The sweetheart of many-a-woodworker, Genuine Mahogany is favored for good reason. From the ease with which it can be sawn, carved, and planed to the gorgeous coloring once finished, Genuine Mahogany is a treat for both furniture makers and other craftsmen. Sadly, this prized species has seen a decrease in grade as well as availability in the past year or two.
Even more disturbing than the changes themselves is the fact that the causes have been largely avoidable. Though interlinked, the causes can basically be boiled down to two basic arenas: Forestry Practices and Grading Changes. As a result of these changes, J. Gibson McIlvain, one of the nation’s oldest lumber importers, has begun to back away from Genuine Mahogany.
Forestry Practices and Increased Regulations
It’s no secret that the forestry practices of yesteryear left much to be desired in the way of responsibility and sustainability; South American Mahogany forests are no exception. While some countries are still on the path to recovery, CITES regulations limit the amount of Mahogany allowed to be exported. The forests are continually becoming healthier and more promising for future Mahogany availability.
More of an issue than the health of the actual forests is the fallout from outside organizations that help subsidize sawmills as well as oversee regulations and various concessions. Such involvement often comes with strings attached, such as heightened politics that lead to virtual monopolies, ineffective sawing practices, and markets flooded with common grade.
Unrealistically Perfect Grade Expectations
While the control issues resulting in the availability of lower grades of Mahogany may not be ideal, the North American market could be less picky, too. After all, we are working with a natural material, here, not plastic stamped out of a mold. While perfect grades of tropical hardwood species may have spoiled us for a while, it’s time for a reality check.
The global market has long been far more accepting of “lower” grades with naturally occurring “defects.” Accepting such lumber is both environmentally and fiscally responsible, since if no one buys it, it goes to waste, and we pay for its harvesting, anyway. While no one is in a position to force the market to accept “B grade” Mahogany as is the case with Ebony, it would likely be better for the longevity of Mahogany if we could.
Instead, some are lobbying for the application of NHLA grading standards across both exotic and domestic species throughout North America. While a more consistent system might seem like an ideal answer, it really isn’t. Remember, we’re not dealing with plastic, here: Each species and each individual log has its own unique collection of characteristics, so only so much consistency is truly possible. Furthermore, the NHLA scale was developed with furniture making in view, so if you’re building anything else, the kinds of standards used might not make sense for your application.
Continue reading with Part 2.
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.
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