Wood of the Month: African Mahogany

Our hardwood special for the month of March is African Mahogany

Botanical Name: Khaya including K. ivorensis, K. anthotheca, K. grandifolia, and K. senegalensis. The family is Meliaceae – the Mahogany family. Other names include: Benin wood, Lagos wood, Khaya, Ivory Coast Mahogany, Nigerian Mahogany, degema, grand bassam.

Distribution: The tree grows in all of the timber producing countries of West Africa. It grows most abundantly in Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast to heights of 140 feet and a diameter of 6’. It has a clean cylindrical bole of 60 to 80 feet above the buttress.

General description: The wood varies from the light pinkish-brown to a deep reddish shade, often with a purple cast. The luster is high and golden, and odor and taste are not distinct. The grain is generally straight but often has a ribbon figure. Helena Hardwoods stocks mixed grain African Mahogany allowing us to meet either requirement. Crotch and swirl figures are also common.

While the wood’s characteristics are fairly close to the Central American species of Swietenia (Honduras Mahogany), African is more resistant to splitting and is unsuitable for bending. It tends to be darker in color than Honduras Mahogany with swirling grain patterns that provide an interesting appearance but is also more prone to tear out that Honduras Mahogany. Specific gravity is about .44 for K. ivorensis, the most common species, and up to .55 and .65 respectively for K. grandifolia and K. senegalensis.

Mechanical properties: In general, this wood works easily, but if the grain is interlocked it is subject to tear out. It holds glue well and will split in nailing only when thin dimensions are used. It stains evenly and takes a good polish. In damp conditions it will react with iron resulting in dark stains on the wood surface, therefore coated or non-ferrous fastenings should be used for assembly.

Uses: Khaya is a standard timber for furniture, up-scale joinery, boat building, paneling and interior work. It has frequently replaced Honduras Mahogany due to its greater abundance and lower cost.

Left and below:
Bedroom set of African Mahogany
by Tim Carney of Timothy's Fine Woodworking.

Mango and Mahogany Custom Bed
Other Links on African Mahogany:

For more information on African Mahogany or to purchase some for your next project, call Dave Ashley at Helena Hardwoods. 406.495.1066

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