WOOD ADVISE

S

Striker

Guest
Folks.

A local wholesaler had a yardsale today to clear out their slow selling material.  In the lot there is sapele & african mahogany in 8/4 and 12/4 by 30 - 48 width and 15 feet long.  I am interested in respect to a pie crust table. My question(s) is:

- To make a pie crust table top what thickness do I need to begin with?
- Is sapele or African Mahogany suitable for this purpose?
- At $2  a pound ( strange way of pricing) is something to pass on or jump on?

I need to get back to them ASAP so any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Stephen

 

frangallo

Well-known member
The density of mahogany is around SG .68 to .82 according to a chart in Bruce Hoadley's book Understanding wood. If a gallon of water weighs 8 lbs and there are 7.5 gallons in a cubic foot of water a cubic foot of water weighs 60 lbs so a cubic foot of mahogany weighs .75 X 60 lbs= 45 lbs. At $2 a lb. a cube is worth $90. Divided by 12 (12 bd.ft. per cube) and you will be paying $7.50 per bd. ft. I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole. Unless its really decent mahogany. Sapale isn't that expensive. True, Brazilian Mahog can go as high as $22.00 a bd. ft. but African Mahogany? Sounds fishy to me.
Fran
 

Antiquity

Well-known member
Here in WI African mahogany sells for a little less than Hond. mahogany which is $9-12 (4/4) per bd. foot.  $7.50 for African mahogany sound like an average price.  I would buy it.

Because Hond. Mh is getting very hard to find and very expensive, more people are buying African Mh which means it is now more in demand so the price is rising.

Dennis Bork
 
S

Striker

Guest
Thanks for the quick replies, Guys. 

Fran - I think your on the money with your calculations - falls in line with what the dealer was telling me for price. Whats not in the price is the cost of shipping which would be nill in this case since its 15 minutes from my house.  Dollarwise, I guess this just an "OK" deal.

How hard is it to find super wide material? Generally, I buy per project and usually pay a bit of premium to get what I want when I want it.  I don't go with the hoarding theory as I end up 1 piece shy of whatever I need. In this case,does it pay to get it especially without shipping charges? Maybe I should look at it in terms of weigh loss...8/4 to 4/4 I'll be losing some weight!



Stephen in eastern NC.
 

frangallo

Well-known member
This is your lucky day! I know someone in Greenfield Mass. (Forest Products) who has been sitting a ton of wide mahogany for years. Genuine Brazilian mahogany. Some of the boards are nearly 4' wide, the majority around 36". Unfortunately it's all 4/4 although (since I have been drooling over this stack for ten years) I know much of it could be milled to 7/8" and there is a bunch that is 1-5/16" in the rough but not a whole heck of a lot. Here's the really bad news. She's asking $22 per bd. ft. which makes the smallest plank (3' X 10') worth $660. I'd need like 3 for a secretary and I'd still need to get the 8/4 and 10/4 for the drawers, fallfront and plinth. But every time I'm up there I am sure to go over and run my hand over this stuff. It is a temptation.
Fran
 

Mark Bortner

Well-known member
Is sapele or African Mahogany suitable for this purpose?

For a pie crust? I'm surprised no one mentioned either of these will carve about as nice as the average cinder block!!!
 

frangallo

Well-known member
I think African Mahogany carves pretty well. I 've only guessed that Sapele wouldn't do as well because the material I used just once had a ribbon stripe to to it. From my experience African mahogany needs to be selected more carefully than others to get a good density and grain for the carving you intend to do. Dennis? Perhaps you'd like to help us out here.
Fran
 

dkeller_nc

Well-known member
Striker said:
Folks.

A local wholesaler had a yardsale today to clear out their slow selling material.  In the lot there is sapele & african mahogany in 8/4 and 12/4 by 30 - 48 width and 15 feet long.  I am interested in respect to a pie crust table. My question(s) is:

- To make a pie crust table top what thickness do I need to begin with?
- Is sapele or African Mahogany suitable for this purpose?
- At $2  a pound ( strange way of pricing) is something to pass on or jump on?

