Meranti is a versatile wood with many subspecies, sources and purposes. Philippine or Lauan mahogany is another, somewhat generic term for meranti that is harvested and is available in abundance on a worldwide basis. The majority of meranti for domestic use is imported to the United States from Southeast Asia.
Meranti may be bland in appearance; it has straight grain with few variations. Colored gray or yellow, blending to reddish depending on where it's harvested, meranti ages to a golden brown with continued exposure to light. Meranti is a hardwood. On the Janka scale -- a scale that ranks wood for hardness -- meranti varieties rank between 800 and 825. For the sake of comparison, red oak ranks 1,290. Douglas fir, a softwood, ranks 660.
Meranti is one of the easier hardwoods with which to work. It easily machines, cuts, mills and sands. Because of a certain amount of silica in the wood, meranti has a dulling effect on woodworking equipment. Steel blades, bits and knives cut meranti with ease, but carbide-tipped blades and tools are recommended for projects on a production level. Meranti has a coarse, fibrous texture with open pores. The straight-grain composition of meranti means it's friendly to planers and surfacers, but a certain amount of interlocking grain can cause meranti to blow out or splinter. Interlocking grain patterns result when parallel grain patterns turn at 90 degrees. When knives or cutters cut across perpendicular grain, it can cause the grain to lift or chip out.
Meranti has little or no resistance to insects or decay. The wood is dimensionally stable and resistant to warping or twisting. Sanding with 100-grit sandpaper is typically all that's required before finishing. Subsequent sanding with progressively finer grits yields smoother finishes. Sanding or woodworking dust can cause irritation; eye and breathing protection is recommended when working with meranti. After milling and sanding, meranti readily accepts stain and subsequent top coats.
With straight-grain consistency, meranti trees produce long, straight pieces of lumber. It's used for molding, structure, furniture, cabinets, window and door trim, and veneers for plywood. Meranti is one of the more affordable hardwoods due in part to numerous subspecies, prolific growing characteristics and availability.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.