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Last edited 11 Oct 2020
Properties of mahogany
Mahogany is classified as a hardwood and is commonly found in the Americas, particularly in Central America. It has been a massive part of Central American culture, being the national tree of the Dominican Republic and Belize, as well and featuring on the Coat of Arms and the flag of Belize.
There are three species of mahogany:
- Honduran mahogany – located anywhere between Mexico and as far down as the southern Amazon rainforest in Brazil.
- Cuban mahogany – native to southern Florida and the Caribbean, but does not have great widespread commercial use.
- Pacific Coast mahogany – said to be a smaller version of the Honduran mahogany species by botanists, but it is smaller and typically found in dry forest in Central America.
Although botanists consider it be to a hardwood, it is not one of the hardest woods available when it comes to woodworking. Woodcarvers say working with mahogany is relatively easy, due to its structure and durability.
Mahogany has been used in the production of furniture since the middle of the 18th century. At this time, American woodcutters and craftsmen could travel to Mexico and Central America to harvest the mahogany that was available.
Mahogany resists wood rot when exposed to the elements, especially water; this has made it very attractive to shipbuilders around the world, and a great number of boats have been constructed using mahogany.
It is also considered a tone wood, which means it possesses tonal properties that are ideal for wooden stringed instruments. Other tone woods include rosewood, maple, ash, and basswood. Because of this, mahogany has been used to create parts of string instruments, such as the backs, sides, and necks of acoustic guitars, as well as the body of electric guitars. The most popular guitar that uses mahogany as the body is the Gibson Les Paul, one of the most iconic guitars of all time.
Because of its decline in its natural habitat, people have cultivated mahogany across the world, giving them the name of ‘true mahogany’, whereas the species mentioned at the beginning are known as ‘genuine mahogany’.
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