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Genuine Mahogany — Bringing Urban Lumber from the Caribbean to Colorado

It’s safe to say, 10 years ago we would never have imagined Baldwin Hardwoods would be one of the first (and only) lumber producers in the country to have Genuine Mahogany in our Showroom. Our focus has primarily been on converting urban trees from northern Colorado into usable hardwoods. So what made us take a leap into milling imported exotic logs? Turns out, it fits right in with our story.

 

A stack of kiln-dried Mahogany slabs ready for inventory

A former arborist, Baldwin Hardwood’s owner Ryan watched countless trees being removed from city neighborhoods and disposed of at the local landfill. His discomfort with the discarding of high-quality hardwood was the inspiration to start his own operation, one with a simple business model — reduce unnecessary waste by milling urban trees and create access to a product right from our own community.

 

Owner Ryan Baldwin operating the Wood-Mizer LT-40 sawmill during the winter

Unlike commercial logging operations that harvest traditional forest-grown trees, urban lumber comes from trees being removed from residences, city parks, and urban areas being prepared for development. Often, they’ve died of natural reasons (age, insects, weather damage). The main difference is that urban lumber is never cut-to-order because of demand, which also means we tend to work with smaller quantities of less common hardwoods, like Mulberry or Catalpa.

 

Freshly-milled Mahogany slab at the Baldwin Hardwoods lumberyard

 

“Every week, something new and different might show up at our lumberyard. We’re always on the search for unique wood, something you can’t find everywhere else.” — Ryan Baldwin, owner

So, when Michael and Carly Hester reached out to us last fall about partnering to mill some urban-sourced logs, it seemed in line with our philosophy — they were trees being removed selectively, without damaging the surrounding ecosystem or using heavy equipment, mainly from people’s backyards, and would have otherwise been burned or left to rot. The big difference was they were Mahogany trees from Saint Lucia, a small island in the Caribbean.

 

Measuring the diameter of a Genuine Mahogany log in Saint Lucia

Michael and Carly own Elements Wood Imports, a boutique supplier of rare, tropical hardwoods. They work in partnership with C&C Industries (owned by Michael’s sister and brother-in-law) in Saint Lucia. A volcanic island with active vents, Saint Lucia is rugged and not easily accessible, leaving it ignored by larger timber exporters but ideal for small importers like the Hesters.

 

“When Michael told me what was happening with the Mahogany trees in Saint Lucia, I started seeing not only similarities to our business but also opportunities to do something incredible. It’s a shame to let old-growth hardwoods go to waste and there’s a real need in that small community to deal with these trees.” — Ryan

 

Sustainably harvesting Mahogany logs

Nearly all Genuine Mahogany imported to the U.S. is grown on plantations in southeast Asia. In Saint Lucia, the trees grow on private land, surrounding homes and buildings and are considered an invasive species. Felled trees are viewed as “eyesores” to property owners who have no way of dealing with the leftover lumber.

 

 

A Genuine Mahogany log being loaded into a truck for transport from Saint Lucia

 

“By working with the local tree crews in Saint Lucia, Michael and Carly are helping residents find a sustainable way to manage the Mahogany trees and supporting their local economy.” — Ryan

 

Michael Hester of Elements Wood Imports leans against Mahogany logs ready to be transported from Saint Lucia

It’s not a quick, or easy, process, however. It took nearly two-and-a-half years of working through regulations and permitting before the first shipment of Mahogany arrived at the home base of Elements Wood Imports in Boulder, Colorado, last August.

 

Genuine Mahogany Quick Facts:

— Genuine Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)
— CITES protected species
— Legally-obtained, permitted, and inspected
— Sustainably-sourced
— Kiln-dried and heat-treated to sanitize
— Higher quality slabs from large, old-growth trees
— Supports local Saint Lucian economy

 

Throughout the winter and spring, Ryan and Michael began the long process of transporting and milling their first batch of 15 Mahogany logs (the maximum number of logs that can be shipped at one time). One of the two kilns at the lumberyard was dedicated to drying the freshly cut slabs and dimensional boards, approximately a 10-week event.

Once dry, the slabs and lumber will be surfaced and inventoried. The first selection of 8 slabs and 500 board feet of dimensional lumber debuted in the Baldwin Hardwoods Showroom in mid-May, including a bookmatch set of slabs (two consecutive cuts from the same log that mirror each other).

 

Varying grains and colors of Genuine Mahogany slabs

 

“It’s really cool to see a wood like this in Fort Collins. The color is unique and a lot of the slabs have a ribbon pattern in the grain that you don’t see in other woods. I can’t wait to build our first Mahogany table now.” — Ryan

Genuine Mahogany is considered one of the finest cabinetry woods in the world. More commonly used in the early 1900s, it’s perfect for renovation and restoration projects, as well.

 

A sanded and oiled Mahogany slab with ribbon-pattern grains and bright sapwood

Currently, we have more than 80 slabs and over 1,500 board feet of Mahogany that will be available from this first log shipment.

— View live edge Mahogany slabs
— See dimensional Mahogany inventory

 

Live Edge Genuine Mahogany slabs available at Baldwin Hardwoods

Current Mahogany Inventory

Live Edge Slabs
Dimensional Lumber