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Is the world running out of mahogany????


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I have noticed, on a lot of acoustic guitars of various names....makes and models, where the grain on the Mahogany necks is not straight, but twisted down the neck. It is probably because the world supply of True Mahogany is drying up. We now hear of "South American Mahogany", "African Mahogany" , etc, etc....which are not really true Mahogany. I have a funny feeling that non-straight grain Mahogany, may be inferior, and may twist or "mature" differently than the straight grains we used to get. Have any of you noticed this? I have seen this on REALLY expensive guitars, even Luthier built guitars. Just wondering

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"Mahogany" is a term for a wide range of dark woods of various genuses of confifers. Kind of like "Terrier" does not indicate a specifice phenotype of dog.


Therefore, as there is no 'true terrier', there is no 'true mahogany'. The various species of mahoganies us older folks are familiar with in North America came from the Carribean, Central and South America. We are familiar with them as these trees were close to the market (us). Therefore, shipping is / was cheapest. Now that many guit tars and guit tar parts are made in many parts of the world, the source forests closest to the mills are utilized. This gives us a more diverse selection of 'mahoganies', as well as other so-called tone woods to choose from.


As far as being 'inferior', as long as the twisted grain doesn't lead to a twisted neck, just call it 'bling' like quilting, flame and birds-eye

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I have read reports that Honduran Hog, which was the first and arguably the "best" grade of geet suitable Hog wood will soon be protected on the same scale as BRW ( I believe it's formally referred to as the Cites treaty/agreement). Other "hog" wood is sourced from Central America thru Mexico and even grows in parts of Florida. Cuba use to supply a very respected high grade of instrument grade Hog but that was all but eradicated before the Castro era.

Africa was once joined to S.A. as one land mass and hence there are related species there that exhibit similiar tonal properties, Sapele being the most commonly used species. Sapele is quite straight sometimes exhibiting sets of relatively dark straight stripes. Hog can vary quite a bit in density from one region to another and hence in tonal properties.

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"True" mahogany is a swietenia (sp) and there are still trees left, big leaf and small leaf.

However CITES is in effect and "honduras" is on the list and others to follow.


As to "cuban", periodically you will see "cuban" mahognay guitars available .. it grows throughout the Carrribbean. Very very scarce.. I have one small bit .


When I was in Belize a few years back I helped take down a mahogany for a local canoe maker. Took 6 of us a full day to get it down and a few more to get it into logs and transport it down the Monkey River. Photo available for proof ( if I can figure out how to post)

These are very big trees, tall and straight. In Belize a native can easily get a permit. The rest of it is tough to get or poached. Pac Rim countries are alive and well there, massive scale timber operations with what are known as concessions. ( wholesale pilage permits)


African "mahogany" is not mahogany, neither sapele or Khaya.


A story and history inviolving South America and Europe and mahogany.

Europeans call mahogany "ACAJOU" . Why?


When Spain and Portugal and the Dutch were carving up South America they were first looking for gold and silver and later for other exports including timber. Many of these timbers were taken initially not for the lumber itself but for the dye that could be made from them .This would include logwood and pernambuco.. pernambuco now also protected is the wood of violin bows. Pernambuco was first used by the cloth dying trade in France. Reds yellows and in between were created using different processes and mordants. Pernambuco and its cousins were called pao brazil ( the best being Pernambuco from the state of Pernambuco) , the wood pernambuco is also known as fernambuc. The country of Brazil was named after the tree.


Back to "acajou"


While grabbing the spoils the Portuguese came upon a nut tree called C A J O O by the locals. They harvested the nuts, but also took some of the trees back home to try to cultivate. No luck.. so they took the trees to their other land grab, India ( Goa) and planted the trees there. We now know them and CASHEW.. a bastardization of the original native Brazilian word CAJOO.

There are also mahogany trees in Brazil and neighboring countries


Euriopeans now call anything that looks like a true mahogany tree ACAJOU just as westerners call about anything that looks like true mahogany"mahogany' . Some timber hustler recently said there are now between So Am Central America the Carribbean and the Pacific roughly 200 species now passed off as mahogany, I have about 10 variants including the real deal , with much of my stash dating back 30 years.


Martin is recently using Sapele, Taylor has used it for some time but did you know that Gibson was known to use it before WWII ?


Opinion Alert


"HOG" sounds offensive to me as for the last 300 years it has been known as the "king of wood"

Don't know whether or not the contracted term came about because someone wanted to be "in the know" cute or lazy, but it just sounds out of place. No offense meant to those who use it, I just don't and won't even going back to my days as a wood hustler.


