Chest Built By Randy Johnson

Are less-expensive African and Philippine "mahogany" just as good?

Stunning grain. Huge boards. Highly rot resistant. A dream (or a nightmare) to work. What one wood fits this bill? Mahogany, of course.

Even the plainest mahogany boards are quite beautiful, because the color is usually a deep, rich coppery red {Photo 1). Mahogany trees are huge, towering up to 150 ft. over the rain forest floor, and are often sawed into very wide boards up to 4-in. thick. The bombe chest, above right, was made from one 24-in.-wide board, 3-in. thick and 16-ft. long!

With all these good qualities, why aren't we all lining up at the lumberyard for mahogany boards? Because it's expensive, about $5 to $9 per bd. ft. It's so expensive that exporters of other woods have worked "mahogany" into the street names of their products and succeeded in confusing the heck out of woodworkers (Photo 2). Let's clear the air a bit and compare these species side by side.

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