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Mango Offers a Sustainable Alternative as Furniture Wood

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Mango wood’s fine-grain texture makes it extremely easy and quick to finish as it does not need extensive sanding or sealing.

With increasing pressure on manufacturers and consumers to supply and buy ‘green’ products, sustainable and responsibly sourced materials are well on their way to pervading the market thoroughly. One area that has always been a source of heated discussion is the lumber trade. The furniture sphere in particular often comes under scrutiny for putting luxury before sustainability. Cue mango wood. Mango wood is a relatively new commercial manufacturing material and one that is growing in popularity amongst designers, manufacturers and consumers alike. The reasons behind its popularity are numerous, but the most important factor is its sustainable nature.

The fruit trade is one of the oldest in the world, and the demand for fruit is unlikely to waver. Due to the huge demand for the mango, there has always been a large demand for mango trees. When these trees reach maturity, they lose their fruit bearing efficiency and are designated for cutting down. Maturity usually arrives after 15 to 20 years and by this time, the mango tree will have reached a respectable size – certainly too large to waste. In the past, mango trees were simply cut down and either used as fuel or left to rot, which contributed Co2 emissions as the wood broke down. Nowadays they are being used as a construction material, most prominently in the furniture industry.

Mango wood is a densely grained hardwood with a strong structure: this makes it perfect for constructing products such as chairs and other framed items where weight-based stresses are applied frequently and in unpredictable ways. However, as hardwoods go it is a relatively soft wood. This makes it easy to tool and means that special tools are not needed, reducing the production costs. Mango wood possesses an attractive albeit slightly unusual grain with a fine “close knit” texture. This makes the wood extremely easy and quick to finish as it does not need extensive sanding or sealing. In terms of color, Mango wood is very diverse and can potentially feature many different colorations that range from deep browns to greens and even pinks. This may be due to “spalting” which is a natural discoloration caused by fungal attacks, although it rarely alters the wood’s structural integrity. In fact, far from creating unsightly marks reminiscent of rot, the spalting creates beautifully varied colors and patterns.

Many furniture manufacturers have taken to staining mango wood to resemble teak

Many furniture manufacturers have taken to staining mango wood to resemble teak or oak in an effort to source more sustainable woods. This mango table top has been stained to a “vintage oak” finish. (Photo: OKA Direct)

Despite its fine grain, mango wood is extremely receptive to staining and waxing, which serves to accentuate the grain’s patterning. Many furniture manufacturers have taken to staining mango wood to colors reminiscent of teak or oak in an effort to source more sustainable woods. This way, the manufacturers can still produce furniture that looks, feels and acts like oak but doesn’t take as much time to grow and is sourced responsibly as a byproduct of a thriving industry.

This signals a move towards more sustainable methods of manufacturing, a move that perhaps should have been considered many years ago. Nevertheless, any action that reduces the need for lumber-only tree production is positive. It has an impact on many areas, not just on carbon emissions – for example, it reduces the disruption of plant and animal life. Bespoke furniture could easily remain being fashioned from less sustainable woods as long as they are sourced responsibly. What needs to happen is the widespread use of woods such as mango to replace the mass production of furniture in woods such as oak.

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