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African Mahogany

Folks is African mahogany much different from Honduran mahogany for relief carving? Do people paint mahogany on some carvings or just stain? Sorry if these are stupid questions, I’m new. Thank you.

Hi Todd,

African mahogany can be quite challenging to carve. It is very hard, with squirly grain. Sometimes "sepele" is lumped into the African mahogany group, and if you have ever carved sepele, you will know the challenges. Carving "with the grain" is challenging, as the grain changes quite often. You can see an example of this carving in my oak leaf lesson. Much of the carving had to be done across the grain. Any painting, I would recommend basswood, as the grain is so much more uninteresting than harder woods like mahogany or walnut.

Thank you for the response, Mary. What woods do you use for your carving?

I use basswood or butternut for beginning projects. Then for anything furniture I use walnut or mahogany. But as noted, the mahogany can be very unpredictable as to what quality/hardness you get. Black walnut is pretty much black walnut. The only differences would be straight grain or squirly grain. The hardness of the wood doesn't seem to vary with walnut. Cherry can also be carved, but is more difficult than walnut. The harder woods simply require more control and really sharp tools! And probably a mallet...

Mary, what's your experience with African vs Honduran mahogany? I just finished a chair from African mahogany, and learned to my horror that even pieces from the same board take oil in unpredictable ways.  The splat, crest rail, and stiles in the attached are all from the same 8/4 board, and the front legs (from a separate 12/4 piece) look like they may as well be a different species.  I've read that Honduran mahogany is more consistent both to work and finish.

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