January 8, 2023
One of the most highly coveted exotic hardwoods on Earth is Santos Mahogany. It has exceptional beauty and other sterling characteristics and properties that every woodworker would indeed love to have in wood. It has a lovely reddish-brown to deep-red hue and remains dimensionally stable and beautiful over time. It also features excellent tight grain that complements its rich colors.
Santos Mahogany tree can grow to a maximum of 100 feet high, but its average height ranges from 50 to 67 feet with a trunk diameter ranging from 18 to 36 inches. It not only offers exquisite beauty, but it is incredibly durable. Besides, it has a very high Janka hardness rating, making it highly dense and durable. Thus, this wood is an excellent choice if you’re looking for beauty and durability.
Properties and Characteristics of Santos Mahogany
If you’re a woodworker who needs to create beautiful and durable woodworking projects, it will be best to use Santos Mahogany. But before using it, it will be best to know the following properties and characteristics of this wood to ensure it is the most suited hardwood for your projects:
Color and Grain
Santos Mahogany comes with several color variations between its boards. Sometimes it may take a lighter golden-brown color; sometimes, it takes a burgundy to a darker purplish color. Over time, its color shifts to a more reddish or purplish color. Its quartersawn sections exhibit ribbon or striped patterns.
Its range of colors usually depends on where it is grown. Nevertheless, most lumber has dark orange/brown to medium orange/brown hue. Upon exposure to UV rays, its color gets slightly muted. Its interlocking grains also provide striped looks, though not all lumber has this heavy striping.
Its grain, of course, usually comes with interlocking features with fine-to-medium texture. It also has a great natural luster with fine and tight texture after you sand it or machine it.
Santos Mahogany has a diffuse-porous feature with a few large pores with no specific arrangement, coming in two to three radial multiples. It also has indistinct growth rings, which appear distinct sometimes due to its discontinuous marginal parenchyma bands. It also has narrow rays that you can only see using a lens. These rays come in reasonably close spacing, confluent and vasicentric.
Its density is very high at around 60 pounds per cubic foot. Its specific gravity is .74 at 12% MC. Sometimes, it is even heavier than water, making it sinks in water. A board foot of this wood (planed) usually weighs around 4-3/4 pounds. Thus, it is heavier than many hardwoods.
Santos Mahogany is usually sawmill dried rather than shipped green. It is easy to dry and exhibits only minimal shrinkage during the drying process. It shrinks around 4.6% tangentially and 2.8% radially (flatsawn). Thus, this percentage of shrinkage is very low.
Rot and Insect Resistance
Santos Mahogany is very dense and heavy. It is also rot-resistant. However, it might be susceptible to insect attack. But it will last longer than most hardwoods out there.
How to Work Santos Mahogany Wood
Due to its exceptional hardness, Santos Mahogany has a noticeable blunting effect on cutters; hence, it got rated as poor to fair regarding its workability. Besides, it has interlocking grains that make it challenging to work with. Moreover, you may find it hard to stain or glue. Nevertheless, it finishes well.
Machining & Sawing: Machining this wood is challenging because of its incredible hardness. Milling it by hand is also a challenge. So, you must use carbide blades to work on this wood. It also has oil and resin, which makes it challenging to work with. Nevertheless, this resin and oil make it resistant to decay.
Sanding: Sanding this wood is not that difficult. Nevertheless, its dust can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. Thus, it will help if you take extra care when working with this wood.
Finishing: Finishing this wood is also fraught with some issues. But if you prepare well, you can minimize or overcome these issues. Its oil and resin content can make it challenging to finish it. Yet, you can use a pure solvent to remove oil residue to facilitate the application of sealers and finishing.
Gluing: Gluing can be problematic because of oil residue, especially using standard adhesives. Nevertheless, it is easier to glue than teak and other more resinous hardwoods. You must prepare the surface and glue for fifteen minutes to attain the best gluing results. You may not clean the joining surfaces, but for optimum results, it will be best to clean the surface with solvent.
Applications and Uses of Santos Mahogany
Santos Mahogany has many applications. You can use it for making furniture, interior trim, cabinets, and flooring. It also gets used for making railroad ties and rollers for sugarcane crushing. It is also popular for its resin which gets often used for antiseptics, salves, cough-syrup flavoring, and components of perfume.
Which is Better Santos Mahogany and Mahogany?
Santos Mahagony is different from the true Mahogany (Swietenia genus). It is not even related to it. Besides, it doesn’t belong to the Meliaceae family, where true Mahogany belongs. Nevertheless, it has a similar appearance as that of true Mahogany. However, it is much harder and denser. Besides, genuine Mahogany is less durable than Santos Mahogany. Nevertheless, Santos Mahogany is more challenging to work with than true Mahogany.
As mentioned above, Santos Mahogany is a highly coveted hardwood. This tree inhabits the tropical forests of Brazil, Peru, and Southern Mexico and thrives in elevations ranging from 200 to 690 meters. It has a Janka Hardness rating of 2,200 Jankas, far higher than many available hardwoods. It is a reliable and durable hardwood for many woodworking projects.
As a beginner, however, you will find this wood challenging to dabble with. As such, experts would not recommend this wood for beginners. Nevertheless, experts would surely love to work with this wood for it has sterling qualities and characteristics, desirable in a type of wood.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.