I need to get back to them ASAP so any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Stephen

Stephen - In my opinion, African mahogany (Khaya sp.) is unsuitable for carving.  The grain is heavily interlocked on not just the macro level (ribbon striping), but also the micro level.  The stuff I've carved was a real bear - it just wouldn't cut cleanly, even with very, very sharp tools.

In regards to price, $7.50 a b.f. for 36" wide and wider African Mahogany is a very good price.  In my neck of the woods (NC), that's about the average price for 8-12" 8/4 stock, and about $6 a b.f. for 4/4 stock, 8" - 12" wide.

From the standpoint of the piecrust tables, most folks start out with 5/4, which allows a 1" thick rim and a 5/8" thick flat surface in the center of the top.  This is what Irion sells, by the way, for exactly this purpose - pie crust tables.

To Fran - I'd think long and hard before I paid $22 a b.f. for genuine (honduran) mahogany.  While it's true that Brazilian is sought after for carving because of its very fine grain, density also figures into this equation.  Irion will sell you all you want in 36" + range of very dense, figured mahogany from Peru for $22 a b.f.  The non-figured stuff's about $17 in that width and 5/4.  You can also get a matched set of 10/4 in figured stock for the drawer fronts at the same time - there are very, very few lumber sources anywhere in this country that can offer matched sets of mahogany.  And you can even order a set based on what you want to build (a secretary, for example).  Lou Iron used to own Irion Furniture Co, and understands precisely what is desired for a particular piece of furniture.

You're going to pay for it, but in my particular case I'd much, much rather pay a bit extra for superb service, matched and extraordinarly dense mahogany, and someone on the other end of the phone that understands what you want to do and how best to meet the need.
 

frangallo

Well-known member
Thanks, Steve. I needed that kind of input. The thing about some of this mahogany is that some of it clearly has a the plum pudding figure. I wasn't aware that Irion even sold lumber to the public until now. One day, when I win the lottery, I am going to walk in to Forest Products and buy  the whole stack. Keep in mind that this wad of wood has been sitting for somewhere around twenty years. I have a recollection of seeing it first sometime in the late '80's.
Fran
 
S

Striker

Guest
Fran - Just to clarify, DKeller was just quoting me.  He should be credited with the Irion comments although I echo his sentiments about Irion.  I have never been let down by their service or material.

Concerning the material mentioned in my original post, I have decided to pass on it for now.  Based on all your very enlightening comments and my general lack of experience with these species, I think the safe bet is to mess with it on a smaller scale first. 

Thanks, Stephen

 

mikemcgrail

Well-known member
Wood being my favorite subject, I am no longer able to resist this thread. When searching for carving stock, I look for a medium to high density, and a short or smaller than normal grain- by this I mean the relative size of the "pore". I think that smaller grain or pore tend to make the wood cut 'cleaner' and the density is necessary to hold fine details. Even some south american will cut cut a little on the stringy side if it is highly ribboned and not so dense. I believe one could probably carefully pick a piece of african that would be carveable. I generally dislike the african since I tend to think the pores are way too big and dark to make proper looking 18th century furniture. When building furniture, I was taught that the large flat areas were where one showcased fine lumber. This large flat area on piecrust is where you need the finest lumber.
I would probably buy the boards that were in the stack that I thought might possibly look "south americanish " just because they are close to you, relatively inexpensive, and will become more valuable in time.
I would continue looking for the right board. I have no experience with Irion, but it may be the way to go if you do not enjoy the "hunt".
I will attach below a photo of a large african crotch I bought several years ago. Its a bit smallish and will make about a 30 inch top. It nice but not quite perfect, so I keep looking.....
 

frangallo

Well-known member
Belated apologies to Mr. Keller. I will have to look into Irion. What I need first is a generous philanthropist. Anybody out there?
Fran
 

HSteier

Well-known member
Well I've been staring at stacks of raw lumber for years (I'm talking about Honduras mahagony) and occasionally buying some. And I have yet to figure out how I can reliably tell what a given board will work like, carve like or even look like when cleaned up and not in the rough. Yes, sometimes I can spot nice grain (I think these are usually the center cut boards and can tell from the end grain if it's not been sealed with paint). But more often than not I'm disappointed when I get home and plane it up. No, I can't plane enough of a stacked board at the yard to tell what it will look like.
So are there any secrets in determining what a board will look like, work like, and carve like when still in the rough? I agree that there is a huge variation in the carvability of Honduras Mahagony with "stringy" or "brittle" areas where the grain changes. But so far I have only been able to determine this once I've started to carve.

