In our constant search for new products that can replace or at least act as alternatives to currently popular species that have become unpredictable to source, expensive to obtain, or inconsistent in quality, we came across Red Grandis (Eucalyptus grandis). This discovery was more than a year ago now. In the months since we have been evaluating the product on all of the above factors to see if it would be a fit for our customers. The verdict is still on Red Grandis but I thought it was worthwhile to share our experience so far.
What is Red Grandis?
Red Grandis is a plantation species grown in Uruguay in an FSC certified forest using FSC certified harvestry practices. The Cofusa and Ururfor companies have been refining the species for more than 20 years. The result is a mature forest of over 66,000 acres in inland Uruguay that boasts a multi generational forest that produces defect free, large diameter logs with a 20 year growing cycle. The efforts in the nursery to produce a hearty and productive tree have been well worth it and modern vegetative reproductive technology ensures effective clones of this superior species each generation. Effective forestry and silvicultural practices take over from there to create highly a consistent and healthy population.
The species is bears a close resemblance to Genuine Mahogany in hardness, density, and grain structure and is a cross between Mahogany and Cherry in color when freshly sawn. As it oxidizes and is finished, the color deepens to a rich red much closer to centuries old Mahogany. The sapwood is very subtle and is sometimes not easy to pick out from the heartwood. It is a little paler in color but over time the oxidization makes the whole board much more uniform. Like Mahogany however, the sapwood is quite narrow and it is easy to obtain 100% heartwood boards. Red Grandis is a high quality hardwood that is well suited for millwork, mouldings, furniture, cabinets, and even windows and doors as the heartwood is resistant to decay as long as it isn’t in direct contact with the ground.
Why Red Grandis?
We are very happy with the species as a Mahogany, Spanish Cedar, or even a Cherry alternative because of the aesthetic similarities but also the physical workability, stability, and durability. It is a bit softer than Genuine Mahogany with a Janka rating of 720 psi and the density is almost exactly the same. In short it is easy to work and similar to an existing species on the market so easy to accept and convince customers it is a good choice. Most importantly though is the behind the scenes aspects. It is highly sustainable and FSC rated so you can count on getting it when you need it with the same high quality each time and you can qualify for LEEDS points by using it. Mahogany is a CITES listed product so availability is dependent on so many factors, all of which serve to drive up the price as well as make sourcing it difficult. None of this applies to Red Grandis.
It is easily obtainable in 8-9″ widths and up to 16′ long boards, though 75% will be in the 13′ range. What is startling for an exotic species is that, Red Grandis is kiln dried to 6-8% North American standards and we have good examples of the dried product and feel good that it is done right. Normally we receive exotics in the 12-15% European moisture content. We then need to air dry it for a period then kiln dry it. This significantly increases the lead time before it can be sold yet we don’t realize much of a discount in the price since 12-15% is the standard. Red Grandis comes in ready to be sold. Truthfully we may do some additional drying as you can never tell what happens to an exotic during transit from South America but at already half the price of Genuine Mahogany or Spanish Cedar and probably 2/3rd the price of many of the African Mahoganies it is easy to understand why we are excited about this product.
Will it replace Genuine Mahogany? Probably not, but it is a cost effective, red colored wood out there. There is still a lot to consider when it comes to how it works and what kind of long term durability issues it may or may not have.
UPDATE June 2014:
We have decided that Red Grandis lacks the consistency of quality and stability that many of our customers require in an exterior species. The overall market demand is not high enough for us to consider it as an additional product in our line.