Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

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acflynn
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Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by acflynn » Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:37 am

Hey everyone, I'm doing scouting for my upcoming build (targeting an 18' Mist Miss) which I hope to start this fall. That's about all I can do at this point, as it was 114 degrees here in Phoenix over the weekend. In terms of dimensional timbers, I think I'll be in good shape in terms of availability, as the local Woodworkers Source store has several varieties of mahogany in stock. I'm wondering which of these choices would be best for framing and decking (bright), as I'd like to make it "classic" with all-mahogany construction (as far as I'm able, excepting the Doug Fir stringers). Here are the options:
  • "African Mahogany" (Khaya): $8.99/bd ft (4/4, also 8/4 available)
  • Sapele: $9.99/bd ft (4/4, also 6/4 and 8/4 available)
  • "Genuine Mahogany" ("Central American" but definitely not classic Honduras): $12.99/bd ft (4/4, also 8/4 available)
I did consult this chart from the Wood Database: http://www.wood-database.com/wp-content ... milies.pdf, but I'm more interested in how well these can be worked, strength, attractiveness, etc.

They also carry Red Grandis as well as Santos Mahogany, but those seem to be on the extremes of both pricing and desirability. From reading other posts and threads, it seems like Sapele might be easiest to work with but also the heaviest. Is it too heavy? Or should I try the slightly less expensive Khaya, which is closer to a "true" mahogany? Is the Central American variety worth the extra cost? Which would you consider the best all-around?

I know the differences in price will add up over the course of the build. They do have a 25% discount when buying a larger quantity (over 100 bd/ft), so I am willing to invest a bit here for a much more satisfactory build long-term.

Thanks for any insight you can provide,

Andrew Flynn
Chandler, AZ
Attempting a Mist Miss build in the Arizona Desert

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kens
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by kens » Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:50 am

the price of the wood itself is a small part of the total cost of the build, so dont get too hung up on that
Sapele is good wood, heavier than mahogany, but still lighter than oak.
I have not used red grandis, but would not be afraid of it either.
Why worry very much about strength when Spruce and fir are accepted as good wood?
Spruce is about the weakest of all the building woods, and ANY of the mahogany cousins is stronger than spruce.

I used to have some Spanish Cedar, and I liked that better than central america mahogany.
Oak is over rated, everything about it takes extra time; then it warps, splits or checks !!! :roll:

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acflynn
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by acflynn » Tue Jul 30, 2019 5:13 pm

Thanks, kens, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to answer the question of which is the best choice of the three. Maybe I missed something. You mention Sapele is good, and all mahoganies are stronger then SPF. Regardless of price/board foot, what makes Sapele "good"? Is it better at that than the other two mahogany options? Looking for opinions on workability, aesthetic qualities, durability, etc. in addition to strength. Thanks!
Attempting a Mist Miss build in the Arizona Desert

TomB
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by TomB » Tue Jul 30, 2019 5:45 pm

Andrew,

I've used Santos, Sapele and African. I'm building with African now from a 300 BF order. I love the look of Santos but its tuff stuff and hard on the cutting tools. My African mahogany is ribbon cut and has a LOT of variability from one board to the next. I do a fair bit of sorting to match board with purpose. Some are hard and straight grained, others have grain swirls that makes planing very difficult, some is soft like spruce, so are light brown, others a dark red/brown. I would use African mahogany again. Have your purveyor finish to thickness or go to the yard and pick out the pieces yourself.

Tom

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kens
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by kens » Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:23 pm

most of the answer your looking for is subjective and opinionated.
Some people like aesthetics of one wood versus another,
Some like the aesthetics of the grain running one way or another
Some want the cheapest they can get by with
Some want the most expensive and think it is the best, because it cost more
Some want the wood with the best strength/weight ratio
Some want wood that holds screws/nails the best
Some want wood that glues the best
Some want the best rot resistance
Some want the wood that is outright strongest

Mahogany is not the 'best' at anything, it is only 'good' at everything.
Mahogany doesnt hold screws as well as oak, isnt as light as spruce, isnt as pretty as afromosia, not rot resistant as teak, but mahog does all those things good, and better than most.

Personnally I like Sapele because I got it cheaper than mahog, is prettier than mahog, it is denser (screw holding) than mahog, heavier than mahog but I accept that in good looks and price. Being denser, the sapele is probably quite durable, and no harder to work than anything else.

Perhaps you should look at each of that available to you and feel it, weigh it, see it up close.
Any given specie of wood has variables from one tree to the next. One given bundle of wood might be lighter than another, or prettier, or straighter,
or whatever.
Oak is over rated, everything about it takes extra time; then it warps, splits or checks !!! :roll:

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galamb
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by galamb » Tue Jul 30, 2019 7:30 pm

I have used both Khaya and Sapele (as well as some of the Philipine Mahoganies which are actually cedars) - I have no first hand experience with genuine mahogany.

