Maple vs Mahogany

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When you plan your woodworking projects, one of the first considerations would be what type of wood to use. Initially, you might have to decide whether to use softwood or hardwood. Usually, the choice would be hardwood because it is strong, robust, and durable. Two prominent hardwoods you might use are maple and mahogany.

Maple and mahogany are two common hardwood choices for woodworking projects. You might find mahogany a bit more challenging to procure. But when you do get hold of it, you will find it worth your while. In any case, both these kinds of wood make an excellent choice for building furniture, flooring, paneling, and various other uses.

Maple vs. Mahogany

Maple and mahogany are some of the most common types of wood used in the United States today. Both kinds of wood are popularly used to make electric and acoustic guitars. They are excellent tonewood, and each type creates a characteristically different tone from the other. Mahogany guitars generate a warmer and fuller sound. In comparison, maple guitars offer a brighter and clearer sound.

But if we only discuss the virtues of these two wood types in terms of the guitars they make, we would not do justice to their good qualities. Let’s go into more detail in our discussion of maple vs mahogany.

Maple: Background

Maple wood texture background

Maple is a pale-colored hardwood. Its wood grain is even and tight. There are several varieties of maple that grow in the United States, the commonest ones being soft maple and hard maple. Soft maple makes furniture and molding as it is extremely resilient. Soft maple butcher blocks are also quite popular.

Hard maple makes good furniture and you can also use it for flooring, cabinets, and even baseball bats, pool cue shafts, and drums. Non-woodworking applications of maple are maple chips for smoking foodstuff and the sap of the tree makes maple syrup.

In woodworking, maple is best known for its pale color and even grain pattern. The wood is very tight and lacks pores. But it is this lack of pores that makes staining the wood a challenge. Furthermore, maple turns yellow as it ages.

Mahogany: Background

Mahogany Wood Texture close up

Mahogany belongs to the group of exotic woods in the world. We consider Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) to be the only original mahogany. It is rare and expensive.

Mahogany is best known for the furniture it makes. It is an alternative to teak and many other rarer and more-expensive hardwoods. We also use it for wood carving, and you will see much ornate-carved mahogany furniture.

But mahogany’s main claim to fame is the renowned Chippendale furniture that it makes. Thomas Chippendale, a woodworker and sculptor of the 18th century, understood how mahogany furniture could be carved. His creations became famous and took on his name. Today, Chippendale furniture is some of the best antique furniture in the world.

But in the later years, as mahogany grew in popularity, overharvesting reduced its population. Today, although available, this wood is one of the more expensive types of wood. A good way of adding mahogany to your woodworking projects is to use wood veneer made from mahogany. That way you get the good looks of mahogany at a more affordable price.

Maple vs. Mahogany: Appearance

Spalted Maple Wood

Maple wood is pale with an almost-white coloration. It has a tight, even grain where pores are conspicuously absent. You might find some sections where the wood grain interlocks, exhibiting curling and figuring.

Spalted maple is a unique form of maple which exhibits a wild but attractive pattern. It occurs due to a fungus that infects the tree. Spalted maple looks striking after processing the wood and comes at a high market price.

Among the rare varieties of maple is birdseye maple. It gets its name from the unique pattern that resembles the eye of a bird.

Mahogany is reddish to pinkish brown. It starts pale but over time, it becomes dark. A unique aspect of this wood is that it exhibits “chatoyancy,” a sort of trick of the light. This phenomenon causes the wood to change color when the light strikes it at a particular angle. The wood appears paler and takes on a pearl-like glow.

Mahogany has a straight grain pattern with a natural luster. But you may encounter some sections where the wood grain interlocks. You will also see circular rings in the grain pattern.

Maple vs. Mahogany: Durability

Hard maple is a moderately hard wood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,450 lbf. Furniture made from this wood is durable and long-lasting. It also withstands gouging, chipping, and denting, making it suitable for flooring.

The hardness of mahogany varies widely between Janka hardness ratings of 800 lbf. to 3,840 lbf. depending on the species of mahogany in question. This makes the durability vary between fairly to highly durable.

The hardness and durability of the wood also depend on the growing conditions of the tree it comes from. It resists termites but is prone to attack from other insects.

Maple vs Mahogany: Maintenance

You don’t need to do too much maintenance on maple, except for the flooring of this wood. An annual refurbishing can restore the wood’s fresh and spacious appearance. You can even get pre-finished flooring planks on the market. The additional layer protects the wood from rapid deterioration.

