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:

Scans/Pictures:

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)
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"CJ" Juhl

I built this elliptical shaped end table from Sapele wood…then put a French polish on it. The first coat was a 4-1 mix of dried amber lac shells and alcohol which helped to seal and close the pores. The next step was to rub in an 8-1 mix of amber lac shells and alcohol. The first couple of coats were done using pumice stone powder to help smooth and fill with olive oil as lubricant. The next and final coats were rubbed in using rotten stone powder and olive oil. This combination resulted in a final finish remarkably beautiful and… Read more »

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Last edited 23 days ago by "CJ" Juhl
Louise Nicholson

I had sapele countertops installed a few months ago. I would love to keep the finish food safe, but the three or four coats of beeswax I applied is faded and getting dull. Also, it’s hard to keep crumb free, as the finish is not really smooth. My contractor sanded it well before I started applying the wax, but it doesn’t seem smooth any more. Is there a better finish that would still be food safe, and do I need to sand it again? Any advice is helpful. Didn’t expect it to require so much maintenance.

Todd

Pretty much any finish is going to be food-safe. Polyurethane is. I would expect you have to resend it before you apply another finish they may not stick to the wax.

Ben

Odies Oil, plant based, non toxic, food safe, resists water and stains. It’s a wood stabilizer and protects against UV.
You will not be disappointed.
There is a lot of info on Odies oil and the owners are the nicest people.

Jack Nissen

Hard for me to imagine a finish that is not food safe ONCE IT HAS CURED. I think it is the “hardeners” that are dangerous.

Yuejin Luo

I am just about to make a kitchen dinning table with Sapele. Would appreciate any advice on the suitable finish.

I am think of a few coats of danish oil, then finishing off with solvent-based polyurethane. My only reason is that I used the polyurethane on beech before, which look nice and also quite tough for everyday use in the kitchen. but not sure how it may turn out for Sapele.

Yuejin Luo

Your advice is much appreciated.
A question: Before applying grain filler + top coat, is there still any merit to rub in a few coats of danish oil?

Andrew

I made a dining table with a sapele top and finished the tabletop with three coats of boiled linseed oil on the top, bottom, and sides, and 10 coats of polyurethane on the top with 2 coats on the bottom and sides. I compared boiled linseed oil to danish oil and pure tung oil on some smaller pieces of sapele before choosing boiled linseed oil. However, any of these three oils would have looked great. I applied the oil to the bottom first, then turned the tabletop over and coated the top. Then I repeated this process with the polyurethane,… Read more »

Yuejin Luo

Hats off to your patience and love to the wood and table you are making. I am still working on the table top. I took Eric’s advice and applied grain filler before polyurethane, 3 coats each side so far and probably a few more to finish the table. After sanding down, the bare sapele looks quite porous, so seems to me a good idea to use grain filler to fill the pores before applying top finish. In UK (where I live), the closest match I could get was mahogany grain filler, so the wood turns a bit reddish, but feels… Read more »

Antiq

Can I use this in the vegetable garden to make trellises and tuteurs without worry of toxins?

L stankevicius

I don’t think it glues well at all. First wood I had problem gluing

FRANCISCO DE ASSIS VARELA BARCA

Medium woods, cedar, not oily, always stick very well. It is similar to freijó, a medium density wood, whose resistance is exceptional, in addition to its beauty.

Trevor

I just made a cutting board with some sapele offcut I got for free!

Oli moss

this is a BEAUTIFUL wood! I absolutely love it to sawdust and use it for all my decorative pieces. My friend used a Sapele log to make a table with a piece of toughened glass on it. Its so natural and STUNNING!!!

Mike

This seems like it would be a perfect wood for a baseball bat. Has anyone ever used it for that purpose?

Mike P

I work at a lumberyard in NJ and I sell a lot of sapele. I love Sapele but it’s a typical mahogany and I don’t think it’ll hold up like Ash or hard Maple that bats are traditionally used and now currently used. I just feel like it’s too soft. Ripping Ash, H Maple and Sapele on the table saw are very much different. Just my thoughts.

Helena Orstem

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

Christina

I’ve just made some pieces out of Sapele and after about 7 coatings of Tung oil, the finish is so deep and luxurious, very reminiscent of mahogany. No staining, but I’m sure you could use a mahogany wipe on type finish, or a mahogany stain followed by several coatings of Tung oil, or Danish oil, or whatever you prefer. I see you posted your question in September, so I imagine you went ahead and finished your door by now. How did it come out?

Jim

I second the Tung Oil. Juts did 8 coats on a plank of Sapele. Looks great.

Igor Polevoy

Pain in the butt to stain due to grain going in every direction and density variation in the same piece. The oil-stained table looks blotchy and cheap, different dark spots move depending on a viewing angle. A better option is wood die rather than stain – it produces a more even color.

Wil van der Pijl

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.

Paul McCuish

As mentioned on this site, Sapele stains when in contact with iron. I had a 1.5 inch board that had forklift contact stains that went almost all the way to the other side of the board. Wouldn’t come out. This may be your friend’s problem due to contact with his bending pipe.

J More

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.

Mike Metrusias

I’m making one with Sapele. I read an article saying that Sapele was a dead ringer for Mahogany. It’s not. It’s much harder. I had some problems routing the outline. It shattered the lower point of my RG shaped body. I had to repair with epoxy and Sapele shavings. Tonally, I think it’s going to be more in line with ash. I’m interested how yours turned out? What does it sound like. Whatt type of neck and so forth. Mine is in it’s finishing stages.

Ed Rhomberg

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… Read more »

Jason Murphy

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.… Read more »

Vishal Rudanee

Dear Sir,

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

HBWT

We use it often for doors, door frames, mouldings

Martin

I am
Wondering if sapelle is compatible with radiant heat flooring?

Robert Landbeck

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?

S.T.Kero

No; they’re just racking up the bill on you.

Raam Santhosh

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

Nick Garner

Garners Workshop Cambridge UK

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

Yes the turnings are Oak

Nick

Martin_Galts_Gulch

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… Read more »

Jason

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.

Thompson Mahogany

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

https://thompsonmahogany.com/african-mahogany-vs-sapele-vs-utile/

Thanks
Paul

Jim

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

dave martin

I have been making coat racks/hooks from some sapele shelves that were being thrown out. After sanding down using 1000 grit I have applied a coat of Boiled linseed oil, once dry rub gently with 0000 wire wool. Add another coat of oil and rub with wool again. The effect is amazing and certainly resembles rich dark mahogany.

don lawson

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.

dirk currey

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.

Flash Gordon C. Williamson

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.

Ed

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.

Chris

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… Read more »

Anil jafry

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

nazare

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

Nazare

Daniel Evans

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.
https://www.dalyspaint.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=12