When we plan a woodworking project, one of the first considerations is the type of wood to use. The initial decision to make is to choose between softwood and hardwood. We usually go for a robust, strong, and durable hardwood.
Oak and Mahogany are two of the most popular hardwoods that woodworkers choose for their projects. Both types of wood are a bit challenging to procure, and when you do, it can be a challenge to work with. But any woodworking project that uses either of these woods will reflect good quality and taste.
Oak vs Mahogany
The wood grain of oak is open and coarse. It exhibits unique twists, swirls, and knots, giving the wood a striking appearance. Mahogany on the other hand has a close, small, and straight grain. Some interlocking in the grain pattern might be noticed. It has a medium, uniform texture with a natural luster.
Both oak and mahogany are sought after for making all varieties of wooden furniture and hardwood flooring. While mahogany serves the purpose of conventional woodworking applications, we use oak additionally in tanneries and breweries.
Oak trees have exceptionally long growing periods which can amount to over 100 years. The long growing time makes it difficult to find enough trees suitable for lumber, making the wood a bit scarce and therefore expensive.
We associate oak with strength and solid structures. The main attraction of this wood however is its beautiful grain pattern. You won’t find two identical sections of oak, but boards can be arranged to improve the appeal.
Oak is best-suited for surroundings that need a solemn and heavy ambiance like in a library, courthouse, or any room that needs a classical look. Other lighter shades of wood would suit a room if you want a more modern or contemporary look.
Oak is a durable wood and any furniture or wooden structures made of this wood will be long-lasting. But we seldom use oak for outdoor applications.
Mahogany is another type of wood that plays a prominent role in making furniture. It serves as a viable substitute for teak, and many times for oak as well.
Other than making good furniture, mahogany is a good wood for carving, which paves the way for ornate, carved furniture.
Mahogany is well-known for a famous type of furniture called Chippendale furniture. In the 1700s, a woodworker and sculptor named Thomas Chippendale recognized mahogany for its capacity for good wood carving. His furniture became renowned, and today some of the priceless furniture is antique mahogany Chippendale.
Over the years, the demand for mahogany grew, it was overharvested, and became a rare species of wood. If you want to produce projects with a touch of mahogany, you can use mahogany wood veneer, which costs less and still looks good.
Oak vs Mahogany: Appearance
Oak comes in many colors and shades. But we know this wood because of its beautiful wood grain patterns. Sections of oak are unique to each other, and woodworkers take advantage of these spectacular patterns. It also has a golden hue that is unique to this wood.
Mahogany is pale pinkish-brown to reddish-brown and the wood darkens over time. It exhibits “chatoyancy.” It is a phenomenon wherein when light falls on the wood at a particular angle, it changes color, making the wood seem lighter and it gives off a pearly glow.
The grain pattern of mahogany is straight with occasional interlocking, where the wood fiber seems to weave off in a different direction. The wood also contains circular rings.
Oak vs Mahogany: Durability
We can expect a tree that takes a hundred years to grow to yield durable lumber, and that is the case with oak. You can further enhance the durability of oak wood by applying a suitable sealer.
Although mahogany does not share the durability of oak, it varies from fairly durable to highly durable. The durability depends on the growing conditions of the tree and the wood density. Mahogany resists termites but cannot withstand other insects.
Oak vs Mahogany: Maintenance
Oak is easy to maintain with just a bit of soapy water washing. However, you need to refinish the wood surface every year or so, to prolong the wood’s life.
Mahogany is similarly simple to maintain by wiping and washing it regularly. It develops a brownish-grey color but soon gets restored with washing. Like oak, you’ll have to reapply the finish now and then to give the wood a longer life.
Oak vs Mahogany: Workability and Uses
If oak is exposed to iron, it reacts to it and it results in ugly rust stains. The problem becomes worse in the presence of water. Oakwood that has iron in it like iron fasteners, nails, screws, or rivets needs to be kept away from moisture.
Oak is an easy wood to work with. It responds well to steam bending procedures, and it stains and glues well. We use oak for a variety of applications such as furniture, cabinets, flooring, interior trim, and panels for walls, doors, and windows.
Special uses for oak include whiskey barrels and the wood also contributes to the tanning process in tanneries. It contains a substance called tannin which helps to process leather.
Mahogany is also easy to work with by hand and machine tools. You may find figured grain sections a bit challenging as it tends to develop tearout, or chip while cutting the wood.
Although mahogany sands, turns, stains, finishes, and glues well, you will have to sharpen cutting blades regularly while working on it.
We use mahogany for making furniture, veneers, cabinets, musical instruments, boats, turning, and carving.
Oak vs Mahogany: Price
Oak trees take many years to grow. The result is that there are not enough harvestable trees to go around. It is a heavy wood to transport, and many varieties of oak in the United States are imported. All this pushes up the price of oak lumber.
Although oak is a long-lasting wood, mahogany can last almost as long. The price of mahogany depends on many factors like the species, the age of the trees from which it is harvested, the density, and so on.
Some varieties of Mahogany like Honduran mahogany are almost entirely grown in plantations under regulated conditions. It has made the wood more available, but yet it continues to be expensive compared with many other hardwoods.
Oak vs Mahogany: Sustainability
You need to be careful while buying oak. It has been on the list of endangered wood species for some time. The safest bet is to buy oak harvested in the United States because it is sustainably produced. If you buy imported oak, then ensure that it is FSC-certified.
Mahogany is mostly considered a sustainable wood. But the level of sustainability depends on the species, how it is harvested, transported, and processed. Honduran mahogany, for example, is listed as a vulnerable wood on the lists of endangered wood species
If you are unsure of whether you are using sustainable wood with mahogany, there are several mahogany alternatives available in the market.
Oak vs Mahogany: Any other characteristics
Oak is well-known for its use in making whiskey barrels. It imparts a unique flavor to the liquor. It is also widely used in the tannery industry for a substance called tanning that it produces. Tannin is added to leather while processing it.
A special feature of mahogany is chatoyancy. When light falls on the wood at a particular angle, the color changes, and it exhibits a pearly shine.
Oak vs Mahogany: Comparison Table
|Light to medium brown with a reddish tint
|Reddish-brown to blood red
|Hardness (Janka Scale)
|800 lbf. – 3,840 lbf.
|Expensive to highly expensive
|Expensive, but less than oak
|Suitability for outdoors
|For Indoor use only
|Suitability for wood carving
|Easier to work on than oak
|Woody, dry and clean smell
|Can be difficult to procure
|Special features if any
|Used in the tannery and brewery industries
Whether you use oak or mahogany for your woodworking purposes, both types of wood are bound to look great on finishing. They are both durable and strong, and furniture made out of either will stand out.
If you intend to use either oak or mahogany in your next woodworking project, ensure that you get legally-procured lumber. Your project is bound to look great!