It’s sad, but true: Today’s South American Mahogany isn’t as great as it used to be. If you’re a woodworker, you know how wonderful Genuine Mahogany is to work with. If you care about quality, you’ve probably noticed a drop off over the past few years. What you may not know is the “why” behind the changes. The issue is not that high-quality Mahogany is no longer available or that there’s none being grown sustainably. Instead, it’s a politically-motivated mix of changes in grading and sawing practices.
A push for grading standards may sound like a good thing for consumers, but when it comes to Genuine Mahogany, it really isn’t. Some NGOs are pushing for NHLA standards to be applied to tropical hardwood lumber species such as Genuine Mahogany.
The catch is that it’s important to understand that the NHLA grading system was developed with the furniture industry in view. Now, does it make sense that the same board that would be ideal from which to carve the arm of a chair would also work well for a run of crown moulding? Of course not! For millwork, you need long defect-free boards. If NHLA grading is applied, then a lot of usable lumber graded as FAS will go to waste.
The reason behind a desire for NHLA standards to be applied to Mahogany is, of course, money. The same NGOs that stand to benefit are encouraging mills to use sawing practices that prioritize quantity rather than quality.
If lower quality boards can be sold under the same grade as higher quality boards (and gain the same price), this certainly makes sense for them. But eventually, the decreased amount of usable boards will mean heightened prices for consumers, because if we have to buy 5 boards to find one good one for moulding, consumers will have to pay for all 5 boards. In the long run, it would be better for the market if 2 quality boards were sawn instead of those 5 of variable quality which consumers will end up still having to pay for, anyway.
As a result of this quantity-driven approach, most Mahogany boards are being graded as #1 Common or Select; FAS is increasingly rare. That sad part of this is that the large Mahogany tree is certainly capable of yielding high-grade boards – if it’s sawn for quality, instead of quantity.
Due to the decreasing quality of Genuine Mahogany available, J.Gibson McIlvain won’t be carrying as much of this formerly high-end species in the future. Instead, we recommend highly stable African species that rival Mahogany’s rich appearance and straight grain. Some of these species are Sapele,
Utile, and African Mahogany. We’re also beginning to stock some Fijian Plantation Mahogany.
In the end, we’re more concerned about quality than species or origin — and we’re pretty sure our customers are, too.
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 representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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