What is Sapele Wood?

When it comes to natural beauty and durability, sapele wood is the choice of builders and homeowners. Sapele wood has many characteristics that resemble mahogany especially the color of its heartwood.

Sapele’s heart is golden to dark reddish brown in color and darkens with age. It has lovely grain patterns and a number of characteristics that make it very durable.

Sapele wood defined

Sapele wood is a type of hardwood with amazing qualities, One of these is its interlocking grain patterns made from fiber cells that stretch from the lowest points in the roots to the topmost part of the tree. As the tree grows, these cells rotate in one way and can switch the direction of rotation once or even several times.

This unique grain patterns can lead to issues when it comes to woodworking and can also affect the overall appearance of wood especially when sapele wood is quartered sawn and in sapele veneer. These markings create a dramatic and exotic look making sapele more popular than mahogany and is praised all around the world. Sapele is available in three textures namely plain, figured and pommele.

When sapele is used in woodworking, these interlocked grain patterns can cause severe tear outs. But despite this sapele can work with varnishes and polishes. This type of wood can be polished to the best shine, therefore, it can be used to manufacture flooring and furniture.

Sapele works well with hardware including nails, screws, and glues, therefore, it is very versatile and ideal in the construction of different kinds of projects. Sapele can be used to make musical instruments, decorative furniture, wooden objects, and specialty items. It can also be a good indoor material to make windows, floor, and paneling.

Supplies of Sapele were plentiful, but in recent years after increased exploitation that was caused by the lockdown on Mahogany trading, even Sapele is starting to get vulnerable. While the large-scale operations of replanting large quantities of Sapele trees are underway, the global stock of this type of lumber is starting to get limited. It is still very much readily available for purchase, but its price has already started to climb at a regular pace.

Where does sapele wood come from?

Sapele is also called aboudikro, saplewood, sapelli, and Sapele Mahogany. This is a very large tree native to tropical Africa. The sapele is a part of the genus Entandrophragma and the family of Meliaceae.

This tree is indigenous to the rainforests of African countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, and others. Sapele also grows in different forest types including evergreen, deciduous and transitional zones.

Sapele is a large tree that can grow from 100-150 ft. (30-45 m) tall. This tree has a cedar-like scent when used in woodworking but is actually odorless when finished. This tree can survive long with proper finishing. It has average immunity against rot and insects.

Although there are many amazing qualities of sapele, it could be a problem during manufacturing. It is a problem during machine operations and has a high chance of interlocked grain tear outs when wood is cut.

The surface of the wood will react strongly when exposed to metals causing stains and discoloration. Tools may be used and this type of wood and most of all, this type of wood take nails, screws, glue and finishes with no sweat.

Like most wood, sapele becomes more durable when dried. The stability and durability of sapele are very dependent on its seasoning. Part of the drying method is done in harvest zones in Africa.

The second and final stage of drying is done in commercial establishments in Europe, US, and Asia. Sapele is dried until the moisture content reaches 6 to 8 percent.

Sapele is low maintenance and is affordable, but with rising cost because of the new limits on commercial exploitation. Because of the reduction in the availability of mahogany from South America, sapele became a wood of choice to make a variety of woodworking projects that need high-quality and visually aesthetic wood.

Sapele is used in making fine furniture, cabinetry, doors, and windows, musical instruments, turned objects, boats, outdoor construction, indoor constructions like wooden beams, countertops, flooring, veneer, paneling, and specialty or souvenir items.

Conclusion

Of all the wood varieties, sapele is known for its natural beauty and it’s unique wood grains which may interlock in a ribbon-like pattern. Sapele is also strong as it is lovely making it ideal for different projects including furniture, floors, musical instruments and boats to name a few.

Like most natural wood, sapele needs seasoning but it is low maintenance making it perfect for indoor and outdoor woodworking projects.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY
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