Howard Steier
 

mikemcgrail

Well-known member
I think you can judge the relative size of the "openness" of the grain in the rough. You buy all the ribbon type figure for your drawer fronts/panels/face lumber, then you try and find a similar colored, dense, small grained pieces for your carved elements. I think the bigger the pore/grain combination the softer, stringier and less likely to hold details- it becomes to easy cut, that is. Remember how small the pores are in cuban-there is a reason the old guys carved with it. I will try and attach a photo of 3 pieces here. Cuban on top, pretty good honduran in middle for carving, and too soft honduran on bottom.
My two cents only. I'm sure others have different opinions. Of course I try and arrange the carving so I am mostly making slicing cuts where the grain is running out-always to my advantage.
 

dkeller_nc

Well-known member
Howard - Regarding evaluating mahogany for carving, most lumber dealers (dedicated lumber dealers, not retail stores that sell surfaced wood) will allow you take a small, shallow gouge to the surface of a board near the end to evaluate the color, grain, etc...  In fact, there's a whole class of collector's tools called "timber gouges" that were specifically designed for this purpose.  If not, I'd find another dealer.  On rough-sawn stock, removing a shallow chip to look at the wood underneath makes no difference to the end user, who will plane/joint the board flat and remove way more material than the gouge will.

Regarding Irion - they do indeed have a 150 bf minimum for a shipped order (used to be 200 bf).  This actually benefits the wood buyer - it's not so much that Irion won't ship a small board.  The problem is that almost all of their wood are standard lengths - 10', 12' and 14', which must be shipped by common carrier (i.e. not UPS or FedEx).  Common carrier freight carries a high front end that drops off rapidly as the weight increases.  By having a 150 b.f. minimum, Irion ensures that you're not paying 40% of the lumber costs in shipping.

In fact, most shipping companies charge two different rates based on the "spot quote" system.  Anything less than about 3000 lbs. will have a much higher rate per pound than the spot quote price (over 3000 lbs.), so much so that you can actually pay more in absolute terms for a 2800 lb shipment than you will for a 4000 lb. shipment.

What I'd say about the cash outlay is that one has to carefully consider their storage options to determine whether it's worth it, but wood, especially the kind of wood that Irion sells, does not depreciate over time.  And if you plan on making period American reproductions out of south american mahogany anytime in the next 30 years, it might be worth taking out a bank loan to get what you want.  Exportation of mahogany from south america is under increasing pressure from environmental organizations that see harvesting of this species as an incentive to road building and deforestation in the Amazon basin, and there are lawsuits pending or active in the courts designed to force the large American importers to drop mahogany from their list under the claims that they share responsibility for illegal logging from Peru.

Whether these lawsuits succeed or to the degree that they succeed may sensitively affect whether you can get any S.A. mahogany at all in the future.
 

albreed

Well-known member
Howard- About picking out mahogany-

I always bring a spokeshave to the lumberyard with me to have a look at the grain, but I trust as well the weight and the sound of the boards. I pick out the heaviest ones, as they seem to be the densest and best looking most of the time. I also knock on t boards with my knuckles to find out how dense they are. The ones that have a "ring" instead of a thud seem to be what I like.

However, as was mentioned earlier, you want to show the fancy stuff on the big flat surfaces, so the dense and figured stuff is good for that, but not so much for carving. For example, if you look at a fancy carved bedpost, like the Salem one I recently copied, the post itself is nice but plain wood and the square sections where the rails come in have been veneered with figured stuff. That way they got the best of both worlds and didn't have to carve figured wood, which is not only a lot of work, but distracts from the carving and looks too busy. You won't see much, if any, carved figured wood in the period. It's a test of your carving ability, perhaps, but will take a lot longer.-Al
 
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