Sapele veneer is a medium pinkish to reddish brown wood with a nice
medium consistent grain. It can be a nice alternative to South
American Mahogany or when quarter cut, it can have a distinct
ribbon stripe grain
Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a medium to dark reddish brown or purplish brown.
Color tends to darken with age. Besides the common ribbon pattern
seen on quartersawn boards, Sapele is also known for a wide variety
of other figured grain patterns, such as: pommele, quilted,
mottled, wavy, beeswing, and fiddleback.
Grain/Texture: Grain is interlocked, and sometimes wavy. Fine uniform texture and
good natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large pores in no specific arrangement, few;
solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; reddish brown deposits
occasionally present; parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates, unilateral,
and marginal; rays narrow to medium, spacing normal; ripple marks
Rot Resistance: Heartwood ranges from moderately durable to very durable in regard
to decay resistance. Sapele is susceptible to insect attack.
Workability: Sapele can be troublesome to work in some machining operations,
(i.e., planing, routing, etc.), resulting in tearout due to its
interlocked grain. It will also react when put into direct contact
with iron, becoming discolored and stained. Sapele has a slight
blunting effect on cutters, but it turns, glues, and finishes well.
Odor: Sapele has a distinct, cedar-like scent while being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Sapele has been
reported as a skin and respiratory irritant. See the articles wood
allergies and toxicity and wood dust safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Should be moderately priced for regular plainsawn or quartersawn
lumber, though figured lumber and veneer can be extremely
expensive, particularly pommele or quilted Sapele.
Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, boatbuilding,
musical instruments, turned objects, and other small wooden
Comments: Sapele is a commonly exported and economically important African
wood species. It’s sold both in lumber and veneer form. It is
occasionally used as a substitute for genuine mahogany, and is
sometimes referred to as “Sapele Mahogany.” Technically, the two
genera that are commonly associated with mahogany are swietenia and
khaya, while Sapele is in the Entandrophragma genus, but all three
are included in the broader Meliaceae family, so comparisons to
true mahogany may not be too far fetched.