The issues surrounding Genuine Mahogany may seem bleak, but they’re not without a silver lining. Between decreased availability and lower grade, the problems are quite disconcerting. At the same time, though, they are reversible — and, in the meantime, other options are available. In this article, we’ll look at the basic issue at hand, as well as one potential solution to the problem.
The beauty of Genuine Mahogany is certainly not just “skin deep.” As any woodworker knows, the easy workability makes building or creating with this South American species a beautiful process. Once finished, the depth and color provide gorgeous appearance for years to come. Furniture makers can utilize even lesser grades because they can easily cut around knots and other defects. Historically, supply has not been an issue, and the ironic falloff of availability of higher grades of Genuine Mahogany has occurred after CITES regulation has come into play, attempting to encourage sustainable forestry management. While this new regulation has led to healthier Mahogany forests, by limiting the amount of Mahogany exported, it has also led to a lower quality supply.
The decreased availability and selection of Mahogany is the result, not of improperly managed forests, but of secondary effects of CITES regulation. Basically, as outside organizations have subsidized sawmills, helping with regulations and concessions, they have been allowed to exercise control over the supply, grabbing the highest quality lumber before anyone else has a chance. Another unfortunate result has been poor sawing practices that prioritize quantity over quality, leading to a market flooded with Common grade Mahogany.
One part of the solution to this unfortunate dilemma surrounding Genuine Mahogany is to think twice before rejecting B grade materials. There has been an elitist tendency within the North American lumber market, in general, rearing its ugly head in recent years. It has contributed to issues with availability of many species, and Genuine Mahogany is no exception.
As Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars explains regarding the Ebony market, such particular requirements can be detrimental to the market of any species. As a natural material, wood includes “defects”, and we shouldn’t expect it to look like it came out of a mold. Because the rest of the world seems to realize that fact, by continuing to refuse anything but perfect grades, the North American market has created problems for itself. Even while we complain about the quality of Mahogany currently being exported from South America, the rest of the world thinks it’s just fine.
Learning to accept lower quality Genuine Mahogany will begin to help the situation; but it’s definitely not a full solution. We’ll explore some other potential answers to the dilemma in later articles – including implementing NHLA grading standards and considering alternative African species.