Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)

Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum)

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Common Name(s): Sapele, Sapelli, Sapeli

Scientific Name: Entandrophragma cylindricum

Distribution: Tropical Africa

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)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .50, .67

Janka Hardness: 1,410 lbf (6,280 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 15,930 lbf/in2 (109.9 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,746,000 lbf/in2 (12.04 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 8,750 lbf/in2 (60.4 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 7.2%, Volumetric: 12.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.5

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a golden to dark reddish 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 present.

Rot Resistance: Heartwood ranges from moderately durable to very durable in regard to decay resistance. Moderate insect/borer resistance.

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.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, boatbuilding, musical instruments, turned objects, and other small wooden specialty items.

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.

Usually pronounced (sah-PELL-ey) or (sah-PEEL-ey).

Related Species:

Related Articles:


Sapele (sanded)

Sapele (sealed)

Sapele (endgrain)

Sapele (endgrain)

Sapele (endgrain 10x)

Sapele (endgrain 10x)

Sapele quartersawn (23" x 5.8")

Sapele quartersawn (23″ x 5.8″)

Pommele Sapele (36" x 8.5")

Pommele Sapele (36″ x 8.5″)

Pommele Sapele (bookmatched)

Pommele Sapele (bookmatched)


  1. Wil van der Pijl October 3, 2018 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Question from a friend; when steam bending Sapele for the sides of a 3/4 guitar it seemed to develope blackish purple mold spots. Is this normal for sapele? Is his bending pipe dirty? Can send photograph.

  2. J More July 14, 2018 at 9:05 am - Reply

    I am having a guitar made with Waterfall Sapele
    By a very competent luthier. Has anyone had experience with such? Should I be worried about cracking? Oh by the way tried to post an image if you upload too many images the max is one it won’t let you remove the extra image to allow for one.

  3. Ed Rhomberg July 5, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

    We recently built a large wood sculpture using 4″ thick by 6″, 8″, 10″, and 12″ wide Sapele timbers. The timbers are standing on end and were glued and mechanically fastened in an interlocking pattern. The piece was then sculpted. Before setting the piece in it’s permanent outdoor location, three coats of tung oil (Waterlox Marine Sealer) were applied. The piece has been outdoors on display not quite three months as of this writing. Many of the joints have opened up considerably, along with some checking and splitting on the timbers. Will the movement persist and the gaps in joints widen? will the checking and splitting continue? Can the joints be filled? the checks and splits? If so, what would be recommended? Is the movement uncontrollable?

  4. Jason Murphy July 4, 2018 at 6:08 am - Reply

    Hello, I’m a small business owner and I machine out solid wood wind type instruments. I’m trying to get into more exotic type woods, like this African Sapele, over my standard maples and oaks. (I have five 1’x6″x24″ blanks of the stuff) However, I use all natural beeswax to seal my completed products by heating it (and the wood to reduce warping or splitting) and boiling the instrument in the wax. Gives a great finish and mellow tone, but I’ve found some of the harder woods like to try and crack anyway if I don’t do a multi dip process.

    Does anyone know what Sapele wood does under high heat? (About 165° F for about 5 minutes is average for sealing)

  5. Vishal Rudanee March 20, 2018 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Dear Sir,

    Can we use this SAPELLI WOOD [Entandrophragma cylindricum] for Doors and Window Frames ?
    Please help me out with this

    • HBWT April 3, 2018 at 6:47 am - Reply

      We use it often for doors, door frames, mouldings

  6. Robert Landbeck July 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    I am having some wooden windows in our home replaced. They will be painted. The Joinery company I’m using has selected Sapele for the job. Is a wood that with such a beautiful grain the right choice for window framing that will just be covered up?

  7. Raam Santhosh December 25, 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Dear all
    How to match color or fill nail holes veneer while polishing work. Please advise.

  8. Nick Garner May 30, 2015 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Garners Workshop Cambridge UK

    Sapele is variable in grain and colour select to suit job in hand

    Yes the turnings are Oak


  9. Martin_Galts_Gulch December 25, 2014 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I was purchasing QS boards and found one in the racks that was a different that all the others. It’s very close to a pommele but maybe not perfect enough to be sold as such (which this lumber yard doesn’t sell anyway). I knew it was going to be absolutely beautiful. They charged the same as the QS because they had no other category. It was a 14-¼” x 109″ 4/4 S3S at $5.10 bf.