So shall we start calling "brazilian riosewood" "ZIL" ? or CAVIUNA as some are wont to do.

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Interesting question and very informative answers - thanks to all.


I have owned a plethora of guitars in my life - about 3000 quality acoustics have passed through my hands - and I have heard a wide variety of attributes associated with certain tone woods, mahogany being no exception.


While it would be unfortunate if the proper protection of certain trees forced a shift in guitar maker's habits, it also opens a world of possibilities through the use of alternative woods that can be closer to home, less expensive and perfectly suitable for instrument making.


Back in the 1960s when Brazilian Rosewood became protected, East Indian Rosewood essentially took its place. I recently purchased a guitar with the sides and back made from cherry and I bought an octave mandolin with the sides and back manufactured from Newfoundland birch. These are both quality instruments with exceptional tonal characteristics - and these woods were used because the cost of rosewood or good mahogany was so high - maybe it is time for a change.


In the case of cherry and birch, these are woods that grow in sustainable quantities here in Canada - enough that export would indeed be possible as well. If mahogany harvesting actually ceased, at least then there would be a valid argument to buy vintage!!

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Wow, great introspective on tone woods. I've never learned so much about guitars since I've found this forum. My fellow musician friends can't figure out where I'm getting all my info. and they are very impressed by the new things I am learning and imparting to them. Thanks to all for the great info., keep it up!

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Had wood been cut and put to the highest and best use, there would be no shortage. I don't have any problem with protecting and replanting.

Recent example my neighbor came to me with hundreds of redwood planks that he wanted resawn for wainscoating and trim. The planks were massive ,thick, wide and long and very very old. They were salvaaged from a brine tank down in the Calif Central Valley. Fantastic top stock, I explained this to him. He wanted it cut to 5/8ths by 3 1/2 strips

in specifc lengths, I agreed if I could have the drops. So the world got cheated out of about 300 sets of redwood guitar tops and instead this will be in a bathroom in a yuppie yurt.


CITES seems to be difficult to understand and to monitor. A good friend and guitar maker brought quite a bit of ZIL through customs on his way back from a buying trip in Spain. No documentation other than a receipt for unprocessed timber. So much for CITES


What is not generally known is that the host country of the wood in question must ask for the CITES protection. The CITES folks cannot impose a ban or restrictions without the cooperation of the country. Beyond that my knowledge is weak if non existant.


When I first started buying guitar sets, East Indian was $8-12- a set, Brazilian $12-$20. I recall going to a place in So Cal and marvelling at the logs and a huge circular saw with a quater inch wdie ( unprotected) blade happily grinding away creating huge piles of sawdust.


The term HOG IIRC was first used on the UMGF and the Acoustic Guitar Magazine forums by folks not in the wood business. Guitar owners. There was a consderable amount of discussion about the word at that time. I have never heard anyone in the wood or instrument making busieness use the term, It is not an a part of an occupational jargon...at least in my experience. Use the word if you want, we all have choices. I choose to not use it. We can leave it at that. Just my opinion. BTW brazilian was sometimes called brazo.. but mahogany was never called HOG.


Birch, many of the instruments suspected of being maple were actually birch. I like birch, I use birch. Good stuff.

Cherry. I seem to be the only wood worker around who has limited interest in cherry, However, I think the Martin Smartwood series with cherry are some of their best ( minus the gag me gold bits that cheezed them out.)

Godin/Seagull make good use of cherry. I like their guitars. Sensible use of materilas and technology.


I recall that when Brazil first stated the restrictions on ZIL ... a native Brailian could buy sell , manufacture with no restrictions, but export of raw material was limitied to veneer. I bought quite a bit. Then the restrictions relaxed and if you were "in the know" such as one guitar maker/store owner/ husband of native Brazilain/friend of Brazilan guitar manufacturer you could get wood with little trouble. Then CITES came along.


Try researching the recent history of CAVIUNA.. that'll be fun. You might want to start in the archives of Acoustic Guitar MAgazine Discussion group inthe Classical Corner.

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What's "So Cal"?


Southern California?


Bohemian, apologies. This may be a stupid question but I have form.


in UK, sycamore grows like a weed and very fast. I've seen references to it being used in guitar making and may be related to maple.


As for the shortage of mahogany, what's wrong with a 3 ply neck? Surely such a construction is going to be structurally sound.

