There are five woods from African considered as ‘Redwoods’ (Mahoganies or Mahogany looking and substitutes). Theses woods are in order of cost from least to most: Okoume, Tiama (also known as Edinam), Sapele, African Mahogany (has several names), and Utile (Sipo).
The woods we stock at Thompson Mahogany are: African Mahogany/Khaya, Sapele and Utile/Sipo. Thompson Mahogany is your best source for wholesale African Mahogany, Sapele, and Utile. We buy directly from foreign mills who not only produce high quality, but are also practicing sustainability, and legal logging practices. So we can get the best prices, best quality and a responsible wood product.
African Mahogany historically, until about 6-8 years ago, had traded at about 10% higher in cost than Sapele. Since than their costs are very similar. Utile trades at about 5-10% higher than them.
They all grow and are harvested in West African Countries. Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Cost being the most prevalent while Ghana and Gabon are also producing Countries. African Mahogany is generally considered the most available. Sapele is not as available, but there is some in the forests. Utile is far behind, there just isn’t as much in the forests.
Also known as Khaya. Other names are Ngollon and Acajou. Of the three, this has the widest range of quality. There are 4 sub-species of Khaya, and three of them show up in the United States. They are Khaya Ivorensis, Khaya Anthetheca, and Khaya Grandifolio. Most companies prefer the Khaya Ivorensis, it is lighter in weight, softer in texture, and not as dense. Some companies specify they want African Mahogany from Ghana, which is considered almost all Khaya Ivorensis. From this region, the lumber tends to be lighter not only in weight, but also in color. It tends to be consistent in color. It also tend to be ‘hairy’, having raised grain. Historically, it is more expensive from this region. Due to Ghana law, lumber must be Kiln-dried (value added) to be exported. Most of the African Mahogany comes from Cameroon and Congo. It also is mostly Khaya Ivorensis, but tends to be darker in color, a little heavier, not as hairy. Consistency in color and quality throughout these regions are less than from Ghana.
TMC buys from suppliers in these regions who supply the lumber which is most consistent in color and overall quality. We import lumber from these regions both air-dried and Kiln-dried. There is not a lot of availability in Gabon, but what is imported is mostly Khaya Ivorensis of good quality. It comes in air-dried. Ivory Coast is considered to have the least desirable Khaya. This is because its forest has a mix of the sub-species. There is a fair amount of Khaya Grandofolio, which is much heavier, harder, and inconsistent in weight and in color. However, there is good Khaya which grows there. If we buy from suppliers who sort out the Ivorensis, it is very good. Some come to the USA as mixed- we carry some- it trades for about 10% less than from other regions.
Entandrophragma cylindricum. Most comes from Cameroon and Congo. We buy it both air-dried and Kiln-dried. The species is more consistent for color, weight, texture, and hardness throughout the regions than African Mahogany. It can have pin-knots which are difficult to see in rough-sawn limber. But the suppliers we deal with do grade against what they can see. It is lighter in color from Ghana which is not the main source.
Entandrophragma utile. Also called Sipo. Mostly from Cameroon and Congo. Some from Ghana, which is lighter in color. We buy both air-dried and Kiln-dried. This wood is very consistent in color, weight, texture.
African Mahogany: Janka Hardness 1,070 lbf (4,760 N) The softest but still very close to Utile.
Sapele: Janka Hardness 1,410 lbf (6,280 N) The hardest of the three options.
Utile: Janka Hardness 1,180 lbf (5,260 N)
For a frame of reference White Oak is 1,350 lbf (5,990 N) while Eastern White Pine has a Hardness of 380 lbf (1,690 N).
African Mahogany: Most inconsistent of the three. Light reddish brown to dark brown.
Sapele: Dark red-brown, almost with an orange tint. Light red-brown, with orange tint from Ghana.
Utile: Dark red-brown. Lighter from Ghana.
Lumber from all three come from large trees/logs. About 60% or more is quartersawn.
African Mahogany: Flatsawn is desirable, looks a lot like Genuine Mahogany (Swetenia Macrophyla). Quartersawn can range from a straight pencil-stripe ribbon to a wilder broken-ribbon stripe. Also, quartersawn ribbon can have some interlocking grain.
Sapele: Flatsawn is nice. The quartersawn is desirable. Generally very straight, ranging from pencil-stripe to more pronounced.
Utile: Of the three, looks most like Genuine Mahogany. Flatsawn very nice. Quartersawn from a non-descriptive straight-grain, to pencil-stripe, to somewhat more pronounced ribbon.
Weight(Kiln-dried to 8%):
African Mahogany: Khaya Ivorensis & Khaya Anthetheca about 3.2Lb per BF. Khaya Grandofolio can range from 3.2-4Lbs per BF.
Sapele: Consistent-about 4.0Lbs per BF.
Utile: About 3.2Lbs per BF
African Mahogany: Generally very easy to dry with little distortion in either the Flatsawn or the Quartersawn.
Sapele: More difficult to dry. The quartersawn tends to hold onto water longer-therefore drying slower. The Flatsawn loses it water quicker, therefore if not careful can get some distortion because it dries to fast.
Utile: Easy to dry with little distortion.
African Mahogany: Takes a little extra care due to some raised grain, and some interlocking grain in the Quartersawn. But otherwise finishes nicely.
Sapele: Is the heaviest and hardest of the three. Finishes nicely.
Utile: Works well, finishes nicely.
All three are good for interior and exterior applications. There is less movement in the quartersawn. They take finishes and paint very well. All are somewhat resistant to insects.
Of the three woods, Sapele is the heaviest and most dense. Therefore, it is more suitable for flooring than the others. Both African Mahogany and Utile are a little too soft for flooring. The quartersawn Sapele has preference in flooring due to being more stable than flatsawn. Utile is used in Europe primarily for windows and doors. There are Manufacturers here who also prefer it for that use. African Mahogany & Sapele are also used for making windows and doors. Other uses for all three are interior and Architectural millwork, Furniture. Sapele and African Mahogany have gained popularity for usage in exterior mouldings, including siding and soffits. Also for decking. African Mahogany and Utile are also used for boat building.
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