Sapele is an economically-important wood to the continent of Africa, and one that continues to grow in popularity in other industries beyond veneer mills, here in the US. It is commonly used as a substitute for Genuine Mahogany — also belonging to the Meliaceae family — and it, too, is considered moderately durable and stable. Its color can range from a light golden brown to a darker reddish- or pinkish-brown. The color will darken as the wood ages. Sapale is renowned for its sometimes quite dramatic figuring, which comes in an array of different styles: ribbon, pommele, quilted, mottled, waterfall, wavy, beeswing, tiger-striped and fiddleback. It also possesses a beautiful natural luster.
Sustainability: This species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, boatbuilding, utility wood, musical instruments, turned objects, and other small wooden specialty items.
Comments: Sapele makes a great alternative to Honduran (“Genuine”) Mahogany. Prices for it are significantly less than its genuine counterpart; with the current export restrictions being imposed on mahoganies in Central America, Sapele (despite being exported from Africa) has become much easier to source.
Sapele works, turns and finishes beautifully. Aesthetically, it can be a stunning wood. Its modest price tag makes it an inviting choice, although highly-figured (such as waterfall and pommele) pieces can sometimes command very high prices.