The Woods: Mahogany

Mahogany is another classic synth wood, seen adorning Moogs, Sequentials, Oberheims, and many others.  But there’s no other wood with as much confusion associated with its true identity.   


Original Genuine Mahogany was the Swietnenia Mahogani species from Cuba.  It was a perfect wood; worked great, looked great, and was stable and rot resistant.  But it was quickly depleted and by the 1940s export of the wood from Cuba was banned.   A similar species of Swietenia (Macrophylla) was available in Honduras, and it’s every bit as good as the original Cuban version.  But again, as the wild population was depleted, it began to be grown on plantations.  As such, harvests were limited and the lumber became quite expensive.


So often is the case, in order to remedy the dis-balance in supply and demand, lumber retailers looked to other species that resembled Mahogany that could be sold in its place; enter African Mahogany.    But, to complicate matters, it became acceptable to call not just a single species…but rather many different species with a common genus (Khaya).  So, all African Mahogany is Khaya…but Khaya can be several different trees.  As such, though the looks are very similar…and very hard to discern from Cuban Mahogany, they can have widely different properties in how they work, finish, and maintain shape.  


So, is African Mahogany really Mahogany?  Well, yes in the sense of the marketing term, and in terms of the look.  In fact, much or what’s sold as plainly in fact African Mahogany.  One could argue that is the not the original Mahogany…but even the wood sold as Genuine Mahogany isn’t the original Cuban species. 


My advice is this: if it looks good, feels good, and ages well, then it is good.  All of the GMUSynth panels sold as Mahogany is a superior species of African Mahogany call Khaya Ivorensis.  In rare cases when Honduran Mahogany is used, it will specified as ‘Genuine Honduran’ is specified.


With that out of the way, Mahogany (including African) is gorgeous with a deep reddish brown color.  It has a unique characteristic called chatoyancy (derived from the French phrase ‘oeil de chat’ or ‘cat’s eye’) which causes the colors to shimmer and shift as light reflecting on it passes certain angles.  It’s a brilliant look.


Hardness:           1370lbf

Density:               45 lb/ft3