Sapele Wood : Properties, Uses, Advantages & Disadvantages

    sapele wood guide

    Sapele is a hardwood timber found in Tropical Africa. Sapele is known for its appearance and properties that resemble Mahogany and is often used as an alternative to true mahogany.

    It is a golden, dark reddish-brown wood with high density and durability. It is used for various purposes ranging from premium furniture to construction, flooring, cabinets & more. Here’s everything you need to know about Sapele wood, including the various uses and properties of Sapele timber.

    What is Sapele Wood?

    Sapele is a tropical hardwood, which is also known by the names Sapelli and Sapeli. It is primarily sourced from tropical regions of Africa. The scientific name of Sapele is Entandrophragma cylindricum.

    The name “Sapele” comes from Sapele City in Nigeria, where this tree is found in abundance.

    The trees are about 100-150 ft (30-45 m) tall and have a 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter. The average dried weight of Sapele wood is about 670 kg/m3, which makes it a heavy and high-density wood. The 1,410 lbf Janka rating of Sapele makes it an extremely hard wood.

    Technical Properties

    Sapele wood properties
    • 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
    • Source:

    Physical Properties

    Color & Appearance

    Sapele has a golden, dark reddish-brown heartwood and light-coloured sapwood. The colour of the heartwood tends to get darker with age. The wood is famous for having a variety of figure grain patterns on its sawn surfaces, which may include ribbon, quilted, wavy, pommele, etc.

    Grain & Texture

    The grain is generally interlocked or wavy, but the texture is fine and uniform. The end-grain pattern is diffuse-porous.

    Durability & Resistance

    The heartwood of Sapele is considered very durable in terms of resistance to decay and moisture. In short, the wood is suitable for exterior use. However, it is only moderately resistant to insect attacks.


    Due to its hardness and high density, Sapele wood can be difficult to work with, especially in machining operations such as planing and routing. The interlocked grain may result in tearout during work. Also, the wood might react when coming into contact with iron, which can make it lose colour or get stained. It can sometimes cause a blunting effect on cutters, i.e. make them blunt. It is generally easy to turn, glue, and finish.

    Freshly cut or sawn Sapele has a unique, cedar-like scent.

    Price & Availability

    It is prized for its appearance and properties that are similar to mahogany, yet the wood costs much less. Sapele lumber is generally available at a moderate price in the UK and other countries. Lumber with figured patterns and Sapele veneer have a significantly high demand, which make them very expensive to buy.

    Uses of Sapele Wood

    It is most commonly used as an alternative to mahogany because it costs less than real mahogany, though it shares many similarities with the premium hardwood species.

    Sapele hardwood is generally used for furniture, flooring, musical instruments such as guitars, windows, cabinetry, plywood, veneer, boatbuilding, turned objects, and speciality wood items.

    Sapele is used both for outdoor and indoor applications:

    • Because of its incredible appearance and unique grain pattern, Sapele is favoured for making guitar bodies and other musical instruments & parts. Sapele veneers are used for guitar body and sides. The wood is easy to glue, fold (bend) & finish.
    • Another very popular use of Sapele is for flooring. Because it is a durable wood, it is resistant to decay and does not scratch easily, Also, unlike other hardwoods, sapele needs low maintenance and doesn’t require any preservative treatment, which means Sapele flooring is safe for children.
    • It is also extensively used for building boats and boat parts. Because the wood is resistant to decay and moisture, it can withstand constant contact with water and will not see any change in its properties. It’s veneer is often used to decorate the boats and provide a water-resistant layering.
    • Cutting Boards & other kitchen utensils are made of sapele because this is a hard and strong wood that can work well without needing any chemical treatment, so it’s safe for food.
    • Sapele wood is also commonly used for making indoor construction parts, including wooden beams and pillars. It is a strong wood that can bear any heavy weight without snapping for a long time.
    • Other than those, sapele hardwood is also a good choice for making doors and windows because of its great appearance and high durability, which also make it suitable for other interior uses such as cabinets, racks, furniture & more.

    Advantages of Sapele Wood

    • Sapele is known to be extremely durable, which makes it suitable for outdoor and indoor applications.
    • It is very easy to maintain, naturally strong & durable and doesn’t require chemical treatment.
    • It looks great and has a unique golden, reddish-brown hue that makes it appear similar to mahogany.
    • It is naturally resistant to decay, water and fire and can be used in places with constant contact with water.
    • Sapele wood is also famous for its unique figured patterns, which include quilted, ribbon, quilted, wavy, pommele, etc. and are in high demand.

    Disadvantages of Sapele Wood

    • Though Sapele is less expensive than mahogany and other premium hardwoods, it is still costlier than many other hardwoods and may not be easily available in some locations.
    • Because of its hardness and interlocked grain, sapele can be difficult to work with and can have a blunting effect in machining operations.

    Where to Buy Sapele Wood?

    Sapele is a wonderful wood and may just be the perfect choice for your next woodworking project and all. But, how do you manage to find the best place to buy good quality Sapele at a fair price? Well, this is where we come in.

    White Knight Consulting is a UK-based premier timber company selling and exporting timber, hardwood and softwood products to customers & wood merchants in multiple countries, including top brands, all over Europe. We have in-house manufacturing and processing systems managed by skilled & qualified workers to give you the best quality wood products without compromise. We only deal in sustainably-harvested timber and can provide you the best quality Sapele timber, veneer or wood logs at the best (wholesale) price in the UK.

    Contact WK Consulting if you need to buy Sapele timber with doorstep delivery in the UK or need help finding the right wood for your next project.

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