses.

Color, Texture & Grain

African Mahogany has a similar color to Cuban and Honduran, though it lacks some of the darker shades.

You’ll find it in very pale pink to a deep red-brown. You may even find streaks of varying colors through the grain.

As the wood ages, it can become darker, though not as dark as genuine Mahogany.

African Mahogany has varying grains from straight to interlocked. It has a medium to coarse texture.

Pricing, Availability, & Durability

African Mahogany is widely available and is the biggest substitute for genuine Mahogany on the market today.

You’ll get a massive variety of sizes and types available. It’s an inexpensive imported wood.

It’s only a moderately durable wood, and in some cases, has pretty poor resistance to insects and marine borers, which can also determine what it’s good to be used for.


4- Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany is a highly dense wood that is not often available for commercial sale, at least in bulk.

Due to how dense it is, how difficult it is to harvest, and tough to work with, it doesn’t make for a good product for widescale use.

Some hobbyist woodworkers like to use it for specialty projects, and people with Santos Mahogany growing near them may simply use it for firewood if they can chop through the tree.

Uses

Most people don’t use Mountain Mahogany.

It’s challenging to work with, so it’s mainly for small projects for people who want extremely dense and durable wood.

Historically it’s been used by native peoples to turn into tools for digging and even arrowheads on their weapons.

Color, Texture & Grain

Mountain Mahogany comes in the standard reddish-brown that you expect from most woods claiming to be Mahogany.

However, you will find some of the sapwood to be a paler yellow or even pink color.

Similar to many of these woods on the list, as the wood ages, it becomes darker.

Mountain Mahogany has a very fine texture and even grain. If you happen to use it, then you’ll find it has an excellent natural luster.

Pricing, Availability & Durability

Rarely available in any commercial capacity due to it being hard to harvest.

You would need to get it yourself, or you may see it available on rare occasions though it will be expensive compared to other domestic wood.

This wood is exceptionally durable, hardy, and strong.


5- Santos Mahogany

Santos Mahogany is one of the pretenders in the Mahogany world.

While it does look like genuine Mahogany, it is a much more dense and stronger wood than you’d expect with Mohogany, and it’s harder to work with.

Uses

It’s used in many familiar places such as flooring, furniture, interior trim, and even general construction.

What’s interesting about this wood is that it’s also used to make ingredients for perfume.

So, if you cut or work with this wood, you’ll notice a spicey scent that comes from it.

Color, Texture & Grain

Santos Mahogany comes in a wide variety of colors which makes it very appealing to use.

For example, you’ll find light golden brown all the way to a darker purple-red or even burgundy color.

As the wood ages, it moves towards the darker red and purple colors.

It has an interlocked grain with a medium to fine texture.

It has a natural luster that comes out when used for flooring and furniture construction.

Pricing, Availability & Durability

Santos Mahogany is available worldwide with pricing in the mid-range of imported woods used for flooring.

It’s a very durable wood due to its resistance to decay, though it isn’t totally resistant to insect attacks much like other Mahogany-type woods.


6- Swamp Mahogany

Swamp Mahogany is a tree from Australia though it’s now being grown worldwide, especially in warmer climates.

It’s incredibly hardy and matures quickly, making it ideal for harvesting quickly.

Uses

While Swamp Mahogany can be used for firewood or general construction, its real value lies in constructing piers and other water-based structures.

Because it’s grown in swamps and around water, it is highly resistant to issues caused by water and also the marine borers, though it still is susceptible to airborne insects.

You would not use this world for furniture or much else besides construction.

Color, Texture & Grain

It has a reddish-brown color which is partially why it gets lumped into the Mahogany category.

The color is also helpful for outdoor construction projects as you won’t need to paint it, and it’s more appealing than pine and other timbers.

It’s a highly coarse texture, and the grain is interlocked, and sometimes there are light and dark stripes running through it.

Pricing, Availability & Durability

Moderately priced and available throughout much of the world, it’s been exported and planted in various warm climates due to its usefulness in many construction projects.

It is exceptionally durable, especially when used in the construction of water-based structures.

In addition, it’s resistant to marine life that tries to bore into wood, so it is a much better option than many other kinds of wood.


A Bit of History about Mahogany – Things to Know

Genuine Mahogany has been used extensively since the 18th century in Europe and the United States.

The word “mahogany” was previously used in the small islands near the West Indies.

Later the wood of the tree was known as “Acajou” and “Coaba” in different territories and cultures.

Presently, it’s been favored due to its range of deep rich colors, and ease of working with it.

It’s been used in a wide variety of furniture, boats, houses, and anything else you can think of that wants durable and beautiful wood.

You find mahogany in guitars and even ornate wood carvings.

Unfortunately, due to overuse, Cuban Mahogany has been extremely rare for some time, and Honduran Mahogany is on its way to a similar fate.

Much of the Honduran Mahogany available today comes from plantations, which are known to have less dense and durable wood and weaker colors.

This is partially due to how it’s planted and how quickly it’s being harvested due to demand.

This has left a gap in the market, but not a gap in the demand for Mahogany, and that’s where the African Mahogany comes in.

African Mahogany has remarkably similar qualities as genuine Mahogany, though it doesn’t have quite the same richness in color and is a little harder to work with.

We can see from all of this that what was genuine Mahogany and all the benefits that came with it is no longer available, and we’re just using the Mahogany brand to sell similar but not quite as good products.

Final Thoughts

Many different trees from all over the world fall under the Mahogany brand now.

Some can be used in place of genuine mahogany, while others would be wildly inappropriate to use.

Most of the trees have similar features such as color, grain, texture, and durability.

However, if you’re looking for genuine Mahogany or a very similar product, you need to look out for specific trees, such as Honduran or African Mahogany.

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