Tree Size: 100-150 ft (30-45 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 42 lbs/ft3 (670 kg/m3)
Color & Appearance:
Sapele heartwood is gold to dark red-brown and tends to grow darker with age. In addition to the common ribbon pattern notable on quartersawn boards, Sapele is known for a wide variety of figured grain patterns; for example pommele, mottled, quilted, beeswing, wavy, or fiddleback.
Grain & Texture:
The grain of Sapele wood is interlocked, often with waves. It has a fine uniform texture with a nice natural luster.
This wood is diffuse-porous with large pores in no noticeable arrangement, solitary with radial multiples of 2-3. The wood has red brown deposits at times with parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates. It’s unilateral and marginal with rays narrow to medium and normal spacing. Ripple marks are often present.
Sapele heartwood can range from moderately strong to very strong in terms of resistance to decay. It shows average insect-borer resistance.
Sapele can be difficult to work with some machining operations (such as planning or routing, etc.) and this can result in tearout because of the wood’s interlocked grain. Sapele will react when placed in direct contact with iron, becoming stained or discolored. Sapele has a minor blunting effect on cutters. The wood turns, glues, and finishes easily.
Sapele has a distinctive, cedar-like fragrance when being worked.
Allergies & Toxicity:
Although severe reactions are uncommon, Sapele has been noted to be a skin and respiratory irritant.
Pricing & Availability:
Sapele is usually reasonably priced for regular plainsawn or quartersawn lumber. Figured lumber and veneer can be very expensive, however, particularly pommele or quilted Sapele.
This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices; however, it is on the IUCN Red List. Sapele is listed as vulnerable because of a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations. This reduction is caused by a decline in the wood’s natural range and by documented exploitation.
Sapele is often used for plywood, veneers, cabinetry, furniture, flooring, musical instruments, boat building, turned objects, or various small wooden specialty objects.
Sapele, commonly exported, is an economically important African wood species sold both in lumber and veneer forms. The wood is sometimes used as a substitute for Genuine Mahogany and is at times referred to as “Sapele Mahogany.” Technically, the two genera that are usually associated with mahogany are Swietenia and Khaya. Sapele is in the Entandrophragma genus, but all three genera are included in the broader Meliaceae family; therefore, comparisons to true mahogany may not be too far-fetched. The name is usually pronounced (sah-PELL-ey) or (sah-PEEL-ey).