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Old 12-14-2016, 08:42 AM
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Mark Hatcher Mark Hatcher is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Green Mountains
Posts: 4,181
Default A Rose by Any Other Name-Mahogany Statement

There has been a lot written about mahogany on the forum lately and in interest of clarity here is my view:
"True Mahogany" I don't say that, it's a fashion statement.

I stock and regularly use what I call Honduran Mahogany, Cuban Mahogany, and African Mahogany. I generally call them all lower case mahogany just like I generally refer to the many maples as lower case maple. I offer both African and Honduran Mahogany in my base price. Cuban costs extra. Specially figured mahogany can cost extra.

If you tell me you want a mahogany guitar we'll have a discussion about your playing style, what guitars you already have, and most importantly what it is you are looking for in the sound of the guitar. I'll then recommend a couple wood sets and normally have a preference myself among them that I share.
Please notice that I recommend particular sets of wood over particular species.
I do this because with the tone woods a particular set of wood has greater influence than a particular species.

When it comes to the differences between the species we get into the world of generalities which doesn't deny the fact that over large numbers there are generally differences between the species. This is especially evident with manufactured guitars where the components are all cut to predetermined dimensions and no optimization is done for individual parts. This tends to amplify the perceived differences between the species. That's also why the manufacturers guitars that are the same make, model, and wood species vary so much in sound from guitar to guitar but, I'm getting off subject.

Here are the general differences in the species of mahogany that I have in the studio and generally when I would recommend them. I am comparing my Honduran, Cuban, and African that I currently have in the studio:

Honduran coloring tends to be the darkest and most red. It is moderately heavy and fairly stiff. It tends toward the fundamental tones and can have a very warm sound. It is good for clarity and note separation. In my conversation with clients they sometimes recall their younger years standing on a stage with towers of Marshall amps behind them blasting away. They will comment about the resulting hearing loss. In these cases I find that Honduran Mahogany tends to give back the clarity that Rock & Roll took away.

Here is a typical set of Honduran:

I still come across good deals on Honduran like this 2 inch thick 2ft by 8ft board that I have since cut up half of for neck stock:

Of course we can't mention Honduran without showing an outlier like "The Tree":

"The Tree" is a good example of the variance of not only the look but, also the sound. "The Tree" sound characteristics I find are much closer to what I'm going to say about Cuban.

Cuban is much harder, heavier, and stiffer than the others. I think of it as the Hard Sugar Maple of mahoganies. Because of this it tends to be more rosewood like in it's overtones and sustain. It's what I would recommend to someone who isn't ready to commit to the full mahogany experience. If someone is looking for a more jack-of-all-trades guitar I'd probably recommend this one:


That figure is fairly typical of Cuban:

Cuban is harder to get than the others and is more expensive when I do find it so there is an upcharge.

African Mahogany tend to be lighter in color and weight than the others and can be quite stiff. It is aggressively responsive with clarity and a measure of highlighting overtones. I can make a very lightweight guitar with this and it is certainly my preference for an all mahogany guitar. It also has a nice sparkly sheen and often comes with nice striping:

I like to pair it with Cocobolo to bring out the red in it:

Here is a picture of an all mahogany guitar I currently am doing a build thread on:

So there's my take on it. I abhor the idea of a "True Mahogany" and very much prefer to work from the very wonderful palette of characteristics mahoganies offer.
Mark Hatcher

“Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable”.


Last edited by Mark Hatcher; 12-14-2016 at 03:02 PM.