Where Has All the Beautiful Mahogany Gone? Part 2

Genuine Mahogany windows & trim

Genuine Mahogany windows & trim

The shifts in how Genuine Mahogany is sawn and graded is proving disastrous for this once prized lumber species. In Part 1 we looked at exactly what’s contributing to the problem, as well as how it might have been prevented and then what’s actually going on. We doubt the NGOs are listening, but in case they are, maybe they’ll reconsider.

In the mean time, of course, we know our customers are wondering what’s going on and why they can’t get the same kind of gorgeous Mahogany we’ve been selling them for decades — or even centuries.  They also want to know what to do. We’ll try to answer all those issues here.

Understanding NHLA Grading Basics

The NHLA originated for furniture makers, simply because they were the main ones using lumber when the grading system was first put into place. While Mahogany was once used primarily for furniture making, it’s now used mainly as a milled product. For that use, mills require long, defect-free boards.

Genuine Mahogany staircase

Genuine Mahogany staircase

With the downgrading of Mahogany to the NHLA system, more boards are being passed off as FAS. While they are getting exported, they’re simply taking up space in our lumber yard; we cannot use the majority of them for moulded products. As we discussed previously, the North American market overall would do well to become more accepting of lesser grades; however, misleading customers about the quality of the boards they’re buying is quite a different thing.

Decrying Problematic Sawing Practices

If the issue were that quality Mahogany is simply not being grown anymore and wasn’t possible to acquire, the situation would be completely different from what it is. However, the fact is that many mills that have long been sawing for quality are being retrained by the NGOs to saw with quantity in view, instead.

Genuine Mahogany log pile

Genuine Mahogany log pile

If they can effectively get the grading bar lowered and turn out even more lumber, then they stand to make more money. Maybe that idea seems a bit cynical, but J. Gibson McIlvain has witnessed this shift in South America first-hand. Even by NHLA standards, much of the Mahogany being milled according to these different practices amounts to only Select or #1 Common grade.

We see that as an absolute tragedy. Especially because of the impressive size of the South American Mahogany tree, proper sawing techniques can yield a number of top-grade boards. We believe that change is possible, and with proper regulation, the Mahogany industry could return to the glory days it once enjoyed, but today is not yet that day.

Determining a Current Strategy

With great regret, J. Gibson McIlvain has decided not to support the kind of unnecessarily wasteful milling practices that are currently in place. So after literally hundreds of years, we will be backing away from this once-great species in order to concentrate on African species. (We will still carry some Genuine Mahogany, just nothing near the inventory we’ve maintained in the past.) We think you’ll be pleased to discover the high stability and impressive lengths and widths available in species like African Mahogany, Utile, and Sapele.

Moulding quality control at J Gibson McIlvain

Moulding quality control at J Gibson McIlvain

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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