I found both easy to work with, both glue up well, machine well and fasten well - the Sapele is "prettier" in my opinion so if I was doing a natural finish where it would be seen, simply from an asthetic perspective, it would be my choice (although I have used it in a keel because it was available and meets the strength and durability I was looking for).

"Today" genuine mahogany means "plantation grown". It is next to impossible to get "non-farmed" genuine mahogany (called genuine if it belongs to the Swietenia genus of trees), so while still a desirable (and perhaps "romantic" boat building wood) it is not the "mahogany of old".

(from the Wood Data Base)

Genuine is the lightest of the three @ 37 lbs per cubic foot followed by Khaya @ 40 and Sapele at 42 - so "genuine" is the lightest if weight is your over-riding consideration

The Janka Hardness of the three (which indicates it's resistance to denting when impacted by something harder/wearing) or it's "toughness" is:

Genuine 900 ft lbs, African 1070 ft lbs and Sapele 1410 ft lbs - so if impact resistance/durability is your top concern then Sapele would be your pick (at the weight penalty of course)

The Modulus of Rupture (how much bending pressure it can withstand before the board fails - think grounding a boat placing stress on a keel or smacking the bow into a solid object as an example) is:

Genuine 11,700 ft lbs, African 13,190 ft lbs and Sapele 15,930 foot pounds - so again if toughness/durability is your top "want", of the three Sapele is the superior choice.

There are other (factors) that are measured but those three are probably the top three to consider. Since thousands (if not millions) of boats have been built with genuine mahogany, despite it's lower to considerably lower (strength) numbers, compared to the other two, it is obviously "strong enough". But if YOU would sleep better at night knowing you used the tougher wood (of the three choices), you would be building with Sapele.

African Mahogany (Khaya in board form and often Okoume in sheet form) is typically the least expensive of the three, the easiest to find and is smack in the middle of the other two in terms of weight and durability. I have built a couple of boats now (working on my third) and am well satisfied with Khaya or Douglas fir for all my framing needs.
Graham

Yes, Plywood is "real" wood :)

A "professional" is someone who gets paid for their work - it doesn't necessarily mean they are good at it :)

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Bill Edmundson
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by Bill Edmundson » Tue Jul 30, 2019 7:51 pm

I used African on my two boats it's good.

Bill
Mini -Tug, KH Tahoe 19 & Bartender 24 - There can be no miracle recoveries without first screwing up.
Tahoe 19 Build

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acflynn
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by acflynn » Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:52 pm

Thanks everyone for the additional insights. As I haven't even started yet (just scouting lumber suppliers), I wanted to get a feel from what experienced users felt was the best approach. I'm sure that once I get started, I'll develop my favorites after a fashion. These tips are very helpful. Rolling it all up, I think I'll be in good shape with any of these three, and then I can go for appearance, or even mix-and-match, such as denser Sapele for framing but perhaps Khaya for bright-finished planks that will be visible, depending on the appearance.

kens, thanks for pointing out that mahogany covers most of the bases pretty well. I'll take a look at the stock that's available. I did note that at this supplier the Khaya was in stock in longer lengths (maybe up to 14') than the Sapele (which they had two bunks of, but almost all maxed-out at 8-foot lengths).

galamb, thanks for the additional technical specs. I had seen the Janka ratings, but those others are new to me.

Bill, I reviewed the photos of your Tahoe build. If the African/Khaya looks as good as your implementation, I may be sold! (I also thought your mockup of the engine for fitting was something I'll need to try). What wood is your coverboard made of? - lighter, broader grain, almost a Doug Fir?

TomB - good insight into the variability factor. I see you're in Holland - which part? My parents retired there 20 years ago (I grew up down near South Haven). They're on the south side of town, and I come up at least once a year to visit. I'll be up there the first week of October, usually the week after everyone pulls their boats out for the winter.
Attempting a Mist Miss build in the Arizona Desert

TomB
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by TomB » Thu Aug 01, 2019 3:56 am

Andrew,

I'm south, near Saugatuck Dunes State Park. I'll be on a boat out of South Haven Friday.

Tom

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kens
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by kens » Thu Aug 01, 2019 4:45 am

Another thing that relates to wood selection:
Wood grain can have a lot to do with where you put it in the build.
For the longitudinals, your plainest, straightest grain wood is generally better.
The prettiest ribbon grain wood may twist and curl as you start working it.
Oak is over rated, everything about it takes extra time; then it warps, splits or checks !!! :roll:

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Bill Edmundson
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Re: Best choice between 3 types of "Mahogany"

Post by Bill Edmundson » Thu Aug 01, 2019 7:08 am

Andrew

My cover boards are ash. I like the contrast.

Bill
Mini -Tug, KH Tahoe 19 & Bartender 24 - There can be no miracle recoveries without first screwing up.
Tahoe 19 Build

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