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Home / Advice / Sapele: What it’s Good for and What it’s Not

Sapele: What it’s Good for and What it’s Not

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Sapele, or African Mahogany, has attracted woodworkers from around the world due to its incredible similarity to the highly sought-after mahogany, but the relatively low price.

As such, woodworkers have tried to move the wood into all sorts of projects, and you might be wondering if you can do the same.

What’s Sapele good for? What should you look at other options for? We’re going to cover both ends of that spectrum in the following sections.

What Not to Use Sapele for

Sapele is an amazing wood that can be used for a number of projects, but before we get to the pros, we’re going to get its cons out of the way. While it’s great for some things, it can be a serious pain to use for other projects, or just not perform as well.

Woodcarving:

Whether you like carving ornate designs into new furniture, or you simply like whittling on the porch after a long day’s work, Sapele is not the wood for you.

It’s a great hardwood, but that’s the problem. It’s too hard. Cutting Sapele with a pocket knife, chisels, or other woodcarving tools can feel like you’re trying to muscle your way past the Hulk. Not only that, but it’s flaky when you cut the cross-grain. This means that one miscut can ruin your entire project, or at the very least, force you to work a lot harder to cover up the breakage.

It’s possible, but we’d definitely recommend another wood for carving.

Basic Structures:

This has more to do with the price-to-performance ratio than anything else. While Sapele is great for outdoor use, it is more expensive than something like poplar or other cheap lumber options, and you probably don’t want to use it for something like a lawnmower shed; that is, unless you really love your lawnmower and want to give it a ridiculously beautiful home during the off-season.

What Should You Use Sapele for?

This is the fun part. Here is the project you SHOULD use Sapele for.

Boat Building:

Are you an advanced woodworker who wants to make your own kayak, canoe, or full-blown sailboat? Sapele will work great. It’s not entirely waterproof, but it is incredibly resilient, and with a little waterproofing, it’ll last ages on the water. Various African countries have used it specifically for that for hundreds of years.

Outdoor Structures:

A lawnmower shed, compost bin and similar items are things you probably don’t want to use a beautiful wood like Sapele for, but if you’re building a gazebo, garden seating area, or another fancy outdoor structure, Sapele will work great for it. Plus, while still too expensive for basic stuff, it’s a lot cheaper than traditional mahogany.

 

Cabinetry and Fine Furniture:

Finally, while Sapele will work great for other projects, it’s mostly found in fine furniture and cabinetry, nowadays. With its amazing appearance, durability, and beneficial characteristics, it’s the perfect piece of lumbar for those looking to make high-quality furniture or cabinet pieces.

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