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Help: Kinds of Mahogany

GUEST,Andrew 22 Oct 01 - 01:30 AM
mooman 22 Oct 01 - 04:24 AM
mooman 22 Oct 01 - 04:26 AM
GUEST,agamemnon3@aol.com 22 Oct 01 - 04:55 AM
mooman 22 Oct 01 - 05:07 AM
mooman 22 Oct 01 - 05:09 AM
catspaw49 22 Oct 01 - 09:36 AM
Murray MacLeod 22 Oct 01 - 06:32 PM
Bob Bolton 23 Oct 01 - 09:34 AM
GUEST,Claymore 23 Oct 01 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Ben Seymour 23 Oct 01 - 01:48 PM
GUEST,jack 23 Oct 01 - 03:04 PM
John MacKenzie 23 Oct 01 - 03:25 PM
Bill D 23 Oct 01 - 06:01 PM
okthen 23 Oct 01 - 06:15 PM
mooman 23 Oct 01 - 06:42 PM
mooman 23 Oct 01 - 06:50 PM
Bill D 23 Oct 01 - 07:16 PM
mooman 23 Oct 01 - 07:49 PM
Bill D 23 Oct 01 - 08:10 PM
John MacKenzie 24 Oct 01 - 02:03 PM
mooman 24 Oct 01 - 03:56 PM
zac 24 Oct 01 - 07:11 PM
Bill D 24 Oct 01 - 08:28 PM
Murray MacLeod 24 Oct 01 - 08:45 PM
Jon Freeman 24 Oct 01 - 08:57 PM
GUEST,Claymore 25 Oct 01 - 11:05 AM
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Subject: Kinds of Mahogany
From: GUEST,Andrew
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 01:30 AM

I'll one day order a Mahogany custom Goodall (Concert Jumbo). But I've heard of at least three different Mahogany's. African, Asian and domestic. A drummer friend raves about the rich, full sound of African Mahogany (in drums). Never heard of an African Mahogany guitar though. Any comments about differences in tonal qualities of the different Mahogany's?


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 04:24 AM

Dear Guest Andrew,

Indeed the "mahogany story" is a long and complicated one and "mahogany" seems to have become a generic common name for a wole host of completely unrelated timbers.

The "true" mahoganies used for quality guitar contruction are from the botanical family Meliaceae and the specific genera/species generally used are Swietenia macrophylla and Swietenia mahagoni. These are generally from the West Indies or Central America and go under a variety of local names according to the country of origin, e.g. "Honduras mahogany".

The African mahoganies generally fall under the genus Khaya. Some of the species of Khaya are very dense and well figured and, although I have done a fair amount of guitar repair, I haven't seen a Khaya-contructed guitar although I can't see any good reason why a suitable sample of this timber shouldn't be used. Below you will find a list (non-exhaustive) of some different woods called "mahogany". To these you can add also various Asian woods also called "mahogany" such as the Phillipine "Luans" and others. I could not recommend these for instrument-making.

Mahogany (Sickingia salvadorense)

Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)
Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni)
Mahogany bean (Afzelia quanzensis)
Mahogany bean (Gymnocladus dioicus)
Mahogany eucalyptus, Red (Eucalyptus resinifera)
Mahogany, African (Khaya grandifoliola)
Mahogany, African (Khaya nyassica)
Mahogany, African (Khaya senegalensis)
Mahogany, Australian red (Eucalyptus resinifera)
Mahogany, Bastard (Carapa guianensis)
Mahogany, Belize (Swietenia macrophylla)
Mahogany, Benin (Khaya grandifoliola)
Mahogany, Benin (Khaya senegalensis)
Mahogany, Big leafed (Swietenia macrophylla)
Mahogany, Bigleaf (Swietenia macrophylla)
Mahogany, Cuban (Sickingia salvadorense)
Mahogany, Cuban (Swietenia mahagoni)
Mahogany, Dominican (Sickingia salvadorense)
Mahogany, Dominican (Swietenia mahagoni)
Mahogany, East Indian (Pterocarpus dalbergioides)
Mahogany, Entandrophragma (Entandrophragma angolense)
Mahogany, Entandrophragma (Entandrophragma candollei)
Mahogany, False (Andira inermis)
Mahogany, Heavy african (Khaya grandifoliola)
Mahogany, Honduras (Swietenia macrophylla)
Mahogany, Jamaica (Sickingia salvadorense)
Mahogany, Jamaica (Swietenia mahagoni)
Mahogany, Kentucky (Gymnocladus dioicus)
Mahogany, Khaya (Khaya grandifoliola)
Mahogany, Khaya (Khaya senegalensis)
Mahogany, New England (Prunus serotina)
Mahogany, Nyasaland (Khaya nyassica)
Mahogany, Pod (Afzelia quanzensis)
Mahogany, Red (Eucalyptus resinifera)
Mahogany, Red (Khaya nyassica)
Mahogany, Santos (Myroxylon balsamum)
Mahogany, Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)
Mahogany, Senegal (Khaya grandifoliola)
Mahogany, Senegal (Khaya senegalensis)
Mahogany, Straights (Melanorrhoea spp. syn. Gluta spp.)

