Update: Buy Your Old-growth Mahogany Now!
If you’ve read the previous entries (entry #1, entry #2) about the 200-year-old mahogany that’s being reclaimed in Belize, and are looking to bring some stock into your shop for projects, now you can. Greener Lumber LLC has its online store up and running (Click here). The company has lumber in the rough and they also have some lumber that is S2S (surfaced on two sides).
Each rough board is shown on the site along with a section sample of that board. If you select a rough-cut board to purchase, you purchase the entire board, but the surfaced lumber is sold in smaller quantities; the length you purchase matches the width of the board. If a board you like is 20″ in width, the minimum length sold is 20″. If the board is 16″ wide, then you can purchase a piece as short as 16″ (and of course you can purchase longer lengths). With this arrangement, you can pick up a small piece to give it a try.
Take a look at the photo below. That’s an end view of a board that Rich Petty (he’s the one shown above with the bigger smile, and he’s a principal owner of Greener Lumber LLC) delivered some of this mahogany for a future Popular Woodworking Magazine project article. Check out the tight growth rings , that’s one of the characteristics of this old-growth lumber that makes it interesting. Another interesting feature is that many of the logs have figure.
A Challenge to Work
We’ve had an opportunity to work with this old-growth lumber and while I never noticed any differences in machining the lumber, I did notice a pungent odor as I worked. Evidently a bit of the deep river smell is infused in the lumber. The odor is noticeable when sawing and sanding the mahogany. Editor Christopher Schwarz went after a piece with hand tools and found that this wood presented more of a challenge to hand-tool users. He didn’t experience the odor (not enough friction), but he did have to turn to steeper angled planes to achieve a smooth surface, especially in the figured grain.
Finishing the lumber, as you might expect, is different. The tighter growth rings appear to make the wood less penetrable. As a result, the aniline dye that I used didn’t soak is as much, but the dye job looked great. And boiled linseed oil seemed to sit on the surface without too much soaking in. Even with this difference, the color and finished surface of this wood is strong. I can’t wait to see an entire piece completed.
It Only Gets Better
When I’m working in the shop, you’ll hear Frank Sinatra in the background , he’s not from my generation, but I get jazzed listening to him and Dean Martin. What’s the tie to old-growth mahogany? One of Mr. Sinatra’s hits is “The Best is Yet to Come” and that’s what we may be seeing with this stash of mahogany.
Here’s the deal: Greener Lumber LLC says the logs that are reclaimed now are on top of the submerged piles. That tells us that the logs cut earlier in the process are underneath. How? When you pick lumber, you select the best board available, don’t you? So it’s correct to think that when the lumbermen moved into Belize to cut mahogany, they cut down the biggest and best trees first. Those logs were sent down the river and some of them sank. Over time, the lesser lumber , although still better than what we find available today , also sank and came to rest atop the earlier-cut logs.
To reclaim the logs, you have to reverse the events and collect those “lesser-quality” logs prior to uncovering the mahogany Holy Grail. So while the prices for this old-growth goodness are expensive but fair, the lumber reclaimed in the near future should command a premium due to wider widths and tighter growth rings.
In other words, if your lumber allowance is low and you want to get hold of great mahogany, the time to buy is now. If, on the other hand, you have deeper pockets, the stash is destined to be better down the road , although it’s pretty sweet right now.