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Mahogany Wood Furniture

The Age of Mahogany

After around 1730 the use of walnut declined except in some cabinets, chests, bureaux, and clock cases and by 1750 mahogany wood had become the dominant hardwood in use, at first mainly for chairs and tables, and then later in the 18th century for veneering on case furniture.

Mahogany Commode
1740 mahogany commode. Carving and supporting arms are solid mahogany, veneering is mahogany, carcase is pine.

Early supplies of mahogany wood came principally from the West Indian islands of Puerto Rico and San Domingo. Such "Spanish" mahogany as it was called was dark in colour, closely grained and somewhat formless. Later mahogany wood was sourced from Cuba and Cuban mahogany was redder in shade with a more marked grain pattern.

Mahogany Architects Table
1770, Mahogany, Architect's Table, with shallow carved decoration of Chinese frets.

Later still we find use of mahogany from Honduras, called Baywood, Honduran mahogany having a lighter colour and being of inferior quality to the Cuban hardwood.

Mahogany Altar Table
1764, Carved Mahogany Altar Table

Solid mahogany wood was the overwhelmingly popular choice among hardwood for fine furniture in the mid eighteenth century especially for veneer and carefully designed furniture. Its use persisted for long after it had lost position until the present day.

Late in the eighteenth century the tree was introduced into India, where it is now cultivated, and mahogany today is obtained not only from Central America but from French West Africa and the Gold Coast. African mahogany, which is drawn chiefly from Gambia, is a durable wood, but is liable to twist.

Many beautiful effects have been rendered possible by veneers of mahogany curls. It has maintained its position as one of the principal furniture woods because it is easy to work. It is also a very good-looking wood, and the simplest types of furniture gain a certain added richness if they are made in mahogany; also it enables ambitious designers to express themselves with great ease. Mahogany may be highly polished, and unlike oak and walnut it gains a certain lustre from such treatment, but it retains an excellent effect with only a lightly waxed surface.

By 1770 more exotic wood was in fashion such as satinwood and rosewood.

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