Mahogany comes chiefly from Central America as "Honduras " or "Bay" mahogany, or from the West Indies as "Spanish mahogany."
The wood is of a golden or red-brown colour, of various shades and degrees of brightness; often very much veined and mottled. The grain is coarser than that of Spanish mahogany, and the inferior qualities often contain a large number of grey specks.
This timber is very durable when kept dry, but does not stand the weather well. It is seldom attacked by dry rot; contains a resinous oil which prevents the attacks of insects; it is also untouched by worms. It is strong, tough, and flexible when fresh, but becomes brittle when dry. It contains a very small proportion of sap, and is very free from shakes and other defects. The wood requires great care in seasoning, does not shrink or warp much, but if the seasoning process is carried on too rapidly it is liable to split into deep shakes externally. It holds glue very well, has a soft silky grain, contains no acids injurious to metal fastenings, and is less combustible than most timbers.
It is generally of a plain straight grain and uniform colour, but is sometimes of wavy grain or figured.
The builder uses this timber chiefly for handrails, to a small extent for joinery, and for cabinet work. It has sometimes been used for window sashes and sills, but is not fit for external work. "It has been largely used in shipbuilding, for beams, planking, and in many other ways as a substitute for oak, and found to answer exceedingly well." 1
"Mahogany is known, in the market as 'plain,' 'veiny,' 'watered,' ' mottled,' ' velvet-cowl,' ' bird's-eye,' and ' festooned,' according to the appearance of the vein-formations."l
Cuba or Spanish Mahogany, from the island of Cuba, is distinguished from Honduras mahogany by a white chalk-like substance which fills its pores. The wood is very sound, free from shakes, with a beautiful wavy grain or figure, and capable of re-ceiving a high polish. It is used chiefly for furniture and ornamental purposes, handrails, etc., and also for shipbuilding.
Mexican Mahogany shows the characteristics of Honduras mahogany. Some varieties of it are figured. It may be obtained in very large sizes, but the wood is spongy in the centre, coarse in quality, and very liable to starshakes.
It is imported in balks 15 to 36 inches square, and 18 to 30 feet in length.
St. Domingo and Nassau Mahogany are hard, heavy varieties, of a deep red colour, generally well veined or figured, and used for cabinet works.
They are imported in very small logs from 3 to 10 feet long, and from 6 to 12 inches square.2