Author Topic: Sweetenia or khaya?  (Read 4315 times)

barry walker

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Sweetenia or khaya?
« on: March 11, 2010, 11:20:40 AM »
I just got a delivery of mahogany.  I specified that I wanted South American not African.  The salesman said "oh yes, this is Sweetenia."  I said "that's the word I want to hear."  The wood I got is very light in color, not real dense, with a somewhat wavy grain and lots of ribbon stripe.  All of these characteristics seem like classic African Mahogany to me.  Does anyone know how to positively identify this wood?  Perhaps cell structure identification under a magnifying glass?
Barry Walker

HSteier

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2010, 12:11:03 PM »
I can't give you info. for positive i.d.
Here are two points for "possible" i.d.

Khaya is generally denser (heavier) than swetiana unless you are lucky enough to get real old growth swetiana. You say yours is not very dense.
Try to plane it. Khaya generally has (more) extensive tearout due to interlocking grain. In my experience even figured swetiana has less tearout than khaya.

Hope this helps.

Howard Steier

R Bohn

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2010, 12:27:03 PM »
 Hi Berry      There are a few was to identify wood,color,specific gravity,grain,rays, plus a few more .If you have a sample of So.Amer. Mahog. you can sometimes use a black light to compare. Scrape the surface first. If that don't work,under a microscope,So.Amer.{swietenia spp.}the pores will contain red gum deposits with some whitish.The rays are hard to see without magnification.This is cross sec. view.African Mahog.{khaya spp.]the pores will contain red gum, no white.The rays can be seen without lens.   I think Bruce Hoadley's book Identifying Wood has color pic. I think I recall that there are 50+ species of Mahogany, good luck.      Randy
Restoration and Conservation of Fine Antiques Serving Museums, Dealers and Private Collectors Nation wide since 1979

walter connolly

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2010, 01:36:19 PM »
What was the name of the company you purchase  the wood from,and what was the price per board ft.?
« Last Edit: March 13, 2010, 08:09:47 AM by walter connolly »

mikemcgrail

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2010, 02:45:29 PM »
I always look for a white line along the annual ring in  flatsawn sweitenia, and often times this line will "fade" in and out as you hold the planed surface at different angles(I think this white line is subject to the chatoyance of mahogany). I think in the quartered, the african usually exhibits darker pores.
I don't think you can go by the color of the wood itself alone as this seems pretty variable. That said, I think most african looks a bit redder, that is less orange/gold. I should admit, however, that I only have a few khaya pieces and they are crotches,at least 10-20 years old, so maybe they have just turned redder.
None of my khaya has that white line or line shadow along the annual ring.

Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2010, 03:34:09 PM »
The owner of one of my lumber sources talked to me today.  He said that Honduras mahogany stopped being imported into the USA about 3 years ago.  Two types of African mahogany are now being substituted.  He said if you buy Honduras mahogany it is from an old supplier.  Is this true?  I have a large stack of Hond mah. so I have not had to buy any for many years.  But my pile is now running low.

Dennis Bork
Professional period furniture maker since 1985.  Received a B.S. degree in physics then apprenticed and worked as a wood patternmaker for 12 years. Retired Dec. 2018.

HSteier

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2010, 03:56:45 PM »
I buy my wood from Yukon Lumber in Norfolk Virginia. They the largest hardwood supplier in southeast Virginia. I just got off the phone with them and they assure me that there is still importation of Honduras Mahogony. The quality however is not as good, but it is available.
They are nice folks. They're not cheap however. If anyone is interested, they tell me they will ship.
Their phone number is 757-625-7131. Ask for Alan. Mention my name (maybe I'll get a discount).

Howard Steier

mikemcgrail

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2010, 05:19:46 PM »
I believe that they stopped exporting from brazil about 3 or maybe more years ago. Most that I have seen imported in the last few years is from peru and nicaragua-there is also some about from fiji that is being sold as sweitenia macrophylla and I have heard it is a bit extra light in color and weight. I think it is plantation grown and does not require the cites paperwork to import. You could possibly have some of that.

R Bohn

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2010, 05:23:33 PM »
I though lumber from Honduras {mahogany] was banned since 2005 due to illegal harvesting.http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=30876            Randy
Restoration and Conservation of Fine Antiques Serving Museums, Dealers and Private Collectors Nation wide since 1979

mikemcgrail

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2010, 05:34:10 PM »
The term "honduras"  and "genuine"seem to be loosely applied to all sweitenia macrophylla regardless of the country of origin. Whether its exportation is completely banned probably depends on a case by case for each country.
The Hearne hardwood people are currently advertising boules of river salvaged from belize.
On the Woodweb recently, the Bohlke lumber co in Ohio was advertising "genuine" in boule form, I think just last week.
It is nice to have the consecutive boards from this sort of lumber.
My mentor, however, did not believe that "genuine", sweitenia macrophylla, was real mahogany.
That is another story.

barry walker

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2010, 09:59:35 PM »
Thanks for all the responses, especially the one regarding pore deposits.  The best question was how much did I pay per foot.  Since it was only $6, the obvious conclusion was that I got what I paid for.  The company I bought it from is not a mahogany specialty company and I don't think they were being dishonest and probably believe they are selling the real thing.  I believe my first instinct was right but that's o.k.  I've got myself a pile of pretty nice wood. 
Barry Walker

mikemcgrail

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2010, 12:06:39 PM »
Barry, I really like the ribbon stripe, and for most furniture applications, I think a lot of the ribboned african is very difficult to tell from south american. I personally would rather have some jazzy looking ribboned african for the face of a piece than some south american that can, at times be rather plain(think vial type levels). I was trained to beleive that the face of a large case piece "needs" that figure. Oddly, I sort of suspect that the plantation grown south american seems to have more pieces in it that have an interesting grain, as opposed to that the was imported in the 70's from the very large brazilian logs. I think that old brazilian type stuff is more stable and better for solid body guitars and exterior doors(and is also very, very nice for carving), but I sort of think that is not what I want the face of my furniture to look like. So, what I am trying to say is, the species is highly variable, and you might really have sweitenia, just from a different source(time and place) than what you are accustomed to seeing. Maybe.

barry walker

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Re: Sweetenia or khaya?
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2010, 10:12:08 PM »
Mikem, There is plenty of lemonade to be made with my pile of wood.   Your point about the figure being ideal for the front of a case piece is ironic.  I was just going through my reference books looking for ideas to build a serpentine bureau with some of it.  The one and only reason that I was dissappointed is that I ordered the wood for a job that is integrated with asian architectural panels made with plain figured sweetenia.  Another good thing is that my part of the project is a case piece dresser in between two of the asian panels.  The designer is really good to work with so I think I'll be o.k. there.  The nice figure may even be a big hit.  The question is will it "steal the show"?  I like to tread lightly and spread the glory when I work on collaborative projects. 
Barry Walker