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Honduran mahogany

The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-coloured hardwood. It is a native American word originally used for the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban mahogany.[1] It was next applied to the wood of Swietenia macrophylla, which is closely related, and known as Honduras mahogany.[2] Today, all species of Swietenia are listed by CITES, and are therefore protected. Species of Swietenia cross-fertilise readily when they grow in proximity, the hybrid between S. mahagoni and S. macrophylla is widely planted for its timber. Mahogany is the national tree of Dominican Republic and Belize. It also appears on the national seal of Belize.

"Mahoganies" may refer to the largest group of all Meliacae. the timbers yielded by the fifteen related species of Swietenia, Khaya and Entandrophragma. The timbers of Entandrophragma are sold under their individual names, sometimes with "mahogany" attached as a suffix, for example "sipo" may be referred to as "sipo mahogany". Kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile), a close relative, is sometimes called New Zealand Mahogany.

In addition, the US timber trade also markets various other FTC-defined species as "mahoganies" under a variety of different commercial names, most notably "Philippine mahogany," which in reality is actually a Shorea.

Uses

Mahogany has a generally straight grain and is usually free of voids and pockets. It has a reddish-brown color, which darkens over time, and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable. The size of the trees meant that wide boards were once available (and still are of the non-endangered varieties). These properties make it a favourable wood for crafting furniture.

Much of the first-quality furniture made in the American colonies from the mid 1700s, when the wood first became available to American furniture makers, was made of mahogany. Mahogany is widely used for fine furniture; the rarity of Cuban mahogany restricts its use (likewise Honduras mahogany). Mahogany resists wood rot, which makes it suitable for boat construction. It is also often used for musical instruments, particularly the backs of guitars.

Mahogany is used for drum making because of its integrity and capability to produce a very dark, warm tone (as compared to other more common wood types like Maple or Birch). Ringo Starr was said to have used mahogany drums, on the Beatles recordings of the 60s, manufactured by Ludwig.[citation needed] Contemporary drum manufacturers, including C&C custom, offer several drum kits featuring high-end shells made of mahogany.

A wide variety of electric guitars are also made with mahogany, like Gibson's Les Paul line using a sandwiched body with generous use of Mahogany as the back, and a thinner plank of Maple on the sculpted top featured on the bulk of Les Paul Models. The Maple with tighter grain generally yields a brighter tone, the combination of woods produce a warm, rounded tone with huge sustain, for which the guitar is famous. The Gibson SG, and most of the PRS Guitars among others make use of Mahogany for the entire body, and often for the Neck material. Mahogany is noted, again, for its dark tonal properties, as well as its weight (Gibson Les Pauls may weigh as much as 12 pounds),

Mahogany is also commonly used in acoustic guitars. The wood is most often used to make the back, sides, or neck of a guitar, but it is sometimes used to make the top (soundboard) as well. Guitars with mahogany soundboards tend to have a softer, darker tone than those made from spruce. The most common form of mahogany used in the making of acoustic guitars is honduran. Cuban mahogany gives an extra warmth and is therefore very desireable. African mahogany (sapele) is often used due to its low price however his quality pieces can make fantastic instruments and offer a "punchyness" that the other mahoganies lack.

Mahogany is now being used for the bodies of high-end stereo phonographic record cartridges[3] and for stereo headphones[4], where it is noted for “warm” or “musical” sound.

References

  1. ^ Eighteenth- and nineteenth century sources call it Danto Domingo mahogany or Spanish mahogany (Percy Macquoid, The Age of Mahogany, 1904)
  2. ^ In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries known as Bay Wood, from the Bay of Campeche, whence it was exported. (Noted as "bay wood" as late as the Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia, 1931, s.v. "Mahogany")
  3. ^ Merod, Jim (February 5, 2001). "Grado’s Sonata Phono Cartridge and Other Blessings". The Stereo Times. 
  4. ^ Phillips, Wes (July 1996). "Grado Reference Series One Headphones". Stereophile magazine. 
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MAHOGANY, a dark-coloured wood largely used for household furniture, the product of a large tree indigenous to Central America and the West Indies. It was originally received from Jamaica; 521,300 ft. were exported from that island in 1753. It is known botanically as Swietenia Mahogani, and is a member of the order Meliaceae. It bears compound leaves, resembling. those of the ash, and clusters of small flowers, with five sepals and petals and ten stamens which are united into a tube. The fruit is a pear-shaped woody capsule, and contains many winged seeds. The dark-coloured bark has been considered a febrifuge, and the seeds were used by the ancient Aztecs with oil for a cosmetic, but the most valuable product is the timber, first noticed by the carpenter on board Sir Walter Raleigh's ship in 1595 for its great beauty, hardness and durability., Dr Gibbons brought it into notice as well adapted for furniture in the early part of the 18th century, and its use as a cabinet wood was first practically established by a cabinet-maker named Wollaston, who was employed by Gibbons to work up some mahogany brought to England by his brother. It was introduced into India in 1795, and is now cultivated in Bengal and as far north as Saharunpur.

The timber of species of Cedrela and Melia, other members of the order Meliaceae, are used as Mahogany, and the product of the West African Khaya senegalensis is known as African mahogany. There is some confusion between the product of these various trees. Herbert Stone (The Timbers of Commerce, 1904) says: "The various species of mahogany and cedar are so confusing that it is difficult to make precise statements as to their structure or origin. I know of no convincing proof that any of the American kinds met with on the English market are the wood of Swietenia Mahogani, nor that those shipped from Africa are the wood of Khaya senegalensis. These two genera are very nearly allied to Cedrela and Melia, and it is difficult to separate any of the four from the rest by the characters of the wood. After giving the most careful attention to every detail, I lean to the view that most if not all of the mahoganies commonly met with are Cedrelas." Kiggelaria Dregeana (natural order Bixineae), a native of South Africa, is known as Natal mahogany.


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