Some facts about Mahogany

Mahogany does not grow in this country, and all stock has to be imported from Central America, South America, Africa and the Philippines. Some experts are of the opinion that African mahogany is not a true mahogany. I wouldn't know. I do know that neither Philippine nor African mahogany makes good carving stock when their workability is compared to Amazon or the Central American types.

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Amazon mahogany has a slightly softer grain and feel under the carving tools than does Honduras mahogany. Greater care must be exercised in developing detail with Amazon stock, although it cuts as freely as the other kind. In this mahogany the sharp, clear color differences can be emphasized in the finished piece if the carving is to be oiled and waxed. The color is darker than Honduras mahogany- the grain structure slightly more open.

San Domingo mahogany is without doubt the Crown Prince of fine cabinet woods. Honduras mahogany is, to my mind, the Crown Prince of wood for carving stock. By preference this is the wood in which I like to work. It cuts freely; there is enough wax in the stock to give slippage to the carving tools; fine crisp detail can be developed; it is strong in cross section; long, sweeping cuts can be made with the run of the grain, diagonally across the grain, or at right angles to the grain.

With this wood, the finished carving can be oiled and waxed and rubbed up to a fine finish, it can be varnished and rubbed back to a soft glow, it can be left untreated, it can be painted, gilded, or, if you like, thrown out on the ashpile and no harm can come to it. It can be used for out-of-door exposure with no thought for its longevity because it is highly resistant to rot and fungi. It can be dyed, stained, riffled, and abused. You can make mistakes in it, but with reasonable care it can be carved into the most beautiful work the wood carver can produce. I think I am prejudiced in its favor and so my opinion will have to be taken with a grain of salt.

The only trouble with Honduras mahogany is that it is sometimes hard to obtain in the sizes you want for your purpose. Its cost is high. I usually buy two or three plank at a time to have on hand. I ask for kiln-dried stock and, when it comes, I stack it on end in my barn where it can absorb some moisture. I have found that the most convenient and economical sizes for my use are 2-inch thick plank, 14, 16 and 18 inches wide, in lengths of 16 feet. These long lengths can be clipped to the length of the carving blank I want and the width that is best for the particular design or form that I want to execute. If wider blanks are needed, they can be jointed and ripped down to the required width. Save all the short pieces for use, by the way.






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