The furniture and cabinet-making industries have long-term relationships with Genuine Mahogany. Also called Honduran Mahogany, this species boasts unrivaled beauty and workability. At the same time, its reputation has been blighted in recent years, being considered by many to be “unsustainable.”
While we could make a decent case for both sides of that issue, the fact is that there are some great alternatives to Genuine Mahogany for those looking for a species with similar characteristics. One of our favorites is Spanish Cedar, or Cedrela odorata. Unlike the African species also considered alternatives to Mahogany, Spanish Cedar is no more difficult to work with than Genuine Mahogany.
Like so many lumber species, the popularly used name “Spanish Cedar” is a complete misnomer: This wood is neither Spanish nor a Cedar. In fact, it’s a hardwood with origins in the American tropics (Pacific coast of Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, South America). Along with Genuine Mahogany, this species is part of the Meliaceae family. Like Mahogany, Spanish Cedar has gorgeous coloring and grain patterns. Its straight grain makes it easily worked with both hand tools and power tools.
One area of concern with Spanish Cedar can be stability. This species’ slow growth rate leads to low density but compromised stability—at least compared to Mahogany. Without the right drying process, warping and weeping can result. The antidote is careful kiln-drying, a process that requires specialized equipment. As one of the only lumber wholesalers in North America with kilns able to achieve the right temperature for Spanish Cedar, J. Gibson McIlvain realizes the importance of avoiding over-drying, which can lead to hardening and compromised stability in the long run.
The Spanish Cedar market has been exploding in recent years as a growing number of builders and hobbyists are realizing the benefits of this species. Its strength and low density once gave it the nickname “Cigar-Box Cedar,” since its lightweight nature and insect and rot-repelling abilities make it ideal for use in humidors; today’s applications include many exterior uses such as windows, doors, exterior trim, and even seaworthy vessels.
The increased demand for Spanish Cedar, combined with its slow growth rate, has led to recent vulnerability. While availability is not currently an issue, quality can be somewhat compromised. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we constantly aim for the right balance between environmental concerns and customer satisfaction. As such, we source our Spanish Cedar from both certified sources and plantations that produce quality lumber. As the market continues to tighten, availability is increasingly a concern. With rising prices and longer delivery times, many customers are looking to other Genuine Mahogany alternatives.
With constantly fluctuating markets for many exotic lumber species, you need a lumber wholesaler and direct importer you can trust. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we’re committed to never artificially inflating our prices or settling for low-quality lumber just because higher qualities are not available. We constantly offer customers recommendations of different species instead of asking them to settle for second-rate materials. For our recommendations for your next project, contact our lumber specialists today by calling (800) 638-9100.