When New World explorers landed on the shores of Central America in search of bounty for their homelands, they discovered an unexpected treasure. By the early 1700s, shiploads of mahogany were being sent to the old countries, where it had caught the fancy of Europe's royalty and governing classes.
Central American–grown mahogany, which consists of several species commonly referred to as Honduras mahogany, is still an excellent wood for today's woodworker to discover. The grain, which can grow in a straight, interlocked, or irregular pattern, offers some attractive surprises. Mahogany is a friendly wood to use in the shop. It cuts, planes, and turns with ease and resists shrinking and warping. Turners also claim that mahogany holds its shape better than many species. It is similar to cherry in weight and hardness, and its strength exceeds hard maple and oak.
Because of its premium value, mahogany is generally reserved for fine furniture applications today, but in past centuries this wood was used for shipbuilding because of its excellent resistance to decay. Woodworkers often use a clear finish on mahogany to preserve its characteristic reddish hue. While it polishes beautifully, resins in the wood have been known to react with glues and cause an undesirable staining effect.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com