Where Has All the Beautiful Mahogany Gone? Part 1

Genuine Mahogany Logs

Genuine Mahogany Logs

There’s no doubt about the beauty and working qualities of Genuine Mahogany; no one is debating those issues. Since the 1700s, this premium lumber species has been appreciated by cabinet makers, furniture makers, and other craftsmen. Sadly, though, anyone who works with Mahogany has noticed a continual downward trend in recent years, when it comes to the availability and grade of this long-heralded species.

Whenever we’re working with an organic, naturally produced product like wood, we realize that environmental factors largely contribute to what’s available, and we can do little to nothing to change such issues. The most tragic aspect of South American Mahogany’s demise is that it isn’t caused by environmental factors, but by factors that could have been prevented.

Logging Genuine Mahogany

Logging Genuine Mahogany

The Beginning of the End

For Genuine Mahogany, the downward turn began years ago, when Mahogany forests were poorly managed. Even though many countries can be said to still be recovering from previous problems, thanks to CITES regulations on how much Mahogany can be exported, we can be optimistic about overall health of Mahogany forests.

Along with the CITES regulations have come increased involvement from NGOs who subsidize sawmills and oversee concessions and regulations. Such involvement doesn’t come without strings attached; the political and business angles have led to monopolies as well as inferior sawing practices.

Because monopolies essentially seize the cream of the crop, the remainder of the market ends up getting flooded with what amounts to common grade Mahogany. The end result of these issues has been a higher net loss as well as a poorer grade for exported Mahogany.

Stacks of Genuine Mahogany

Stacks of Genuine Mahogany

The Right Response

Here at J. Gibson McIlvain lumber company, we realize that North America has generally been spoiled, in a way, with perfect or just-as-close-to-perfect-as-possible grades of tropical hardwoods. The rest of the world “settles” for lower grades and considers what North Americans call “defects” to be “character markings” that simply come with the territory when you’re dealing with truly green building materials. Because of that, we generally agree with Bob Taylor about the need for the North American market to become more accepting of B grade materials.

The Real Results

The push back from the American markets due to frustrations over quality have prompted South American NGOs in place to assist with conservation to push toward implementing NHLA grading standards across domestic and exotic products.

While this leveling of the playing field may seem only fair, lumber experts realize that tropical species have traditionally been graded by a separate system due to the differences in sizes and growth tendencies. If Mahogany is graded according to NHLA standards, the result would be that more defects would be allowed into each board, effectively lowering the grading bar.

Now, while we’re all for allowances for the unique characteristics of specific species, such as Walnut, this shift seems particularly devious on the parts of the NGOs who stand to profit. While more Mahogany lumber will initially be purchased because of the new grading scale, it will be disastrous for Mahogany, in the long run.

See Part 2 to learn more.

J Gibson McIlvain lumberyard

J Gibson McIlvain lumberyard

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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