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LUAN

Shorea spp.

Shorea spp. of the family Dipterocarpaceae. Luan, also commonly called Philippine mahogany is any one of a large number of species (mostly of the genus Shorea) that are lumped together and often sold as Philippine mahogany even though they are not mahogany. It is generally much more grainy than mahogany and it does not take on a patina the way mahoganies do. This wood is widely used in cheap, thin, plywood, and on the outside of cheap hollow core doors and both of these uses are generally under the common name "luan". That name is, as nearly as I can tell, actually more appropriately spelled "lauan" but in the USA at least "luan" is the predominant spelling by FAR (Google gets 35,000,000 hits for luan, 500,000 for lauan, although to be fair, most of the 35,000,000 are NOT for the wood).

Some of the species most often sold as luan (lauan) or Philippine mahogany include Azadirachta excelsa, Heritiera javanica, Parashorea malaanonan, Parashorea plicata, Pentacme contorta, Shorea almon, Shorea contorta, Shorea curtisii, Shorea guiso, Shorea johorensis, Shorea negrosensis, Shorea palosapis, Shorea pauciflora, Shorea polysperma, Shorea rugosa, and Shorea squamata.

Because of the wide variety of species sold under this name, you will see a tremendous variation in characteristics. The weight, for example, can range from almost as light as balsa to fairly heavy. SO ... identification of a wood as being "Philippine mahogany" or "luan" is not always very helpful.

Also, "meranti" is another "wood" that is really a huge group of woods in the genus Shorea and I would be amazed if it were not the case that "luan" and "meranti" woods sometimes get mixed up by loggers and/or vendors.

my samples:
NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting --- colors will vary under other lighting conditions


both sides of a sample plank of luan. HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


three flat cut planks photographed at a lumber yard


two quartersawn planks shot at a lumber yard


closeups of two flat cut planks found at a lumber yard


plank and end grain


HIGH GRIT END GRAIN CLOSEUP of the piece directly above


plank and end grain


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


slab and end grain --- this was sent to me for identification and I'm sure it's something from the light red meranti group, which (along with ALL of the meranti's) I'm going to merge into this page at some point


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above. The update is from the other end of the piece.


face grain of two small planks


edge grain of the two planks directly above; note the strong ray flakes in one and the absence in the other. This is only partially because only one is quartersawn. I had another piece similar to the 2nd one and even when quartersawn it had barely visible ray flakes. There are MANY species lumped together as luan (Philippine mahogany) and these might be planks from two different species, or it could be that there is great variation between trees.


end grain closeups of both of the small planks directly above


both sides of a small plank


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


face and face grain closeup of a small plank --- this particular species of Philippine mahogany (and I don't know what that species is) is unusually tight-grained. There is just a faint hint of too much orange tint in the piece but basically the color is accurately shown.


side grain of the piece directly above


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- the closeup shows a pink tint that is not present in the wood
END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a little stick of luan (unknown species) cut from a larger plank. HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a little stick of luan (unknown species) cut from a larger plank. HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain closeup and side grain closeup of the piece directly above. I took the side grain shot because it is perfectly quartersawn


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plywood. Although these are two separate pieces, each has as its other side the type of luan shown in the other pic. That is, these two pieces are almost identical, but each has on one side the type of luan shown in the first pic and each has on its other side the type of luan shown in the 2nd pic.


sections off of two different large plywood sheets sold as luan --- based on color and grain I'd say both of these are something from the red meranti group although I don't know that they are the same species. Enlargements are present on both.


a section of yet another luan plywood sheet





the 4 sets above each consist of a pic and a closeup of just over half of a sheet of plywood (that is, 4 different sheets) all sold as luan in a big box hardware store. Enlargements are present for all. Colors are quite accurate. The 2nd enlargement of the closeups is actually larger than real size (unless you have a screen resolution considerably bigger than 1600x900)


NOT A RAW WOOD COLOR
Parts of faces (shown with accurate color) of hollow-core closet doors surfaced in thin Philippine mahogany, and treated most likely with polyurethane or some similar finish which has added an amber tint to the color. This type of cheap plywood is often available in hardware stores that sell building supplies, sold as "luan". For an example of why I say it is "cheap", as opposed to just "inexpensive", plywood, see directly below.


A luan plywood face (and a closeup) of a cheap hollow core door that has been directly exposed to sun, wind, and rain for years, and which has both turned silver (except for the top, which is in shade) and peeled out into strips in a way that really shows the graininess of this wood and the significant way in which it differs from true mahoganies. The periphery has been less exposed and so has not stripped out, and you can see a horizontal area at the knob level that was slightly protected by a stile on the screen door behind which this door sits.

web pics:


planks listed variously as luan / lauan / Philippine mahogany


plank listed as white lauan / Pentacme contorta


plank listed as "white luan"


planks listed as Philippine mahogany / Shorea negrosensis


planks listed as Philippine mahogany / Shorea polysperma


planks listed as Philippine mahogany / Shorea spp.


veneer


veneer sheet and closeup listed as luan --- this is from a vendor who makes most woods look green no matter what color they actually are, so the wood is most likely tan or brown.