Thomas Sheraton - 18th century furniture designer, once characterized mahogany as "best suited to furniture where strength is demanded as well as a wood that works up easily, has a beautiful figure and polishes so well that it is an ornament to any room in which it may be placed." Matching his words to his work, Sheraton designed much mahogany furniture. The qualities that impressed Sheraton are particularly evident in a distinctive pattern of wood called "flame mahogany."
The flame figure in the wood is revealed by slicing through the face of the branch at the point where it joins another element of the tree.Mahogany
is probably one of the largest ‘families’ of hardwood, having many different varieties within its own species.
Mahogany has been used for centuries in ship building, house building, furniture making etc and is the core structure of just about every 19th century vanity box, dressing case or jewellery box. It became more of a Victorian trend to dress Mahogany with these decorative veneers, such as Rosewood, Kingwood, Burr Walnut and Coromandel, so that the actual Mahogany was almost hidden from view.
Mahogany itself is a rich reddish brown wood that can range from being plain in appearance to something that is so vibrant, figured and almost three dimensional in effect.
Although Mahogany was most often used in its solid form, it also provided some beautifully figured varieties of veneer like ‘Flame’ Mahogany and ‘Fiddleback’ Mahogany (named after its preferred use in the manufacture of fine musical instruments).
Cuban Mahogany was so sought after, that by the late 1850′s, this particular variety became all but extinct.
Kingwood is a classic furniture wood, almost exclusively used for inlays on very fine furniture. Occasionally it is used in the solid for small items and turned work, including parts of billiard cues, e.g., those made by John Parris. It is brownish-purple with many fine darker stripes and occasional irregular swirls. Occasionally it contains pale streaks of a similar colour to sapwood.
The wood is very dense and hard and can be brought to a spectacular finish. it turns well but due to its density and hardness can be difficult to work with hand tools. It also has a tendency to blunt the tools due to its abrasive properties.