5 Sustainable Hardwoods


Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)

Mahogany's fine texture and deep, rich color have made it the world's choice for fine furniture for centuries. A tropical wood, mahogany is also tough enough for outdoor and industrial use.

Furniture-quality mahogany comes from Central and South America and the Caribbean. The heartwood starts out with pink, salmon and red tones that age to rich reds and browns. The grain can be straight or wavy, with swirl, quilted or ribbon stripe figures commonly occurring. This type of mahogany is easy to work and easy on your tools. If your selection is highly figured, use fine blades and small cuts to avoid tearing and chipping. Lush and lustrous to begin with, mahogany from the Americas is easy to polish to a smooth, glassy finish.

Mahogany is also a good material for decking around pools and hot tubs. It's tough enough to stand up to the elements, smooth enough to keep bare feet safe from splinters, and it ages gloriously.

The workhorse of sustainable mahogany is the dense, irregularly grained Australian variety, Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata). This stuff is tough to work with and blunts cutting tools more than other woods, but it glues well. Jarrah is coarse-grained, and gum-pocket defects are common. It's suitable for tough-use applications such as flooring, railroad ties, dock and harbor installations and heavy construction.

Mahogany meets its match in the pale beauty on the next page.