Have you found yourself mourning the loss of Genuine Mahogany — or, at least the Genuine Mahogany you used to know? After over 200 years of carrying this premium species here at J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber Company, we truly feel your pain. Those who work with wood directly know the dream-like way it saws, carves, and planes — never mind the color and depth after finishing. Truly a thing of beauty — both to handle and to view — the Genuine Mahogany of yesteryear is sadly a thing of the past.
While Genuine Mahogany is still around, its grade and availability are definitely lacking. Consider it like an elderly loved one who has not yet crossed from this life to the next, but yet no longer possesses the strength, wit, and beauty you once loved to see in her. You grieve your loss, even though she is still here.
Unlike the inevitable consequences of old age, the reasons for Mahogany’s deterioration have been fully avoidable. Sure, years of forestry management failings have played their part, but many related issues have been dealt with thanks to CITES regulations limiting exporting of Mahogany. The health of Mahogany forests has steadily benefited from outside organizations that have subsidized sawmills and overseen land concessions and governmental regulations.
However, that same involvement has led to both political and business interests becoming intertwined with the original goal of forestry health. Monopolies have evolved, and poor sawing practices have become common, causing a reduction in grade. Basically, monopolies grab the good stuff, leaving the market flooded with common grade Mahogany that, basically, no one wants.
Just like it’s not just the young, healthy people who have value, natural wood has value even when it’s not premium grade. The North American market is infamous for discriminating against anything that isn’t perfect, as if we forget that natural building material won’t look like precisely molded plastic. Perfect grades of tropical hardwoods have left us with unrealistic expectations; most markets across the globe accept what we call “defects” as normal.
The result has been a push-and-shove with North American complaints prompting South American NGOs to push for implementing NHLA grading standards. If they get their way, there would be a more consistent playing field across both domestic and exotic wood products in North America. At the same time, there’s been good reason to grade tropical species differently: Their size and growth tendencies are distinctively different from domestic species.
If Mahogany were graded according to NHLA standards, more defects would be allowed into each board, essentially lowering the bar. In the short run, more lumber currently rejected would have a home. Over the long haul, though, North American suppliers will be forced to stop accepting Mahogany altogether.
Continue with Part 2.
Learn more about Mahogany
- The Secret to Finding Premium African Mahogany
- Economic Forces Causing Mahogany Shortages
- Re-evaluating the Bigger-Is-Better Mindset
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a sales representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling toll free (800) 638-9100.
Image credits: Top by Sergio Martínez/Fotolia; 2nd by Andrey_Lobachev/Fotolia; 3rd by Darryl Brooks/Fotolia; 4th by RT7/Fotolia; 5th by J Gibson McIlvain.