Mahogany wood has been used over time due to its sturdiness and the subtle way it gives a room sophistication.
However, with the growing demand for the wood, buyers are usually duped into buying counterfeit wood.
Rupesh Shah, a director at Ashut Engineering, a company that sells furniture in Nairobi, Kenya, says, some of the mahogany items sold around only have mahogany stain colours.
“Unscrupulous furniture makers buy wood and they stain it with mahogany paint. People who do not know how real mahogany looks like can buy something that is not mahogany,” he said.
Quality begins from the natural ageing of the wood. Good wood has to be aged for 18 months before it is used. When the wood naturally ages well, it becomes stronger and the grains are enhanced.
“When people see a piece of furniture and love it, it means they are reacting to two things; the architecture and the colour patterns. Workmanship is also important because it will depend on whether an artisan will cut against the grain or along the grain. A cut can preserve or destroy the grains,” Rupesh says. Some carpenters use wet mahogany wood and the piece of furniture cracks or bends.
Besides producing furniture, Ashut Engineering educates consumers on different woods. Rupesh is very particular about sofa set made from mahogany and at his workshop in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, he uses screws instead of nails when making the frame.
“When we look at the skeleton of the sofa set, there is what we call webbing. Sometimes what is used in the market is rubber tyres on the frame. But we use webbing,” he said.
He mainly uses fabric on seats which he imports from India, Spain, Belgium, UK and Italy.
“We first want to focus on fabrics because 95 per cent of our clients are women and they are very particular with fabrics and colours. With leather, you do not have much choice of colour. You just have the usual black, brown, beige but for fabrics, we have a vast range,” he says.
When it comes to taking care of mahogany wood, he says: “Avoid placing hot items directly on it. Always use a coaster or table mats. Also avoid scratching the surfaces. Use a soft cloth to wipe away stains,” he says.
As for the fabrics, squeeze out excess water from the cloth before wiping stains. This is to prevent the foam in the sofas from absorbing water as it will take longer to dry.
John Paul Mazinga of JB Super Furniture, in Kampala, says besides material, the price of furniture is determined by design, the more complex, the higher the price. However, mahogany generally costs more than other types of wood.
Mazinga says the minimum price of a four-seatre dining table is about Shs1.6m, a door at about Shs600,000, and a mahogany shoe rack goes for Shs200,000.
Hassan Majed of Biplous Uganda limited, says the average cost of a one plus two mahogany centre table is Shs2.5m, a 42 inch TV stand, goes for about Shs2.8m, sofa set at Shs6.5m and a bed at Shs4.7m.
Additional reporting by Promise Twinamukye