Sourced in Africa, Sapele is a prince among exotic hardwoods. While Sapele boasts many of the characteristics prized in both Utile and the Mahoganies, it comes with a lower price tag. Popular uses for this premier lumber species include cabinetry, flooring, door and window frames, and even some musical instruments. How exactly does it compare to the higher priced exotic hardwoods? Read on to find out.
While it’s on the soft side as far as hardwoods go, Sapele is still a little harder than Red Oak and Sugar Maple and a full 20% harder than the celebrated Mahoganies. Of course, the harder the wood, the more durable it is. Because Sapele dries at a faster rate than many hardwoods, it’s necessary to use proper stacking techniques in order to prohibit warping.
Because Sapele is responsive to sawing and sanding, it works well for flooring. In addition, this species is responsive to both machine and hand tooling as well as gluing, nailing, and various finishing techniques. The wood’s interlocking grain can cause tearout during planing, though, and the fine dust resulting from sawing, planing, or sanding can cause skin irritations or breathing difficulties.
The rapid seasoning of Sapele makes its rich, reddish coloring darken over the years. Sapele’s unique graining patterns include fine, interlocking grains that work to create a striped effect, which is brought out when boards are quartersawn. The ribboned effect highlights the dark, reddish brown hue that has become popular in high-end furnishings and custom cabinets. In addition to its color, Sapele’s attractive aroma resists insects, promoting its durability.
Early uses of Sapele include decorative European (and particularly German) cabinetry, followed by Zeppelin propeller blades during World War II. More recent uses include flooring, custom doors, window frames, and veneer for cabinets and book cases. Because Sapele’s tonal profile is similar to that of Mahogany, some manufacturers of stringed and percussion instruments utilize Sapele as well as Mahogany. From guitars and ukuleles to exotic-sounding drums, Sapele produces a strong, lively sound. Another unusual application of this wood includes motor vehicle interiors, such as luxury Cadillac models that proudly advertise their beautiful Sapele wood accents.
Due to its hardness, workability, and attractiveness, Sapele is suitable for a variety of both interior and exterior applications. Unlike many other similarly celebrated exotic hardwoods, though, this exotic hardwood species comes with a more budget-friendly price tag. To find out whether Sapele would be a suitable replacement for Utile or Mahogany on your next project, you can ask the experts at J. Gibson McIlvain lumber. Since we supply all three species of wood (and more!), we’ll be able to provide you with whichever lumber type you choose.
Contact the J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber Company today for mid to large quantity orders of Sapele. We ship nationwide throughout the contiguous United States as well as to Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean Islands. Call us toll free at (800) 638-9100 or submit our online contact form.