I believe a luthier of the high reputation of Goodall would only ever use one of the "true" Swietenia West Indian or Cenral American mahoganies but you may want to check before shelling out the readies!

Hope this is of some help.

mooman

(some sort of musician, once a professional instrument repairer, trained originally as a wood scientist and uncontrollable contributor to Mudcat "instrument" threads)

P.S. There are several other proper luthiers on this forum and people with great esxpertise who will probably have some experience with the other "mahoganies" but, personally, I would stick with the "Swietenias.

moo


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 04:26 AM

P.S. Sorry ...tried to be too clever and b******d the HTML tags. Hope it is still readable!

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: GUEST,agamemnon3@aol.com
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 04:55 AM

taylor uses sapele -- one kind of mahogany - for the backs and sides of their 310 series guitars. in their brochure they said it grows in west africa and is denser than american mahoganies. mine sounds great and the wood really has a beautiful grain. i think it sounds better than the domestic mahoganies used in yamaha guitars ive played, but ive got a feeling that ANY taylor would sound better than a yamaha. hope this helps -chris


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 05:07 AM

Yes...Agamemnon's right and I forgot that one(failing memoriy due to the march of time!). Sapele (Entandophragma spp.) is another wood sometimes called "mahogany" although it's not a true mahogany. It grows in both East and West Africa and a highly gured version is sometimes called "pommele sapele". It tends to be a little heavier and more dense than the African "Khaya" "mahoganies.

This wood is certainly used by a number of luthiers and guitar manufacturers to good effect. In price it tends to be a little less expensive than the true West Indian and Central American Swietenia mahoganies.

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 05:09 AM

That should be "figured" rather than "gured" although I rather like the new word!

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 09:36 AM

Great job Moo....Goes right along with the great job you did on the Lakewood....and many others. I ain't got a thing to add!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 06:32 PM

Mooman has summed it all up. Honduras mahogany would always be the mahogany of choice for a mahogany guitar.

It is worth noting that "Cuban" mahogany, which has been unavailable for many years due to political considerations, is once again available on the world market, though not from Cuba, plantations have been nurtured in the Far East and harvested responsibly, so we are assured.

Cuban mahogany is the wood that the best eighteenth century furniture was made from. It is particularly well suited to carving and turning. To my knowledge, I have never come across a guitar built from Cuban mahogany, which is substantially denser than Honduras, but it would be interesting to build one and compare.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 09:34 AM

G'day Murray,

I gather that Cuban Mahogany (also referred to as 'Spanish Mahogany'?) was very fine timber for precision cabinet work. I remember (early '70s" reading of the last high quality field camera made by the london firm (Gandolfi?) ... using the last Cuban Mahogany available for camera body - the last (beeswing' Leather available for bellows &c.

I don't know what sort of mahogany is used in my Lachenal concertinas ... but I sat a chip from a damaged case (essentially the same mahogany as the concertina itself) an a sample of Honduras Mahaogany in Edlins "What Wood is That?" ... and it almost vanished ... so I guess that they are pretty well Honduras.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: GUEST,Claymore
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 12:00 PM

To take this a little further Mooman, I understand that Koa wood (from Hawaii, and maybe elsewhere) is a relative of Mahogany. I would be very interested in your comments on the tonal qualities of both, plus your take on some of the other woods used in wooden instruments, like spruce, walnut, cedar, maple and like. Thanks in advance...


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: GUEST,Ben Seymour
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 01:48 PM

Mooman,

You got it right! Mahogany is becoming a generic word for many species. I have used African Mahogany with great results on several instruments. I found some beautiful quatersawn with wonderful depth that was a pleasure to work with. Great source for African Hardwoods is Cormark International in Weaverville, NC. They own their own sawmills and most of the lumber is plantation grown or ecologically harvested. They now have African Blackwood (Dalbergia variety) and in suitable sizes for guitars.

Ben


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: GUEST,jack
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 03:04 PM

I have built 2 "0" sized guitars from Khaya and have been pleased overall. If I understand correctly, it isn't a true mahogany-- is that correct?


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 03:25 PM

I had the great pleasure of trying out a Martin D-42K the K standing for Koa, when I visited the Vintage Fret shop in NH on my recent American adventure. Wow! what a super guitar, great sound and the Koa wood is just beautiful, it would be home here in Scotland with me now, if only I could have afforded it. Maybe my fairy god-mother will buy it for me, but I won't hold my breath.

Jock


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Bill D
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 06:01 PM

I am so VERY glad to see knowlegable luthiers using the latin names, as the common names get terribly mis-used by wood dealers. In general, Khaya is considered to be a 'true' Mahogany, along with the Swietenias most of the others which have had "Mahogany" added are 'convenience' names like **Rosewood** and **Ironwood** which help sell a wood to folks who like familar names.

