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Mahogany tea table
MFA# 41.592


Grand piano
MFA# 67.1233

Tropical trees from the Miliaceae family (American genus Swietenia and African genus Khaya). Mahogany has a fine, straight grain that takes a high polish. It is dimensionally stable and does not shrink, warp, or swell. The durable, dark reddish-brown wood was imported to Europe in the 18th century where it became popular for furniture, paneling and veneer. Mahogany was used by Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and the Adam brothers for high quality furniture. Ammonia brings out a rich, red color in mahogany wood. Mahogany is frequently attacked by pinhole borer beetles.

Many woods of similar colors have also been called mahoganies, but usually do not have rich color or fine cutting characteristics of the true mahogany wood.

Related trees from the Miliaceae family are the Asian Ailanthus tree, the southeast Asian lauan tree and the Himalayan chinaberry tree.

Mahogany tree (Swietenia mahogoni)

Synonyms and Related Terms

West Indies Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) American mahogany or Honduras mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla); African mahogany (any Khaya species); caoba (Esp.); acajou (Fr.); Mahagoniholz (Deut); mogano (It.); acaju, mogno americano (Port.); mahogny (Sven.); acajou; jequitiba; madeira wood


Skin contact may cause allergic reactions.

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Medium tree growing to 20 m with short trunk and spreading crown.
  • Leaves = Compound with 6-12 leaflets (5-15 cm long)
  • Density = 35-48 ppcf
  • Wood color is pinkish to reddish brown
  • Grain is straight and consistent; texture is medium and uniform

Additional Images

Working Properties

  • Excellent workability with easy sanding and machining
  • Superb dimensional stability; minimal shrinkage or swelling with humidity
  • Joint and glue-ups will remain intact
  • Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well

Resources and Citations

  • Alden Identification Services, Microscopic Wood Identification: Link
  • Virginia Tech Dendrology website at (accessed Oct. 8, 2005)
  • F. H. Titmuss, Commercial Timbers of the World, The Technical Press Ltd., London, 1965
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 488
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954