Sapele timber; which comes from the Sapele tree, a close cousin of Mahogany that towers over Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ghana, reaching height’s between 45-60 metres; is a wood that is famous for long planks of wood.
Due to its similarity to Mahogany, whilst being valued at a lower price, Sapele trees faced increased levels of commercial exploitation during the 1980s and 1990s. It has now since become a tree with protected status over the last several decades, which has allowed the return of sustainable Sapele wood.
The appearance of Sapele wood
Sapele wood is famed for its similarity to Mahogany, and the colour of its heartwood is definitely the same. It has a golden to dark reddish brown heartwood, which will darken over time if left naturally, and not treated with finishing oils that prevent oxidation. Furthermore it has similar grain patterns and internal characteristics which make both types of wood really durable.
Working with Sapele timber
One of the features of Sapele wood are its characteristic marks throughout its grain. This textures the wood, giving it a dramatic and exotic look, which is why the wood is sought for all around the world. Whilst these interlocked grain patterns are interesting to look at, they can cause various issues during woodworking, causing severe tear outs at times. Another problem can be the wood getting stained or slightly discoloured when it comes into contact with iron tools.
Uses of Sapele timber
Sapele has a great variety of uses, so we will highlight a few of them here.
Sapele is famous for being used to make the bodies of guitars, giving the instruments a great visual appeal. Its ability to be finished to a high quality and reaction to glue, means the guitars can be constructed easily.
Mahogany was once the choice of many guitarists, but Sapele is rapidly becoming a new favourite due to the rising costs of mahogany. Whilst it is a different wood, it still has a similar tone to mahogany tone.
Hardwood is the best type of wood to be used for flooring, being both easily fabricated and does not easily scratch. Another benefit of using Sapele wood for flooring, is that it does not require any kind of preservation treatment, meaning that it is not slippy.
Sapele wood is also brilliant for outdoor use, and is regularly used to make marine products, including boats. It does not change after being in the water, which is obviously a useful characteristic.
When being used to make boats, Sapele veneer sheets instead of solid timber are used. These veneer sheets are used for decorating a boat, and cheaper solid woods are then used to make the base of these boats.
Door and window frames
Sapele wood has a great appearance whilst being durable, which makes it a good choice for making both door and window frames. It is resistant to both water and the risk of rot, which means it has often been chosen as a material for luxury bathroom doors and kitchen cabinets.
Sapele wood is a popular choice for exposed indoor construction elements within homes, such as beams and wooden pillars, because of its distinctive colour. With great strength due to its interlocking grain, it is suitable for holding great weights without showing any structural weakness.