As popular as Genuine Mahogany remains with many craftsmen, interrelated issues like availability, sustainability , and affordability are making alternative species increasingly important to consider. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we have researched the issue thoroughly and believe that some accusations regarding sustainability issues are overstated. As a result, we still keep Genuine Mahogany in stock, but we also recommend many comparable species, such as Utile. Also referred to as “Sipo,” this African lumber species is growing in popularity and is arguably the species that most closely resembles the South American favorite.
Once considered a vulnerable species that was difficult to source, Utile has enjoyed the results of responsible forestry practices and is now readily — if not prolifically — available. At McIlvain Lumber, we take great pains to ensure that our sources produce the highest quality materials and utilize environmentally and socially responsible practices. As a direct importer of record, we individually research each mill with which we partner, allowing us to ensure that the supply chain is untainted.
While quartersawn Utile (pictured above) offers a ribbon-like striping effect similar to that of Sapele, the grain patterns and coloring of Utile make it nearly indistinguishable from Mahogany when flatsawn — at least to the untrained eye. The interlocking grain pattern of Utile is similar to other African species, producing a banded light-and-dark effect. The darker medullary ray lines of Utile are seen to add interest to the boards. Although not as distinct as those of African Mahogany, the bands of Utile make the lumber easier to work with, producing less tearing. As a result, this species can be preferred over Genuine Mahogany when staining or clear coating is the desired finish. The hardness of Utile is between that of African Mahogany and Genuine Mahogany, which also contributes to the ideal workability of Utile.
Popular applications using Utile include many of the same types of projects for which Genuine Mahogany has traditionally been used. Cabinetry is certainly a top use, as are exterior applications and a variety of millwork. The biggest reason Utile is not yet as popular as we believe it could be is that it is still relatively unknown.
Other alternatives to Genuine Mahogany include Spanish Cedar, Sapele, and African Mahogany. All of those options provide a cost savings, while retaining some of the highly prized characteristics of Genuine Mahogany. Only Utile , though, offers the same degree of similarity to Genuine Mahogan. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we keep a large volume of this increasingly popular species in stock at all times, ready for your order. Nationwide shipping can get quality lumber quickly delivered from our warehouses to your job site.