But even pre-finished maple flooring wears off eventually, especially in high-traffic areas. Creating and following a maintenance schedule for maple flooring, pre-finished or not will prolong the life of your beautiful maple floors. Although you may refurbish your maple floors annually, keep them clean regularly with mild detergent and water to keep them clean and sparkling.

You also need to wipe and wash mahogany regularly, whether it is furniture or flooring. It becomes brownish-grey between cleanings but regains its original color after washing it. Reapplying the finish every year or so can prolong the life of the wood.

Maple vs. Mahogany: Workability and Uses

Large luxury maple wood kitchen with island and stools

The workability of maple and mahogany is similar. You will find it considerably easy to work with both woods using hand or machine tools. But you might need to exercise some caution while working on sections with interlocking grain, as there is a tendency to chipping and tearout.

Maple and mahogany both take finish and glue well. However, you need to be careful while cutting maple with high-speed blades, particularly sugar maple, as the wood tends to burn (due to its sugar content). You can prevent it by cutting the wood at lower speeds. Maple wood is a good candidate for steam bending.

Maple wood makes good flooring, particularly for bowling alleys, dance floors, and basketball courts. It is also extremely popular for flooring in residential and commercial properties. Further, it makes veneers, cutting boards, musical instruments, baseball bats, and various turned wooden objects.

Although mahogany is as easy to work with as maple, you might find it challenging to cut and sand figured grain sections.

We use mahogany for making musical instruments, furniture, cabinets, veneer, flooring, boats, and turned and carved objects.

Kitchen mahogany cabinets with a sink. House interior

Maple vs. Mahogany: Price

Maple is not only a good-looking and durable type of wood, but it is also a cost-effective option. Hard maple costs a bit more than soft maple, but both varieties are generally less expensive than many other hardwoods. Figured maple is an exception because it is an expensive type of wood.

Due to the wide range of mahogany species, you will get mahogany in different qualities and prices. But the main species, Honduran mahogany is rare and expensive.

There are export restrictions on Honduran mahogany. However, you can still procure it from plantations. But expect to pay a considerably higher price than other imported hardwoods. You will also pay more if the wood is figured or quartersawn.

Maple vs. Mahogany: Sustainability

Maple is considered to be a sustainable type of wood. It grows throughout the United States and the tree is easily replaceable. It does not feature on any of the lists of endangered wood species which makes it a sustainable type of wood.

We can consider mahogany to be sustainable or not, depending on the wood species in question. Honduran mahogany is considered endangered and appears on both the CITES Appendix II and the IUCN Red List. So, for all practical purposes, you can consider mahogany unsustainable.

If in doubt about the sustainability status of the mahogany you are using, you can find numerous mahogany alternatives that perform equally well like Sapele, cedar, or even eucalyptus.

Maple vs. Mahogany: Any other characteristics

Non-woodworking applications of maple include maple syrup production from the maple tree. Also, maple chips make excellent smoking material for food smoking.

Mahogany exhibits chatoyancy. This special characteristic makes the wood change color when light falls on it in a particular way.

Maple vs. Mahogany: Comparison Table

Parameter Maple Mahogany
Botanical name Acer saccharum Swietenia macrophylla
Color Nearly white to off-white Reddish-brown to blood red
Durability Mechanically durable but no resistance to rot or insects Fairly Durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,450 lbf. 800 lbf. – 3,840 lbf.
Strength Strong wood Medium strength
Maintenance Less maintenance Low Maintenance
Price Moderately priced Expensive to highly expensive
Suitability for outdoors Indoor use only For Indoor use only
Suitability for wood carving No Yes
Workability Easy to work with Easy to work with
Smell Odorless Woody, dry and clean smell
Availability Easily available Can be difficult to procure
Special features if any Maple syrup comes from maple sap Exhibits chatoyancy

Your primary choice for a woodworking project would probably be mahogany if you had the budget. But what about the sustainability factor? It depends on the type of mahogany you use. There are so many legal issues linked to Honduran mahogany that it might not be worth the trouble. Moreover, there are so many alternatives available.

So, when you plan your next woodworking project, you could use mahogany if you can procure it and you are sure of the source. But your second choice is maple or alternatives to mahogany.