Mahogany, or Swietenia, L. an exotic tree growing wild in South America, and likewise in the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and in those of Bahama. It was formerly very common in Jamaica ; whence it was first imported to London in the year 1724; since which period it has been very generally employed for household furniture. Lately, however, it has become more scarce and expensive ; because the low-lands in that island have been gradually thinned of those valuable trees which could be readily carried to market, or transported on ship-board.
The mahogany tree grows very tall and straight, frequently among bare rocks, and attains a size of four feet in diameter: its wood is hard, admits of a fine polish, and is excellently calculated for chairs, tables, desks, and similar articles. It also affords strong and durable timber, and is usefully employed in the West Indies for beams, joists, planks, boards, and shingles. Ships built of this wood are said to be almost impermeable to cannon balls, which lodge in the wood, or, if they pass through the planks, occasion no splinters.—The fresh bark of this tree has often been used in medicine, as a substitute for the Pent-vian, and with equal success.
Many attempts have been made for painting of staining inferior woods, so as to resemble in grain and colour that of mahogany. As our own experiments have not afforded us complete satisfaction, we shall communicate the following recipe, which is extracted from the Hanoverian Magazine (in German) for 1786:—Take the planed boards of the elm or maple-tree ; moisten them first with diluted aqua-fortis, and when dry, varnish them with a tincture made of two drams of dragon's-blood, one dram of alkanet-root, and half a dram of aloes digested in eight ounces of proof-spirit : by applying this liquor two or three times, with a sponge, or soft painter's brush, it is said to produce the desired efFect.