Mahogany bookcase - salvaged lumber - you know how it is.

At the end of the school year, I saw one of my co-workers getting rid of a large, deep bookcase. I went in for a closer look and realized that it was solid mahogany. Solid... mahogany. SOLID. MAHOGANY.

I suggested that, rather than give it to the landfill, I should take it instead. It has been sitting in my classroom since then, until I brought it home today.

The wood is gorgeous - this is somebody's wood shop project from the 40's, I'm guessing. But, as I look closer, I notice the nails. Tens of them. Hundreds of them. Finish nails of all sizes holding the thing together. Oh well, so I might not be able to used some of the wood around the back edges, due to nail holes. I still have SOLID MAHOGANY. I begin dis-assembly.

I notice then that the shelves, which I had noticed were 12 inches deep and made of joined 6 inch pieces of SOLID MAHOGANY, are actually from the same flitch of wood - the builder had decided not to bookmatch them, but had instead put them in facing the same way. MATCHED SOLID MAHOGANY. And at least half of it is quarter sawn.

There are even more nails. There are 3 inch finish nails. There are nails everywhere. I'm digging out nails by the ton.

And then I see it - one of the center pieces, which is about 12" by 12" by 3/4", rabbeted between two shelves. It has a crack in the middle, where the two pieces are joined. And - there are nails in the middle.

I then realize that each and every joined piece of wood has a series of nails holding them together - as many as five in each piece. These are 3 inch nails with the heads cut off, and pushed into drilled holes. Every glue joint is fastened together with nails in the middle, much as we might use a biscuit joiner today. The outside faces of the boards are rabbeted, and the interiors of the boards are filled with nail holes.

My dreams of having MATCHED SOLID MAHOGANY in 6" wide pieces joined together dissipate, and I realized that, at best, I have some rather nice ukulele necks, backs, and perhaps some sides. And lots of small chunks of solid mahogany. Sigh.

On the plus side, I did manage to get some more cracks fixed on the 1930 Martin Tenor basket case that I'm working on. Nice mahogany on that guitar.

Tags: mahogany, matched, solid

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It will come in handy for repair work Mark but you may not live long enuff to use it all.    Good luck thought.Bill............

I got burned in a similar scenario a few years ago. Before I bother to purchase or lug a large object back to my shop it gets a go-over with a small metal detector I keep in my vehicle. Also, I have a couple of gimlets in the same toolbox to take a deeper look into the relic. There are other assorted gadgets, small bottles of solvents, razor blades and a small microscope. Even with all of this junk in my trunk. I still get burned periodically, but not very often. It does make "treasure hunting" more fun and makes people think I really know what I'm doing. When asked to analyze someone's old hutch that grandmother gave them, I put my nose in the air and tell them I charge $250 an hour for such analysis. I've never had any takers. If my analysis was in error, I would never forgive myself (after I spent the $250).

Good luck Mark. You'll find uses for that metal laden wood.



You can always leave it out in the weather. In a year or two, it will be MUCH easier to get the nails out.

How about making some 3 piece backs?

Hey Ned,what kind of wood did you say it was?Lonnieboy

I didn't but Mark said it is mahogany.  I'm being "tongue in cheek" with the weather comment. I know the pain of discovering that great wood has been put together in a way that makes it very hard to salvage. My brother and I, once disassembled an small oak barn for the materials. Once. We never did get all the nails out of the studs. 

 I had a built-in room partitioning cabinet that I picked up for nothing that I though I was going to use in my house but ended up going a different direction. I just left it out back of my house on a concrete slab for many months until I got around to knocking it apart. It was all solid pine which is now a nice stack of planks in my garage. The back of it was made of 1X6 planks 4 ft long, edged glued together to form a single 4ft.X 8ft. panel. It's still glued up and still out in the weather. It's interesting how it moves from concaved to flat to convex and back again as the humidity level changes. The end of the panel move as much as 2 ft in just a couple of days. I suppose I should cut it up and save it for some project like I have the shelve material but it's just too much fun watching it change. Pretty soon I will learn to predict the relative humidity in So. California but the curvature of that back panel.

I was remodeling an old commercial building about 15 years ago and noticed the posts on either side of the rear delivery entrance gates were 12" X 12" X 10' tall solid quartersawn old growth clear heart redwood. Seems they were installed sometime in the 30's and the owner wished to have me replace them with steel posts. Gladly granting his wish I raced home that day with what should have been the mother load of guitar tops only to discover termites had completely riddled both pieces to the extent that I could not find one clean top in the entire lot. And I thought termites hated redwood. So sad. 


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