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Shorea spp.

Shorea spp. of the family Dipterocarpaceae. Philippine mahogany is different from most other mahoganies because it ISN'T a mahogany at all but any one of a large number of species (mostly of the genus Shorea) that are lumped together and sold as Philippine mahogany even though they are not mahogany. First, it is generally much more grainy than mahogany and second, it does not take on a patina the way mahoganies do. This wood is widely used in cheap, thin, plywood, and on the outside of cheap hollow core doors and both of these uses are generally under the common name "luan". That name is, as nearly as I can tell, actually more appropriately spelled "lauan" but in the USA at least "luan" is the predominant spelling by FAR (Google gets 35,000,000 hits for luan, 500,000 for lauan, although to be fair, most of the 35,000,000 are NOT for the wood).

Some of the species most often sold as luan (lauan) or Philippine mahogany include Azadirachta excelsa, Heritiera javanica, Parashorea malaanonan, Parashorea plicata, Pentacme contorta, Shorea almon, S. contorta, S. curtisii, S. guiso, S. johorensis, S. negrosensis, S. palosapis, S. pauciflora, S. polysperma, S. rugosa, and S. squamata.

Because of the wide variety of species sold under this rubric, you will see a tremendous variation in characterists, so for a woodworker, "identification" of a wood as being Philippine mahogany is not always very helpful.


my samples: (colors are accurate throughout unless otherwise noted)

three flat cut planks photographed at a lumber yard

two quartersawn planks shot at a lumber yard

closeups of two flat cut planks found at a lumber yard

plank and end grain

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

plank and end grain

end grain closeup of the piece directly above

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

slab and end grain --- this was sent to me for identification and I'm sure it's something from the light red meranti group, which (along with ALL of the meranti's) I'm going to merge into this page at some point

end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above. The update LOOKS like it's from another piece but it definitely is not.

face grain of two small planks

edge grain of the two planks directly above; note the strong ray flakes in one and the absence in the other. This is only partially because only one is quartersawn. I had another piece similar to the 2nd one and even when quartersawn it had barely visible ray flakes. There are MANY species lumped together as luan (Philippine mahogany) and these might be planks from two different species, or it could be that there is great variation between trees.

end grain closeups of both of the small planks directly above

both sides of a small plank

end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above

face and face grain closeup of a small plank --- this particular species of Philippine mahogany (and I don't know what that species is) is unusually tight-grained. There is just a faint hint of too much orange tint in the piece but basically the color is accurately shown.

side grain of the piece directly above

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- the closeup shows a pink tint that is not present in the wood

END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above

plywood. Although these are two separate pieces, each has as its other side the type of luan shown in the other pic. That is, these two pieces are almost identical, but each has on one side the type of luan shown in the first pic and each has on its other side the type of luan shown in the 2nd pic.

sections off of two different large plywood sheets sold as "luan" --- based on color and grain I'd say both of these are something from the red meranti group although I don't know that they are the same species. Enlargements are present on both.

a section of yet another "luan" plywood sheet

the 4 sets above each consist of a pic and a closeup of just over half of a sheet of plywood (that is, 4 different sheets) all sold as luan in a big box hardware store. Enlargements are present for all. Colors are quite accurate. The 2nd enlargement of the closeups is actually larger than real size (unless you have a screen resolution considerably bigger than 1600x900)

Parts of faces (shown with accurate color) of hollow-core closet doors surfaced in thin philippine mahogany, and treated most likely with polyurethane or some similar finish which has added an amber tint to the color. This type of cheap plywood is often available in hardware stores that sell building supplies, sold as "luan". For an example of why I say it is "cheap", as opposed to just "inexpensive", plywood, see directly below.

A luan plywood face (and a closeup) of a cheap hollow core door that has been directly exposed to sun, wind, and rain for years, and which has both turned silver (except for the top, which is in shade) and peeled out into strips in a way that really shows the graininess of this wood and the significant way in which it differs from true mahoganies. The periphery has been less exposed and so has not stripped out, and you can see a horizontal area at the knob level that was slightly protected by a stile on the screen door behind which this door sits.

web pics:


planks listed as luan

plank listed as lauan / Pentacme contorta

plank listed as lauan

planks listed as Philippine mahogany / Shorea negrosensis

planks listed as Philippine mahogany / Shorea polysperma

planks listed as Philippine mahogany / Shorea spp.

plank listed as "white luan"


veneer sheet and closeup listed as luan --- this is from a vendor who makes most woods look green no matter what color they actually are, so the wood is mostl likely tan or brown.