B.n.morris Question

Craig Allen

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I need to replicate a missing thwart on a Morris. The catalog mentions mahogany is used. Honduran mahogany doesn't match. Any idea what specie mahogany was used? Thanks.


The mahogany used in Morris canoes was stained...try stain on a test piece and see if that does the trick.

Greg Nolan

Some time ago Kathy Klos Campbell gave us the stain recipe that Denis Kallery devised for staining the interior of a B.N. Morris canoe:

Using Minwax products:

2 parts Red Mahogany 225
2 parts Golden Oak 210B
1 part Special Walnut 224
1 part Sedona Red 222

Craig Allen

Curious about Wooden Canoes
Thanks! I'm just wondering however since the density of the original thwarts seem to be heavier and also the grain looks tighter than what you would get from Honduran mahogany, if it is instead African mahogany which is a naturally darker red. Would that have been a wood readily available when Morris was in production?

Dan Lindberg

Ex Wood Hoarder
The Honduras I've used has been fairly dense and evenly colored. The African I've seen is less dense and the color is heavily ribboned.
Phil I've seen/used and run from very soft to medium hardness. And the color from very light to medium.

Not sure if my limited exposure helps but I'd stick to Honduras.


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
Any chance you have your lumber piles mixed up? African mahogany I have come across is always lighter in color than Honduran. Honduran steam bends easier too.

Greg Nolan

Swietenia macrophylla (Honduran mahogany) and Swietenia mahogani (Cuban or West Indian mahogany) were both common in commerce at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, with S. mahogani being more commonly used. African mahoganies (Khaya spp.) were also readily available at that time.

Today, the available Swietenia mahoganies are generally plantation grown, mostly in Asia. I suspect that plantation-grown mahogany, like most plantation-grown woods, might be less dense than wood cut from trees grown wild in natural forests, the kind of wood available to Morris.

There is considerable natural color variation in mahogany, even in mahogany of the same species and from the same geographic area. Last summer I broke the front seat rail of the bow seat of our 1922 Old Town Ideal -- an AA grade canoe, and so fitted with mahogany seats and other trim. Here is the repaired seat frame (stripped of varnish) with the new rail (the one not cut to proper length and without the hanging holes):
ss IMG_0044.JPG

And here it is varnished.
ss IMG_0009a.JPG

Note that the new front rail is a very good match for the original rear rail (and a good match for the broken rail in the picture above), but note also that the original side rails are much darker in color.

Here it is above the stern seat -- note all the color variations in the seats and gunwales -- some wood is more yellow, some more red, some more brown -- all unstained mahogany. These photos taken in artificial light tend to wash out some of the subtlety of the woods' tones.
ss cr IMG_0026a.JPG

I imagine that Morris stained the wood of his canoes (including, I believe, the cedar of the ribs and planks) to foster color uniformity. I think you should not have too much trouble staining to match new wood to old. I think you will probably have more trouble matching density and grain.