BOTANICAL NAME: Khaya ivorensis and related species of the Family Meliaceae including:
You may also see Khaya madagascariensis listed as an African mahogany but it is more properly called Madagascar mahogany and I've never seen it sold as "African mahogany"
- khaya anthotheca
- khaya caudata
- khaya grandifoliola
- khaya ivorensis
- khaya nyasica
- khaya senegalensis
COMMON NAMES: akuk, bandoro, benin, benin wood, benin mahogany, degema, lagos wood, khaya, Nigerian mahogany, Ivory Coast mahogany, and Gold Coast mahogany, munyama (Uganda), acajou, acajou blanc, acajou d'Afrique (Ivory Coast), dubini, dukuma fufu (Ghana), ogwango (Nigeria), Ghana Mahogany , Grand Bassam mahogany, ngdelon, ngollon, Khaya, Krala, AND A BUNCH MORE
"curly" mahogany is a type of African mahogany, with interlocked grain and a striped or roey figure, frequently using the name "benin" although that name is also used for a ribbon strip variety/cut of African mahogany.
COLOR: Creamy-white or yellowish sapwood, not always sharply demarcated from hearwood, which is light tan to reddish brown often with a purple cast or slightly pink when freshly cut but darkening somewhat upon exposure. When cut just right (with the grain) and finished with oil, shows an "internal light" which ranges from merely pretty to stunningly beautiful.
Veneer is rich medium to golden brown with a faint reddish tint and makes a colorful contrast to light woods when laminated
GRAIN: grain can be interlocked or straight, often with a ribbon figure. Swirls in the grain are more common than in other mahoganies but straightgrained pieces are more the norm. When quartersawn, frequently has a ribbon stripe figure.
TEXTURE: medium moderately coarse
PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: moderately heavy and hard with medium bending and crushing strength, low stiffness and shock resistance. Works fairly easily although interlocked, woolly grain can be troublesome, and it sometimes chips and/or splinters and/or tears so sharp cutters are recommended. Glues, nails, and screws satisfactorily. In keeping with its relative softness, it is extremely easy to sand and turn and its screw holding power is only moderate.
DURABILITY: moderate decay resistance. Heartwood is rated as moderately durable, prone to buprestid and termite attack. Sapwood liable to powder-post beetle and common funiture beetle attacks. Heartwood is extremely resistant to preservative treatments; sapwood moderately resistant. Wear resistance is only moderate, as it is a relatively soft hardwood.
I have seen one report saying it "resists denting and marring" but that has not been my experience --- I have found it to be a relatively soft hardwood.
FINISH: takes only a moderate natural gloss but has a high natural luster and turns exceptionally beaufiful with the application of pretty much any finishing agent. Accepts stains and oils very well.
My own experience is that it takes finishes quite well but is so attractive by itself that anything other than a clear finish would be like putting lipstick on the Mona Lisa. Glues beautifully since it is fairly porous and takes paint very well, but, like staining, painting African mahogany should be prohibited by law.
STABILITY: excellent dimensional stability
BENDING: very mixed reports: "poor steam bending rating", "responds fairly well to steam bending", "similar to teak", "timber that is put through steam bending peration may buckle"
ODOR: (no report found)
SOURCES: Grows throughout West Africa from Sierra Leone and Liberia to Gabon. K. anthotheca then extends eastward to Uganda and inhabits lower rainfall regions than K. ivorensis
Also grown in Hawaii and Australia
USES: furniture, cabinetry, high class joinery, interior trim, boat building, vehicle bodies, musical instruments, paneling, plywood, shop fixtures, and decorative veneers
TREE: reaches heights of 180 to 200 ft; boles are straight, cylindrical, and clear to 90 ft; trunk diameters are 3 to 6 ft, buttressed
WEIGHT: Standard references show it as 35 to 45 pounds per cubic foot but in my experience it can go a bit higher, particularly with Khaya grandifoliola which is known as "heavy African mahogany". I have one sample of K. grandifoliola that is 54 lbs/cuft.
DRYING: dries rapidly with little degrade. May contain tension wood which an cause extreme distortion during drying. Very little shrinkage.
AVAILABILITY: Generally cheaper and more abundant than American mahogany
COST: varies significantly ($5 to $12 per BF) but should be available at reasonable quality for no more than $8/BF
COMMENTS: Although the technical specifications which I have seen say that african mahogany is a relatively hard wood, almost identical to, for example, cherry, this has most emphatically NOT been my experience. I've bought african mahogany from at least three different sources and have always found that it is far easier to make an indentation in african mahogany than in technically comparable woods such as cherry. Also, one of the drawbacks to this wood is that it is unusually easy to chip out pieces with a poorly alligned saw blade or a too-fast feed with a drill or router bit. It also splinters relatively easily although the splinters tend to be shorter (although sometimes wider) than on softwoods, because this is a relatively "brittle" wood.
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Dust from K. anthotheca may be a skin irritant
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Brittleheart may occur in logs. Can cause thunder shakes, cross-breaks, or heart breaks.
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In fact, it's five species which are amalgamated under the name of African mahogany [HOBBIT NOTE: this is incorrect. It's 6 species, as noted at the top of this page, and does not include Khaya madagascariensis]