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So Cal , Southern California.. sorry for the assumption that everyone in the world is intimately familiar with the center of the universe : )


Sycamore and maple ( the word ) are often used for the same thing however the trees are not


Sycamore is becoming a favored wood for steel string guitars in the Western US due to its abundance and extreme figure.

To me a little goes along way.



I am in the State of Jefferson.. if you live in Oregon you may know where that is....

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Bohemian wrote:TWilson

I am in the State of Jefferson.. if you live in Oregon you may know where that is....


I live about 15 miles from a town called Jefferson that's on the Santiam River. When I went down to Shasta to a wedding two years ago we went through an area called the State of Jefferson that was either in southern Oregon or Northern California that had once decided to become its own state. I assume that is what you are speaking of? I love Shasta, by the way!

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The attempted formation of the STATE OF JEFFERSON makes a good read.. google it.. very cool. My hope is that in my lifetime it will happen.

In brief, several Calif States and a few So Oregon States wanted to sever their relationship with Cal and Or respectively and form a new State called Jefferson. This was based on geographics, and socio economic similarities and of course these counties were fiercely independent and wanted to put themselves at arms length form the "big" influence of a disparate philosophy of government.


As to me.. just another guitar player who started building for fun many years ago and a wood nut, and at a later date a pro wood hustler. I specialized in pernambuco for bow makers . I gave up selling and now just buy fopr future use. I also harvest a bit of my own wood. I still build on occasion. My last prject was a late 20's pattern Regal wood body resonator.. prior to that Nyckelharpa, mandolins, classical guitars etc etc

Current projects include cavaquinho, Santos Hernadez style flamenco, just starting a Gypsy JAzz style guitar.


I spent most of my working life in the car biz.. 11 years retail in service and parts ( all foreign) and 14 years as a factory field rep or as Nat'l Training Manager for management training for some heavy Euro sccots


I am now self employed as a furniture maker and artist. My interests are vernacular painted furniture from 1800's thorugh about 1950 and I paint fish , yup portraits ( of course my interpretation) of fish, ie salmon trout dolly varden cutthroat etc.. Last painting sold last month through a gallery in SO Or which went to a doctors office

I built a shop last year and a studio.. ( when I say I built it.. I built it.. no contractor no help) 1000 sq ft


I also make signs.. old look and topics but all original

An example would be surf shop signs from the 50's and 60's fully hand shaped from cedar ad painted...total funk

You might see them at a store in Carmel or at Island Charters in Disney Village I have accounts around the country for my old lodge look signs.. Mich, Mo. Colo Tahoe Big Bear...


Keeps me busy and off the streets and miles from yuppies.. ( I don't like yuppies) : )


I have owned well over 100 cars and trucks,53 motorcycles, over 100 guitars ( most gone) 50 mandollins, 12 banjos and over 50 button accordions.. I like button accordions..


I abhor misinformation, self agrandizing, BS of any kind, thieves, signature and endorsed guitars, narrow nut widths,

and yuppies ( sorry for the repeat.. just a passion) and a real problem with anyone taking advantage of the disadvataged...can't handle greed...


Spent a bit of time in college ( straight 4.0) but largely self educated....


favorite quote" it's not what you know, it's how you know it" (self)

second favorite quote " toad's before breakfast" (Chamfort)

3rd..." too much story" (self)




No smoking, drinking or drugs... why.. life's a high


Other interests are history, geology (mining) geography, Archaeology, bicycles... information junkee


Oh built surfboards professionaly waaay back, built boats waay back


I think fast and type slow


enough about me


ever hear of quivoce or cuivoche pronounced kwi ( short i) vo ( long o) che (chay)

this is another wanna be mahogany from Surinam and up that way, coarse and stringy but same color as the real deal.... I have a bit of that.. use it in cabinets and boat work


I also have the distinction of being the first person to be thrown off the Taylor Guitar forum many years ago

I seem to recall the phrase "banned for life" just because I insisted that a paint grade knock down quick detach neck was not made to save the planet of give me a personal advantage.. seem to recall they did not like my reference to the product as "accoustic appliances" and of course any observation of the advertising ban flip flops being confusing... well those were just bonuses on top of the ban on discussing pricing...


Oh and I like Gibson.. owned quite a few dateing back to 1915 and forward...banjos mandos and guitars

15 i-A 22 snakehead 25 ball bearing pre war L-50 46 J45 Heritage flat top


Gotta split, valve from the well to the irrigation pond just busted.....



( GGF emigrated from Bohemia/Austria to Seattle in 1883)

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