Exploring the history and authenticity of mahogany, a hardwood with a little-known hybrid.
Many woodworkers today may not know how to identify genuine mahogany due to the widespread use of the term to describe other types of wood that have similar characteristics or appearance. For example, some woods from South America and Africa are marketed as "mahogany,” but they are not true Swietenia species. Additionally, many countries have regulations in place to protect genuine mahogany, which can limit its availability on the market. It is critical for woodworkers to become knowledgeable about authentic mahogany and its ethical sourcing.
Genuine mahogany, a wood that once captured the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life, has tragically dwindled in supply over the past century. This decline is a somber reminder of the harsh reality of over-harvesting and the devastating impact that human activity can have on the natural world.
Captivating the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries, this hardwood was highly sought after for its unique aesthetic and practical properties, and it is still the preferred material for craftsmen and artisans alike. Its deep, and rich color, durability, and malleability made it an ideal choice for everything from furniture to musical instruments, interior and exterior design, and boatbuilding. It quickly became a symbol of status, associated with sophistication and luxury.
However, as the demand for mahogany grew, so too did the pressure on the forests where it grew. Excessive harvesting led to its decline and threatened the extinction of the species in the genus Swietenia. As a result, concerns have been raised regarding the sale of wood labeled "mahogany" that may not be genuine. Other red-hued woods, such as Khaya and Sapele, have largely taken the place of mahogany today. Nonetheless, its legacy lives on as a reminder of the destructive effects of human activity when it is not properly managed, as well as a testimony to the inherent beauty and usefulness of natural materials.
In this context, as a forester, budding botanist, mahogany lover, and artist, I made an inquiry to Home Depot regarding the wood they sell online as mahogany. It took several attempts over a few days before…