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The Inconsistency of Spanish Cedar

Addressing the lack of consistent quality among Spanish Cedar sources

Spanish Cedar boardsAn affordable alternative to Genuine Mahogany, Spanish Cedar is part of the Mahogany, or Meliaceae, family. As an excellent exterior-grade species, sourcing and importing Spanish Cedar has become more difficult in the past several years. The species’ introduction as a plantation grown wood in a few new regions has brought some relief to the dilemma, but the resulting wider variety of quality has introduced new issues for those of us committed to providing only top-quality lumber.

Originally indigenous to the tropical & subtropical regions of the New World, this species is now available from Africa and the Pacific Rim. The variance among these new plantation varieties can be so great that they bear little resemblance to the prized characteristics that have made Spanish Cedar popular in the first place. Plantation-grown samples from the Ivory Coast seem to boast good coloring and grain consistency, but with their lower density and wide growth rings, stability is a concern.

Based on our experience, we believe that the Spanish Cedar originating from Central and South America has an overall higher quality than the African or Asian-grown variety. Because this quality distinction is not formally accepted throughout the lumber industry, lumber sellers commonly offer Spanish Cedar wood packs without clearly stating the country of origin. What frequently happens, then, is a lumber buyer orders Spanish Cedar and receives a mixed pack, containing Spanish Cedar with widely varying appearance grades and working properties. Those buyers are understandably shy about ordering the same species, again.

The educated buyer will at least realize the potential disparity and request the highest quality possible. Even still, importing restrictions mean additional lead time and inconsistent sizing. As an importer committed to high standards of quality, we avoid some of the issues involved in importing this species by purchasing large quantities and communicating regularly with our partners about the quality and sizes we require. Once we receive the lumber in our Maryland yard, we pick and mill according to customer requests. The comparative affordability of Spanish Cedar makes the species well worth the added lead time.

As the supply chain and pricing of Spanish Cedar continue to fluctuate, J. Gibson McIlvain is committed to maintaining high standards and continually researching the best options available. In addition to our research and communication with overseas sources, we provide optimal kiln-drying on site, producing a more stable species than we receive into our yards. As more customers realize the value of Spanish Cedar as a Mahogany substitute, we’re hopeful that a stronger market will be created, generating greater demand, lower prices, and industry-wide acceptance of the different sources and grades.

Whether you’re looking for a Genuine Mahogany substitute or want to explore the various possibilities, our lumber experts are always ready to discuss options based on your project specifications. We understand issues like wood movement and can help you make informed decisions based on your specific locale and project specs.

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J. Gibson McIlvain Company is a wholesale distributor of a vast array of quality wood products.
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