Understanding the dilemma facing the Genuine Mahogany market — and the reasons behind it — is only the first part (see Part 1) of finding resolution. We also need to examine some proposed solutions and be willing to be part of what will actually benefit the industry long term.
What Some Propose: Implementing NHLA Grading Standards
Implementing NHLA (National Hardwood Lumber Association) grading standards is one potential answer to the problem. Doing so promises to create a more consistent playing field for both exotic and domestic lumber and lumber products in North America.
However, tropical lumber species have always had distinctive grading systems, due to their unique growing patterns and sizes. If NHLA grading standards were applied to them, more defects would be allowed into each board, allowing more lumber into each grading category; quality would not be actually increased, but it would appear to be. The hoped-for result would be that more lumber currently being rejected due to not meeting grade requirements would then be accepted.
When NHLA Grading Is Helpful
The NHLA guidelines were developed with furniture makers in mind; however, it is unhelpful in determining the suitability for lumber intended for use as a milled product, when long, defect-free boards are required. Mahogany, once used primarily for furniture, is more often used differently today.
All that lowering the grading bar would accomplish, once everyone caught on, would be more confusion and frustration within the industry. More boards being passed off as FAS that would not be suitable for use as milled products would just lead to waste anyway; the lumber would be wasted after being purchased, but it would be wasted, nonetheless.
It would be better for the health of Mahogany forests to have fewer trees harvested, sawn, and exported than to continue to produce more lumber that would make adjusted grade standards but remain unsuitable for millwork.
How NHLA Guidelines Would Hurt the Industry
While applying NHLA grading standards to Mahogany would (at least temporarily) help solve the problem of homeless Mahogany being purchased, that change would not address the root cause of the problem with lesser grade mahogany. It’s not surprising that the very entities contributing to the lack of higher quality Mahogany lumber are the ones proposing this solution: Yes, it’s the very same NGOs involved in South American conservation efforts.
The biggest problem with implementing the NHLA guidelines would be that the mills would completely lose any motivation to saw for quality. Because of their primary concern being financial, they are vying for the NHLA guidelines in order to have lower-quality lumber sell at higher-grade prices. Simply put, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by this scenario.
However, if the changes in grading are disallowed, the NGOs will essentially be forced (by the same motivation of financial gain) to re-teach sawing for quality instead of quantity. As Americans learn to accept B grade lumber when it works for their applications, the market will benefit, as well. The end result would be happy customers and a once again thriving Mahogany market.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.