Koa, and many of the other wood mentioned above can be fine for instruments, if you have the right piece from the right tree. If is sounds good, play it.

If anyone is seriously interested in pursuing knowlege about wood, this group is a good place to start.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: okthen
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 06:15 PM

On a note of pure trivia, mahogany was first used as ballast for ships that would have returned to UK empty.On arrival the timber would have been dumped, or sold cheap!


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 06:42 PM

Dear Claymore,

Koa Acacaia koa is a member of the botanical family Leguminosae and not related to the true mahoganies, Swietenia spp. which belong to the family Meliaceae.

Koa is generally a very fine and beautiful intrument-making wood and is the wood of choice for many types of instruments, e.g. quality Hawaiian ukeleles. It is fairly dense, and often very finely figured and coloured, e.g. "curly" koa.

Being generally a little more dense than mahogany the tone is usually a little crisper with good sustain. This is a gross generalisation, as there are many other contributory factors, e.g. tonewood, design, quality of build, etc. and exceptions, but I generally find Swietenia mahoganies make very fine accommpaniment or strumming guitars whereas the denser body woods give a crisper definition and separation between strings, ideal for fingerpicking.

As I said, this is a generalization and there are undoubtedly many exceptions. My advice always has been, and always will be, to pick a guitar that you like aesthetically, sounds good to you and feels "right". My own No.1 guitar has solid Bubinga (Ovankol) back and sides while my No. 2 is Brazilian Rosewood. No. 1 is a fingerpicker while No. 2 is my rhythm instrument. However the tonewoods, while both solid spruce, are very different with No.1 being almost perfectly quarter-sawn.

All the best

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 06:50 PM

Sorry Claymore...missed the rest of your questions accidentally (other woods). I'll come back on that later as it's 1h00am here and I'd better head off to the land of nod. Certainly, maple, walnut and other body woods and tonewoods such as the different pines, spruces, cedars and Douglas Firs, etc. all have their special qualities and suitabilities but it's a complex business and much depends on the actual combination, quality of build, design and size of guitar, hardware used, glues, style of playing and many other factors.

Maybe with 'Spaw and some other luthiers here we should consider a "woods and materials" section for the "permathreads"?

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Bill D
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 07:16 PM

mooman...you sure you meant Bubinga & Ovangkol to be the same wood?

Ovangkol is usually Guibourtia ehie and also called Shedua or Amazaque.

Bubinga is usually listed as the name for Guibourtia Demeusei or a couple others. They certainly are related species which MAY sometimes be called similar names by the tribes near where they grow, and this demonstrates my point that common names 'can' be tricky.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 07:49 PM

Dear Bill,

You are in principle right and I fell in my own trap!. In practice though, Bubingas and Ovan(g)kols can sometimes be so similar in appearance, due to the natural variability of the wood and being also in the same genus as you describe, that is can be very difficult to distinguish them. I think mine is probably Ovankol but, in trying to distinguish these species in forensic work against known reference specimens, I've found it can be almost impossible!

Very best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Bill D
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 08:10 PM

yep...I have a table & chairs of "Panga-Panga" which is NOT "Wenge". Barely any difference...I just happen to know how & where this stuff was manufactured.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 02:03 PM

Can I ask what is meant by "bastard mahoganies" one of which is I believe Iroko?

Jock


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: mooman
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 03:56 PM

Jock,

"Bastard" mahogany is usually a common name for Carapa guianensis which is also commonly known as Andiroba and Brazilian mahogany. It is a very fine woodworking timber.

It is quite a different wood from Iroko (Chlorophora spp.) which is African in origin and is usually used as a cheaper substitute for Teak, e.g. in exterior furniture and other applications, due to its good water-resistant properties.

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: zac
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 07:11 PM

regarding Khaya wood: according to a catalogue from Luthiers Merchanitle,Khaya ("african mahogany") is not a true mahogany


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Bill D
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 08:28 PM

yeah, it is largely a matter of attitude on that...they are related, but perhaps they mean not a "Swietenia"

(BTW...I have lovely log of Iroko, also called M'Vuli, sent to me from Uganda...it is a great turning wood...very stable, but it sure doesn't resemble Mahogany much


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 08:45 PM

As it happens, I have turned iroko too Bill. In its freshly felled and sawn state it is frequently a sickly greeny yellow, but it soon matures to a dignified brown . FWIW you can accelerate the process with ammonia, just like fuming oak.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 08:57 PM

Permathread - who said permathread? FWIW, apart from those serious about it, there is at least one person (or idiot in my case) in me who finds these discussions among the most fascinating on Mudcat - I would love to see info on woods, design choices what affects what, etc. as a guide here.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Help: Kinds of Mahogany
From: GUEST,Claymore
Date: 25 Oct 01 - 11:05 AM

I agree; it's as pleasing a piece of work as you'll find on the Mudcat. Thanks Moo and Bill.


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