My Cuban mahogany adventure
I’ve been working on an article that profiles several types of mahogany (look for it in Fine Woodworking #207). The king of mahoganies, of course, is Cuban mahogany (swientenia mahogoni). It has been commercially extinct for about 100 years. And it completely disappeared from the US market around 1950. It is protected by an international treaty, so what still grows in the Carribean and South Florida can’t be cut down. However, you can salvage deadfall, and occasionally prune living trees that pose some kind of hazard.
Mark Butler lives in the Florida Keys, and runs a small lumbermill there. (Check out his website.) He salvages trees that grow in the Keys, like Cuban mahogany. Well, I needed a sample board for the article and gave him a call. I then got to thinking, “Would I ever call up on my own and buy some Cuban mahogany?” Of course I wouldn’t. So, I took the opporutnity and ordered some for myself. Strike while the iron is hot, right?
I’m glad I did. It is truly beautiful. Its pores are tiny and it is dense (read: really heavy). It has a charming, rich brown color, and its grain is subtle, but handsome. To be honest, I think of those “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials when I see it, because this stuff is so sauve, good looking, and mysterious. Yes, I must admit, I have a crush on my Cuban mahogany.
I haven’t milled any up yet. I’m somewhat afraid to. It’s such a rare wood nowadays, and expensive. But I do have a plan for it, and this summer I will put it to good use. I’ll report back on how it planes and saws (handcut dovetails). And then show pictures of the finished piece.
This came from a limb? At 1 1/4 in. thick, 14 in. wide, and 39 in. long, this board shows just how big a mahogany tree can get, because it came from a limb. And it's not like limb wood from other species. It's flat and true, and has been for almost 6 years now.
Littel board, big charm. This little guy is 1 in. thick by 10 1/2 in. wide by 25 in. long. I love the color and the figure.