Genuine Mahogany has long been a favorite of woodworkers. However, today it’s facing several problems: decreased availability, lower quality, and unreliable grading. At the same time, several African alternatives are increasing in availability. Also producing highly stable boards that are both wide and long, species such as African Mahogany, Sapele, and Utile are gaining popularity. Let’s take a look at the up sides and down sides of these attractive alternatives to Genuine Mahogany.
When compared to so-called “Genuine” Mahogany, which comes from Central and South America, many African hardwoods may actually be preferable. Boasting greater durability overall, along with a heightened ability to hold moulded details, these African species are certainly not sub-par. In addition, Africa’s forestry management systems allow for a steady stream of supply with no fear of shortage. They also provide for easy verification along every aspect of the supply chain, from stump to shipment. Despite those many benefits, African species such as Utile, Sapele, and African Mahogany do come with their own set of complications
While shortages or problems with quality aren’t issues with African hardwoods, they do come with other problems. Many are related to the shifting demands of the global lumber market as well as the political unrest throughout the continent, which can combine to create a virtual shortage. While there is no actual problem with availability of these species, the limited workforce provides an increased time lapse between shifts in demand. Similar to the issues surrounding Poplar, the basic issue has been caused by decreased demand in the past, which led to many mills discontinuing harvest of African Mahogany. Once the saw mills get going again, the supply promises to remain constant, as long as the demand does not drop off.
When it comes to market demand, it’s important to note that various parts of the world tend to favor certain species, just like they do sizes. African Mahogany, for instance, is generally in demand exclusively in North America; in contrast, Sapele is the favorite in Europe. Because of the more limited market for African Mahogany, many African mills focus more on Sapele and Utile, while the African regions reserve more of their workforce for other industries, such as oil and gas, that come with more steady and promising streams of revenue.
At the end of the day, buying more African hardwoods will help keep a consistent supply of that lumber coming. There is no actual shortage — just a reasonable response to a dip in demand. Just like all exotic species, the best way to keep the African lumber industry responding to our demand for high-quality alternatives to Genuine Mahogany is to keep the demand steady. If we don’t buy it, we simply can’t expect them to keep producing it. That’s the bottom line.
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.