In this Species Spotlight, Timber Products Company veneer expert Eric Cullen shares his insight on Sapele (pronounced suh-pee-lee).

Characteristics: Entandrophragma cylindricum, commonly known as the Sapele or Sapelli, is a large tree native to tropical Africa. Most of its veneer comes from the Central Republic of Africa, Ghana and Cameroon and is available from Timber Products Company in plain sliced and quarter sliced as well as FSC-certified. The tree is inherently symmetrically round and produces a consistent ribbon appearance when quarter cut.

Because of its cylindrical nature, the ribbons are much straighter than other species and it is the species of choice for consumers who want a ribbon stripe panel. The ribbons appear to be a weave of light and dark material. Sapele’s heartwood is a medium to dark reddish brown. Some customers order the medium color, and others want the dark color. That’s why Timber Products Company offers Sapele veneer sorted based on these characteristics. It is also available with a pommel figure, which is a more exotic form of this veneer.

Uses: Because of its close color resemblance to African Mahogany, Sapele is often used in custom millwork projects for libraries, courthouses and offices. In addition, many homeowners are beginning to specify Sapele for custom kitchen cabinets.

Trends: More Sapele is ordered in quarter sliced than plain sliced and is usually finished with a clear coat. Showing its broad appeal, Sapele has been ordered from all regions of the country. In Southern California, Sapele is popular in flat panel kitchen cabinet door and drawer fronts and frameless cabinets to achieve a “California modern” appearance.

Did you know? Sapele is the number one hardwood species in the UK, Portugal and Spain. It is used mostly in architectural applications such as store fixtures, doors, furniture and flooring.

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