Sapele Lumber

Botanical Name: Entandrophragma cylindricum

Family: Meliceae

Other Common Names: Aboudikroe, Assi, Assie sapelli, Lifari, M'boyo, Muyovu, Penkwa Sapele, Sapele mahogany, Sapeli, Sapelli, Undianuno.

Uses: Furniture, cabinetwork,
decorative moldings, decorative veneer, marquetry, paneling,
plywood, flooring, and joinery.

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Distribution: The geographical range of Sapele is reported to extend from the Ivory Coast to the Cameroon, eastward through Zaire to Uganda. It is reported to be found in different forest types, including deciduous, evergreen, and transitional zones.

General Characteristics: Sapele is a large rain forest tree from Africa. It is reported to grow to heights of 150 feet (45 m), with trunk diameters of 48 to 72 inches (120 to 180 cm). Boles are usually clear and cylindrical to heights of 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 m). The heartwood is pink when freshly cut, but it matures to a red-brown or purple-brown color; The sapwood is gray-pink or cream in color. Texture is typically moderately fine; the grain is moderately interlocked or wavy. Quarter cut Sapele is reported to yield a ribbon, regular stripe or bee's wing. Other cuts feature various desirable patterns, including fiddlebacks, roe or a mottled design, especially in wood containing wavy grain; Luster is described as high and golden. The wood has a cedar-like scent that remains even after long exposure.

Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) 0.62; air-dry density 42 pcf.

Working Properties: The wood has a low resistance to sawing. The material is reported to be generally easy to plane, but interlocked material has a tendency to tear. This wood is reported to respond fairly well to turning operations, and works to yield relatively smooth surfaces. Interlocked grain may cause tearing in moulding. A reduced cutting angle is suggested for best results. Boring properties are reported to be good. The material is reported to be easy to rout. The timber is reported to respond to mortising operations, with only slight dulling effect on cutting edges. The wood is reported to carve easily. The wood glues fairly well. Nailing and nail holding characteristics are reported to be good. The wood has good screwing and screw-holding properties. Sanding characteristics are rated as very good. Polishing characteristics are reported to be excellent. The wood is reported to stain well, but requires some care. Varnishing properties are rated as good. Painting properties are rated as good. Steam bending properties are reported to be rather poor. Response to hand tools is reported to be generally good.

Durability: The wood is reported to be susceptible to pinhole borer, and marine borer attack. The sapwood is reported to be readily attacked by powder post beetle, but it is moderately resistant to African termites.

Preservation: The heartwood is nearly untreatable, while the sapwood is moderately resistant to preservatives.

Mechanical Properties

Bending Strength:

Green: 10,233 psi
Dry: 17,895 psi

Modules of Elasticity:


Maximum Crushing Strength:

Green: 5,115 psi
Dry: 8,788 psi

Drying and Shrinkage:

Considerable variations in the seasoning properties of the species have been reported. It is reported to season fairly rapidly, in general, with quartered material seasoning the best. Sapele is reported to be prone to distort during drying. Moderate temperatures are recommended especially during the early stages of drying. Slight checking may occur during drying, but the species is generally free from the cross-breaks which occur in African mahogany. Kiln Schedule T2-D4 is suggested for 4/4 stock and T2-D3 for 8/4. Shrinkage green to ovendry: radial 5%; tangential 7%. The timber is reported to have moderate dimensional stability after seasoning, and shows medium movement in use.

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