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American mahogany

Scientific name

Swietenia mahogoni, S. macrophylla. Family: Meliaceae

Other names

Cuban mahogany; Spanish mahogany; Honduras mahogany; West-Indian mahogany; caoba (Latin America); acajou (French-speaking areas); mogno, araputanga; aguano (Brazil); zopilote gateado (Mexico)

Description

  • Tropical hardwood.
  • Grows to 50m high and 2m diameter.
  • Bole (trunk) is often 20–40m long.

Original (true) mahogany was exported to Europe in the early 18th century. Since then many timbers have been called mahogany due to similar aesthetics or to increase their market.

Occurrence

Natural distribution

  • Central America
  • West Indies
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • Venezuela
  • Bolivia

Plantations

  • within native range (above)
  • Hawaii
  • Fiji
  • Philippines

Appearance

Colour

  • Sapwood is light pink-yellowish-brown and usually distinct from heartwood.
  • Heartwood varies from medium to deep red-brown.
  • Timber darkens on exposure.
  • Logs may produce streaky timber.

Grain

  • Texture is moderately fine.
  • Grain is straight to wavy or interlocked, often with an attractive figure (pattern).

Uses

Decorative

  • High-quality original and reproduction cabinets and chairs.
  • Panelling, interior joinery.
  • Vehicle window and door cappings.
  • Boat building, deck housing and cabin fittings.

Others

  • Boat building, planking, pattern making, models.

Properties

  • Density: 530kg/m3 at 12% moisture content; about 1.9m3 of seasoned sawn timber per tonne.
  • Strength groups: S5 unseasoned, SD6 seasoned.
  • Stress grades: F5, F7, F8, F11 (unseasoned), F7, F8, F11, F14 (seasoned) when visually stress-graded in accordance with AS 2082—2000: Timber—Hardwood—Visually stress-graded for structural purposes.
  • Joint groups: JD4 seasoned.
  • Shrinkage to 12% MC: 2.5% (tangential), 1.6% (radial).
  • Unit shrinkage: 0.21% (tangential), 0.18% (radial)—these values apply to timber reconditioned after seasoning.
  • Durability above-ground: Class 3 (life expectancy 7–15 years).
  • Durability in-ground: Class 3 (life expectancy 5–15 years).
  • Lyctine susceptibility: untreated sapwood susceptible to lyctine borer attack.
  • Termite resistance: not resistant.
  • Preservation: difficult to impregnate with preservatives.
  • Seasoning: dries fairly rapidly without much checking or distortion.
  • Hardness: soft (rated 5 on a 6-class scale) to indent and work with hand tools.
  • Machining: machines well, but can sometimes produce a woolly finish; maintain sharp cutting edges.
  • Fixing: nails and screws well.
  • Gluing: good characteristics.
  • Finishing: excellent, readily accepts paint, stain and polish.

Research and resources

  • Bootle, K 2005, Wood in Australia: Types, properties and uses, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill, Sydney.
  • Ilic, J 1991, CSIRO atlas of hardwoods, Crawford House Press, Bathurst, Australia.
  • Queensland Government, DAF 2018, Construction timbers in Queensland: properties and specifications for satisfactory performance of construction timbers in Queensland. Class 1 and Class 10 buildings, Books 1 & 2, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.