    It was a waste of beautiful lumber, but I was making tambour door breadboxes for Christmas gifts and used most of this just to make one (making the slats chews up a lot of wood, and the ball-&-socket design (Amana Tambour router bit set) leaves a bunch of beautiful wood hidden. Anyway, I used Sam Maloof poly/oil wet-sanding to 1200 grit. The chatoyance is stunning! After a fresh sharpening of all plane blades I had very little trouble with the grain. Sapele isn’t one of my favorite woods, but this board (at that price) was one of the luckiest finds I’ve ever stumbled upon.

  10. Jason September 8, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    The stain/varnish applied to your sapele may be blistering because it was never treated with a stripper prior to applying the stain. Sapele mahogany should be cleaned with a Trisodium Phosphate Solution before applying any stain. This strips the tannins from the wood, opening up the surface to fully accept a stain. It also removes any residue from the milling process where wax or oils may be present from the machines used to shape/cut the material.

  11. Thompson Mahogany July 17, 2014 at 9:17 am - Reply

    We put together this write up comparing Sapele vs African Mahogany vs Utile if that might be helpful. For people comparing the different options.


  12. Jim March 28, 2014 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    What’s the best wasy to stain or dye sapele to a dark mahogany color. Large door panel 40″ X 87″ X 5/4

    • ejmeier March 29, 2014 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      That would depend on what you’re planning on using to topcoat/finish the wood with.

  13. don lawson July 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Most british kilns will not dry below 12% because it would be pointless. As soon as the timber leaves the kiln it would be exposed to an average air moisture content of above 18% so short of shrink wrapping it is going to absorb between the kiln and retailer/ wholesaler. Most joinery in Britain will be done around 14%. There are exceptions but these tend to be specialised users.

  14. dirk currey July 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    I work with Sapele almost daily in a custom door manufacturing plant. We ship our work all over the U.S. so moisture content is always an issue. The problem seems to be that the wood we have been receiving has been in the 11-13% range, not the 9-10% we believe to be a more correct range. I have recently heard that the euro mills that kiln dry most of our U.S. wood only dry to 12% Has anyone heard of this being true, or should I expect to see 9-10% wood from my supplier? Any feed back would be helpful.

  15. Flash Gordon C. Williamson July 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    We’ve used Sapele for our custom doors since we can’t get the quality of mahogany from the good old days. Sikkens Cetol 1,23 system or Cetol Door & Window is what I’d recommend for finishing Sapele. Vertically it is not too problematic to keep a finish on. Horizontal installations are another phenomena.

  16. Ed June 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Chris you cal lay out the cabinet doors in brigght light (not direct sunlight though) and they probbley will even out. They may darken some but should even out in color.

  17. Chris February 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I operate a retail building supply and special ordered six sheets of 3/4″ sapele plywood for a home owner. He carefully cut and banded his sheets to acheive a sequence pattern for his kitchen cabinet doors. For approximately two weeks the uninstalled panels were stacked with small sizes on top of larger in a room about twenty feet from the nearest window. To his horror he discovered a shadowed outline of the shape of each panel that covered the next. I was told Sapele is very photo sensitive. He is searching for ideas to salvage his work.

    P.S. I will forward a picture

  18. Anil jafry April 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    Dear, Is there any one who can send me photos of Pomelle Sapele/Quilted sapele logs …how its look like …only quilted sapeli logs photos…….I am awaiting for may be some ones kind can reply soon …thanks.thanks

  19. Eric November 1, 2010 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    It sounds like the finish is the problem, and not necessarily the wood? Is the Sapele cracked or otherwise deformed?

    If it is just the finish, I’d recommend stripping off the old finish, sanding it down to bare wood, and then refinishing it with several coats of a spar urethane for good protection from the elements.

  20. nazare November 1, 2010 at 4:43 am - Reply

    Hi there, could you tell me what is the best way to presenve and revive sapele wood on the exterior of my house?
    I have patio doors and others doors made of sapele and they have gone horrible and whatever was put on them to treat them has gone all blistery.
    I would appreciate your advise,

    Thank you very nuch


    • Daniel Evans November 30, 2013 at 1:20 am - Reply

      I’ve installed bunks on a 135 foot schooner made of sapele and have used Daly’s FloorFin and it has held up very well. Some of their other products have not been as advertised, but I put this product on the soles and the bunk faces and bulkheads and after a couple hundred days of use have been very impressed. I’m just adding a couple of coats this winter and look to use if in the far future. It brings out the wonderful glow of sapele as well.

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