Cedar vs Mahogany

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Cedar and mahogany are popular types of wood for all sorts of woodworking and construction projects. Both of these are exceptionally versatile types of wood. However, some differences need to be addressed if you are a woodworker who wants to get the best out of your wood. Here we discuss those differences and provide you with interesting information about cedar and mahogany.

Cedar and mahogany have got their intrinsic differences. Cedar is a softwood and light-colored. Mahogany is a pinkish-red colored wood. While cedar is easily available and cost-effective, mahogany can be extremely expensive, particularly in the case of Honduran mahogany which is an endangered wood species. Therefore, you may procure cedar more easily than mahogany.

Cedar vs Mahogany

cedar vs mahogany tree cut

Whether you are planning a woodworking project or some outdoor woodwork like installing a fence, gazebo, or deck, two types of wood that you can rely on are cedar and mahogany.

While we consider cedar an aromatic wood, mahogany has no particular odor. However, an interesting aspect of mahogany is that exhibits “chatoyancy.” It is a phenomenon wherein the wood changes color and takes on a pearl-like shade when light falls on it at a particular angle.

Both of these types of wood take on stain and paint well, which helps you to color them to the required shade.

Cedar: Background

Wood from the tropical rainforest - Suriname - Cedrela odorata

As we mentioned above, cedar and mahogany belong to different species and they even come from different regions of the world. Cedar is native to North America and you can also find it in the Mediterranean regions and the Western Himalayas. Mahogany on the other hand is native to Africa and some tropical regions of the Americas.

Out of all the cedar that grows and is used in the United States, western red cedar (Thuja plicata) is the most popular variety. The trees are huge and they grow as high as 200 feet with tree trunk diameters reaching up to a whopping 13 feet!

Western red cedar is not a very hard wood with a Janka hardness rating of 350 lbf. But it is much sought after for woodworking and construction purposes.

Cedar is a coniferous tree and being a softwood, it is a gymnosperm meaning that its seeds are not covered. Cedarwood is used for outdoor applications like trim, outdoor furniture, decking, siding, and other such structures. But it also makes good indoor furniture and it has certain other indoor uses as well.

Mahogany: Background

Mahogany Wood Texture close up

Mahogany is a tropical hardwood tree which gives it the resilience that you look for in long-lasting wood. The trees grow in various tropical parts of the world, particularly in Africa and South America. You will also find it growing in Asia and some varieties grow in parts of the United States.

Mahogany is a reddish-brown-to-pink wood. It is very hard, with a smooth surface and a straight grain. It is easy to maintain and has notably good resistance against rot, pests, and moisture. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that mahogany is the preferred choice for all sorts of woodworking and construction purposes.

Mahogany makes good furniture, decking, cladding, and outside wooden structures.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Appearance

Both these woods have straight woodgrain patterns but mahogany has a smoother sheen than cedar. It also has fewer knots.

Western red cedar is reddish-brown but you do get lighter shades. The grain pattern can exhibit bands and streaks. The lighter sapwood and darker heartwood do not have much demarcation. Western red cedar has a natural but slightly coarser luster

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Durability

Mahogany is extremely durable and has excellent moisture and pest-resistant properties. It is more durable than Cedar. Mahogany has a tighter woodgrain than cedar which is why it resists water and pests so well. Although mahogany produces natural oil that makes it durable, cedar creates certain resins that help combat moisture, pests, and rot. It is this resin that gives cedar its characteristic aroma.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Maintenance

Because mahogany is more durable, you will it easier to maintain. It requires less maintenance. If maintained properly, mahogany will last up to 25 years or more. On the other hand, cedar may last only for a decade or two.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Workability and Uses

A rich red pouch of tobacco and Spanish cedar humidor

Western red cedar is an easily workable wood. You will find it easy to work with using both hand tools and machine tools. But to prevent tearout you need to be cautious while working on sections that feature interlocking woodgrain. It is very soft so you need to keep the wood away from high-traffic areas to prevent it from getting dented and scratched.

Cedar makes various outdoor wooden items like fences, posts, shingles, decking, and even boats. It also makes good outdoor furniture, crates, boxes, and musical instruments.

With mahogany, you may find it a bit challenging to work on the hard varieties of wood like Honduran mahogany. It can go up to 3,840 lbf. on the Janka hardness scale. But generally speaking, mahogany is an easy wood to work with.

It is well-known for its musical instruments but we also make cabinets, furniture, flooring, carved objects, veneer, and even boats from mahogany.

Kitchen mahogany cabinets with a sink. House interior

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Price

Western red cedar is commonly available in the United States. Therefore, it is generally a cheaper source of lumber. But you will find some of the grades more expensive too.

Honduran mahogany is a highly regulated and endangered species. You may not find it and if you do, you will have to pay a lot for it. But even other varieties of mahogany that are available will cost up to 30% more than western red cedar or any of the other varieties of cedar.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Sustainability

Western red cedar is not considered an endangered wood species and is a sustainable source of lumber. Mahogany can be sustainable depending on the wood species you are dealing with.

Honduran mahogany falls under the category of endangered wood species and is listed on the IUCN Red List and the CITES Appendix II. We generally consider mahogany not to be a sustainable wood.

If you still want to use mahogany in your woodworking projects, you could use any of the alternatives to mahogany, like cedar, eucalyptus, and Sapele. Any of them can create an equally good effect similar to mahogany.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Any other characteristics

Cedar is an aromatic wood but otherwise, it doesn’t have any special characteristics. Mahogany is well-known for the chatoyancy that it displays. Chatoyancy is the color change the wood exhibits due to the light falling on it in a particular way.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Comparison Table

Parameter Cedar Mahogany
Botanical name Thuja plicata  Swietenia macrophylla
Color Pinkish to reddish-brown Reddish-brown to blood red
Durability Highly durable Fairly Durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 350 lbf. 800 lbf. – 3,840 lbf.
Strength Strong wood Medium strength
Maintenance Needs regular maintenance Low Maintenance
Price Moderately priced Expensive, but less than teak
Suitability for outdoors Yes For Indoor use only
Suitability for wood carving Yes Yes
Workability Easy to work with Easy to work with
Smell Aromatic scent while working with it Woody, dry and clean smell
Availability Easily available Can be difficult to procure
Special features if any Aromatic wood Exhibits chatoyancy

Whether you use cedar or mahogany, you have to find suitable types of wood for your project. With the information that we have provided here, you can see that many factors determine the choice of wood between cedar and mahogany.

For example, if you have budget considerations, cedar is a far cheaper. But if cost is not an issue, then you can choose your lumber from a range of some of the finest mahogany available.

Whether you choose cedar or mahogany, either type of wood will give you satisfying results in your future woodworking projects.