If you have been in the woodworking field long enough, you would definitely come into contact with or handled acacia and mahogany. These two types of wood hold a very popular position in the world of woodworking. Acacia is the more common of the two and is generally cheaper. Mahogany can be very expensive depending on the type of wood that you use.
Acacia vs mahogany is a discussion that most people working with wood participate in at some time or another. Both types of wood are extensively used for making musical instruments, particularly mahogany. But other than the tonal aspect of these woods, they also make some great furniture and are also used in a variety of other woodworking applications.
Acacia vs. Mahogany
Acacia trees are native to Africa and today they grow in Asia, Australia, and even the southwest region of the United States. Mahogany is native to Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and Central America. It also comes from Australia and Asia. Honduran mahogany is the apex of the pyramid of mahogany types. It is expensive and endangered.
Mahogany lends itself to a particular classification but on the other hand, there are almost 1,000 species of acacia and most attempts to standardize a classification system for this type of wood have more or less failed.
Acacia has no specific species and when sold traders refer to a broad range of woods called acacia. It is a very ancient type of wood and we find several Biblical references surrounding this wood. It was the wood that Noah used to make his ark and in ancient times as early as 700 C.E., people made baskets from acacia.
Acacia can be fairly lightweight like mangium (Acacia mangium) or some varieties are among the hardest and heaviest woods in the world like waddywood (Acacia peuce).
We consider mahogany to be among the group of exotic woods. Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) is regarded as the only original mahogany. This species of mahogany is both rare and expensive.
Mahogany makes excellent furniture and serves as an alternative to teak and other expensive wood types. It carves well so you will see lots of ornate-carved mahogany furniture.
But mahogany is best known for the famous Chippendale furniture that it makes. Thomas Chippendale was a sculptor and furniture maker of the 18th century who began to create carved furniture. His creations became renowned and today you can find some of the world’s best antique furniture in Chippendale furniture.
Then again, mahogany is well-known for making musical instruments. You will find some of the best ukuleles made of mahogany. Many musicians claim that mahogany musical instruments produce a warm sound.
Over the years, overharvesting has led to a reduction in the population of mahogany trees in the world. It is a scarce, costly, and endangered type of wood. But if you want to add the effect of mahogany to any furniture you build, you can use mahogany wood veneer. It will create the good looks of mahogany cost-effectively.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Appearance
Acacia’s light-to-dark-brown heartwood shows a clear demarcation between the heartwood and sapwood. Figuring features occasionally in the woodgrain. The Australians use the term “ringed” to describe this figured pattern in acacia.
Mahogany is a reddish or pinkish wood. Although it starts pale it becomes darker over time. The woodgrain pattern is straight with a natural luster but some sections might show interlocking in the woodgrain and circular rings occur occasionally.
A unique feature of mahogany is that it exhibits what we call “chatoyancy.” It alludes to a trick of the light where the color of the wood changes when light falls on it at a particular angle. The wood surface becomes paler and emits a kind of pearly luminescence.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Durability
Acacia is a tough and durable wood. It is among the strongest types of wood in the world. Boat makers used it to make their boats and ships. Acacia is also significantly resistant to moisture which makes it a good outdoor wood which is why we make decks and patios with it.
Mahogany has a wide range of Janka hardness ratings from 800 lbf. to 3,840 lbf. depending on which species you use. Since durability is also linked to hardness the durability of mahogany varies from fairly durable to highly durable from one species of mahogany to another. The type of mahogany tree and its growing conditions also has a bearing on the hardness and durability of the lumber it yields.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Maintenance
Acacia is an outdoor wood but a bit of maintenance helps to enhance its life. You can take certain steps to maintain acacia furniture to get the best out of it. You can use common household chemicals and detergents to clean acacia. After cleaning, if you apply some tung oil or boiled linseed oil (BLO) you can improve the condition of the wood.
Mahogany needs to be wiped regularly and even washed from time to time, particularly if it is flooring. However, ensure not to leave any residual moisture. The wood becomes discolored over time. But after washing it you can restore the original color. You will find that you need to reapply the finish every year or so which helps to enhance the life of your mahogany wooden items.
Acacia vs. Mahogany: Workability and Uses
Acacia is quite flexible, especially when it is freshly cut from the tree. We make different types of furniture from acacia. It is easy to work on it with hand and machine tools.
Acacia exhibits a fair degree of dimensional stability that indicates less probability of warping, cracking, or shrinking. However, it is always a good idea to keep acacia as dry as you can.
Acacia makes some great kitchen accessories, like serving bowls, food bowls, and cutting boards. It is even used in bathrooms for making cabinets and soap dishes. The antibacterial and scratch-resistant properties of acacia make it suitable for wooden chopping boards.
In Hawaii, people use a species of acacia called Koa to make canoes and other watercraft. Koa is also a good tonewood that makes guitars, ukuleles, and other musical instruments.
Acacia has medicinal value and produces oil that we use in perfume. It also produces gum that is used in the food industry as a thickening agent.
Mahogany is easy to work with but due to the inherent hardness of some of the species, you might find it a little difficult to work with it from time to time. Mahogany makes good musical instruments, furniture, carved objects, cabinets, boats, flooring, and veneer.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Price
Acacia grows all over the world today. It even appears as an invasive species in Australia. Acacia is a cost-effective option compared with other hardwoods.
The main species of mahogany, Honduran mahogany is exorbitantly expensive, endangered, and highly regulated. However, you can get some cheaper varieties of mahogany that are not considered endangered.
Although you might look for it, you are most likely to only get mahogany in veneer from wood grown in plantations. But even then, this form of wood costs considerably more than other imported hardwoods.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Sustainability
Mahogany is sustainable depending on the species you use. Honduran mahogany for example is listed on the CITES Appendix II and the IUCN Red List. So, we usually conclude that mahogany is not a sustainable type of wood.
If you still want to use mahogany, it would be a good idea to use one of the many mahogany alternatives like cedar, Sapele, and Eucalyptus.
Acacia on the other hand does not appear on any of the lists of endangered wood species. It is a sustainable type of wood.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Any other characteristics
Besides its value as lumber, acacia produces water-soluble gum that the food industry uses as a thickening agent. Acacia also has medicinal value, and it is used for producing essential oils in perfumes.
Mahogany makes excellent musical instruments but the unique characteristic of mahogany is that it exhibits a color-changing effect called chatoyancy.
Acacia vs Mahogany: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||No standard classification||Swietenia macrophylla|
|Color||Medium to dark brown||Reddish-brown to blood red|
|Durability||Highly Durable||Fairly Durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,430 lbf. to 4,630 lbf.||800 lbf. – 3,840 lbf.|
|Strength||Strong to extremely strong||Medium strength|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance||Low maintenance|
|Suitability for outdoors||Yes||For indoor use only|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Good||Easy to work with|
|Smell||Odorless||Woody, dry and clean smell|
|Availability||Abundantly available||Can be difficult to procure|
|Special features if any||Used in the food industry as a thickening agent||Exhibits chatoyancy|
Acacia and mahogany are diverse in many ways. However, they are two types of wood that you can consider side-by-side when you are planning a woodworking project.
While you may not get genuine mahogany such as Honduran mahogany, you can get many of the cheaper varieties which are perhaps not as endangered. And then it is possible to use alternatives to mahogany that we have mentioned.
Acacia on the other hand is a cost-effective yet durable option in wood. You can plan some great woodworking projects using either of these woods.