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What Exactly is Mango Wood?

From the tropics to tabletops, this exotic tree is all the rage.
Roxanne Robinson Mar 18, 2021
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In ancient Indian culture, the beloved mango trees’ varieties were given to eminent people by the ruling class. For instance, this honor was bestowed upon the  famous courtesan of Vaishali, Amra Pali. Furthermore, the mango tree was connected to the god of love, Manmatha. The trees blossoms were thought to god’s arrows by the Hindu Nanda Kings. Alexander the Great arrived from Greece a fought a famous battle with King Porus. Even so, it mainly recalled that he took the sweet fruit with him when he left.

As Bhuddhism grew, the fruit came to signify faith and prosperity with several legends about the fruit to follow. They were even used as gifts and became a useful diplomatic tool.Today mango wood is fast-becoming a popular wood of choice for furniture making. You could say it’s properties are certainly diplomatic when it comes to the entire tree and wood harvesting industry. Nest Casa takes a look at this tropical tree's wood and why it's so popular right now.

What is Mango Wood?

As the name suggests, mango wood comes from the mango tree, making it especially popular in South East Asia. Indeed, the tree traces back to ancient India over 4,000 years ago. From the start, it was treasured for its fruit and wood. Eventually, the Mangifera indica spread across East Asia in the 4th and 5th centuries BC.

Once India was reached by sea for the first time from Europe by Vasco de Gama, this led to the establishment of Portuguese water trade routes. The mango tree sprang up in the Philippines, Brazil, and Africa in Morocco. As it only requires a frost-free tropical or subtropical locale, it’s also grown in the West Indies, Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico, and even the Southernmost points of the United States. India, the largest producer of the fruit – though far from the most significant exporter as the country consumes its crop – claims the mango as its national fruit. Similarly, the Philippines and Pakistan also claim the mango as the national fruit, while Bangladesh calls the mango tree its national tree.

Mango wood is a warm golden-brown color. However, it can have variations with a more yellow tint or black or pink streaks, giving it a unique appearance. Generally, this results from fungal growth and spalting, which is deactivated once the tree is cut.

Why is Mango Wood Sustainable?

Two key factors contribute to mango wood's sustainability. First, it is considered a byproduct of a plentiful fruit production industry. The second is how quickly the tree reaches maturation. Comparing it to grand oak trees found in North America and Europe, which take 50 to 100 years to mature, a mango tree rapidly grows to reach 80 to 100 feet in about 15 years.

Furthermore, this second life cycle creates additional income for mango tree farms. When a tree stops bearing fruit or gets too tall to harvest fruit quickly, it formerly would have been burnt or left to decompose naturally but harvesting provides extra income while providing an affordable and easy to work with the material.

It can be treated to resemble classic grain rivals including oak, maple, and teak. Additionally, mango wood hardness measures 1,070 pounds per foot on the Janka hardness scale, putting it in the range of mahogany and oak.

Because of its ability to quickly replenish, the mango tree helps other trees to thrive and become sustainable again. Different tree types that have landed on the IUCM Red List of Threatened Species now have time to rebound and grow back while the mango wood is used in its place. 

Why Mango Wood is Great for Furniture

Since mango wood measures in hardness close to mahogany and oak, it is an excellent choice for furniture such as tables, beds, large chests, desks, and coffee tables. Accordingly, it is categorized as a hardwood due to its strength, density, and visual appeal. Also of note is the wood's durability. Mango wood doesn't wear out quickly and keeps a high luster for years. It makes an excellent alternative to furniture materials such as oak and maple. It also resembles—and can easily be substituted for—teak.

In particular, mango hardwood consists of a very dense grain that is durable, strong, and easy on woodworking tools. (It’s important to note one drawback of the wood is its potential allergens for some and can cause skin irritation while working with it if proper precautions aren’t taken.) It can be cut and re-shaped into any form a woodworker wishes, something not possible with other hardwoods.

Another benefit to using this wood for furniture is that its heartwood does not require considerable processing, seasoning, and drying. It’s sent to final processing shortly after being felled into construction material or furniture to be used immediately, allowing for a quicker and less-costly production into finished goods.

Other Uses for Mango Wood

Due to its versatility and easy-to-manage nature, mango wood is also suitable for outdoor furniture. Although it isn't usually as resistant to air, which can shrink the wood, it excels at tolerating moisture. Its internal structure fends off water damage—especially when polished and varnished—making it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture.

Beyond furniture, though, mango wood is suitable for a variety of wood items. It makes a fine choice for flooring, doors, plywood, and musical instruments. It's important to remember it may darken with age, so ensure that the wood is from the same batch if used for something more congruous. Recent manufacturing enhancements manage to extend its durability with finishing coats to use on heavy-duty infrastructure items like beams and arches.

How to Maintain Mango Wood

As air and moisture are wood's biggest foes, it's essential for mango wood to be treated properly. The good news here is that fiber grains are closely packed, which means that they respond well to polish, just like exotic wood counterparts. Additionally, it reacts well to waxing and staining, enhancing its desirability for furniture design.

Once finished, mango wood needs a monthly polish and hydration to avoid cracks. But it is naturally water-resistant, so don’t be afraid to leave the furniture outside during warm months. Mango wood is prone to getting sun-bleached if left in extreme sunlight, so take care to cover it.

Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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