Antique English Furniture - Woods, Mahogany

Mahogany is such a well-known timber that it is scarcely necessary to say much about it in the way of description. To most people it is a familiar reddish- brown wood, and it has been used for making furniture since about 1730. The timber was imported from the Bahamas, from San Domingo, from Cuba, and from Honduras. Strictly speaking these different places produced trees that were not usually true mahogany, but the use of the word spread to cover all timbers of a red-brown colour that resembled it closely in appearance and could be worked in a similar manner.

It is the Cuban variety that has the very distinctive markings beloved of cabinet-makers in the second half of the eighteenth century. This variety was used often in the form of veneers, as was walnut, in order to show the light and shade of the figurings to the best advantage.

Mahogany is very strong, seasons quickly and does not tend to warp and split, is seldom attacked by woodworm, and is a good timber to work. It could be obtained in large enough pieces to make large table-tops without joining, which had not been possible before, and not only does it take a pleasing smooth finish but is excellent for carving. It is therefore not hard to understand why, once it had been introduced, it quickly became popular and stayed for long the principal timber used in cabinet-making.

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