Mangoes are familiar to most people as a fresh fruit, to be eaten alone, over sticky rice, or in yogurt smoothies. However, the mango tree also produces attractive wood with distinctive, complex spalting patterns. When grown under sustainable conditions, this wood works well in home décor items, furniture and other indoor uses. Like other tropical woods, mango is quite hard and strong.
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Mango wood has a hardness rating of 1,120 pounds-force on the Janka scale, and is similar in hardness to North American hardwoods, such as oak. This wood is considered moderately durable to perishable, depending on the environment. Mango lumber lacks any resistance to decay or insect attack, and should not be used in damp conditions or in contact with the soil.
This lumber usually has a straight grain and fine-to-medium texture, but some interlocked or figured specimens are also available. Curly mango is relatively common and provides an attractive, interesting look, but can be much more difficult to work with than straight grain mango.
This wood contains fairly high concentrations of silica, which improve its strength. Woods that contain silica must be cut with very sharp, preferably carbide, blades and tools. It dulls tool edges quickly. Mango lumber also contains “reaction wood,” which forms when the tree is subjected to stress from wind or other mechanical means. This wood helps keep the tree upright and growing properly, but can shift and bind saw blades during the cutting process. Interlocked and curly mango can be difficult to cut or work, but once worked, this wood glues and finishes well.
This hard, dense wood comes in a wide range of colors, as it is usually spalted, or colonized by fungi, which change the color of the wood. Spalted mango wood can be light and dark brown, streaked with yellow, pink, black and a range of other tones. Spalted mango wood usually loses some strength compared to wood without fungal infection. Use this type of wood in non-loadbearing situations, such as paneling, veneer or in decorative or functional objects like trim and carved bowls.
Mango wood is originally native to moist, tropical climates. In dryer areas, it may require regular oil polishing to maintain its strength. When mango wood is allowed to dehydrate, it may split or crack. According to sustainability website Treehugger, properly cared for mango wood can last for generations.