Many people are surprised to discover that the decreased availability and quality of Genuine Mahogany has little or nothing to do with past logging practices or environmental factors. Instead, it’s a combination of current logging practices (along with regulations) and far-from-ideal grading adjustments.
The Down Side of Grading Changes
In Part 1, we left off with a general description of the problem with trying to force NHLA grading standards to apply across the board to all domestic and imported wood species. When we’re dealing with the more specific issues relating directly to Genuine Mahogany, the specific problems have major implications: If Mahogany were graded according to NHLA grading standards, more defects would be permitted in each board, making the system far less useful than the existing one.
Since most of today’s Mahogany is not used for furniture but for long runs of millwork, the waste that would result from such a shift would be enormous: knots which a furniture maker could accept and work around would turn a moulding run into a disaster. Instead of risking major amounts of waste, builders will be forced to steer clear of the once-popular species.
Part of the reason some NGOs want to see the grading standards lowered is that they can make more money by doing such. By encouraging sawing techniques that focus on quantity rather than quality, they can have more boards made from each log. If each board is graded the same, they win.
But who ultimately loses? In the end, the entire future of Genuine Mahogany will suffer. In fact, at J. Gibson McIlvain, a major U.S. importer of exotic woods, our own concerns mean that we cannot justify buying the product currently available because it is not being sawn with quality in view.
The Necessary Changes at McIlvain
While J. Gibson McIlvain is backing away from this species which we have steadily carried for centuries, we are encouraged as we turn our attention elsewhere. We still have plenty of Genuine Mahogany in stock, but we’re concentrating on buying other African species, such as Utile/Sipo, African Mahogany, and Sapele.
All three of those species currently produce stable boards with generous lengths and widths readily available. Each species also rivals or out-ranks Genuine Mahogany when it comes to durability and the ability to take fine moulded details. When you also consider the African lumber industry’s fastidious attention to supply chain documentation, these African species become even more attractive.
While change can be difficult, we’re confident that even those die-hard Genuine Mahogany fans out there will be pleasantly surprised by how these African species measure up to the long-time favorite. While we hope that the South American market turns around and Genuine Mahogany can again be sawn in a way that produces the highest quality boards possible, we’re also encouraged by the African species that are enjoying new-found popularity in the wake of Genuine Mahogany’s downturn.
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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