Faking mahogany

What species are closest to mahogany in grain structure, so, when stained, will look like the real thing? March 20, 2000

We have been asked to produce several hundred feet of moulding and stain it "dark mahogany."

Also, we are making three bars for the same customer, with raised- panel fronts, which they want stained to match.

Any suggestions on wood species that would provide a consistent finish?

This "dark mahogany" color you are talking about -- do you have a color sample or chip to match to? An NGR dye stain on poplar or maple would probably work real well on the moulding.

The bar could be made out of the same wood, but you may want a little more depth out of the finish on there. Then you would want to use an NGR, toner, washcoat, wiping stain, then seal and topcoat. If the depth of the finish is not a real concern, the NGR dye stain would work well on everything.

Alder would be another wood you may want to consider. The reason I recommend the NGR stain is that poplar and maple and even alder are so soft that they take color unevenly if you don't build your color on correctly. Gluesize would also be an option before finish, to help reduce grain raising -- especially on the poplar.

I have worked with both woods. I would much rather finish alder than poplar. Alder is a lot easier to finish. Poplar has too much grain raising, and the color tends to run all over the place, from light to dark to splotchy.

To simulate mahogany, my vote would be birch. Both mahogany and birch share the same diffuse, porous texture. Birch can stain unevenly so a gluesize or other type of washcoat would be in order.

I would use alder also, but would limit the finishing steps to a dye stain, washcoat, wiping stain, full sealer coat, sealer sand, a little bit of shading if required, then topcoat.

Gluesize in production? I don't think so.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
A substitute for mahogany? I'm assuming that cost is your biggest factor. I recently completed a large millwork project of a couple thousand feet of trim and dozens of decorative panels. I used a species called makore (likely a mahogany sub-species). It was relatively cost effective (about the same as red oak). Since it looks just like mahogany, we used an NGR stain with sealer pre-catalized lacquer. Turned out great.

Comment from contributor B:
A good substiute for mahogany is congona (blonde mahogany). It runs about half the price of South American mahogany and it is available in veneered plywood. All that is needed is a deep red stain to get it to match. The grain and the texture is the same as mohogany. It can be tricky to rip in narrow strips.