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SAPELE

Entandrophragma cylindricum


There may be other woods that have as wide a varity of figure as sapele, but I'm not aware of any. As you'll see below, there's flat cut and quartersawn, with a fairly normal distinction between them but that's just the start. Then there's quilted, pomelle, figured, fiddleback, striped, blistered, wavy, and on and on, including COMBINATIONS of quilted and pomelle and others. This is particularly true of the veneer of this wood and I have read that some of the variation in veneer figure does not exist or is very weak in lumber, as the veneer shows certain types of figure in a way that lumber does not (and this does not even count rotary cut veneer, which is of course not available at all in lumber), but this caveat does not ring true to me and I have seen many web-pics of stunningly figured sapele lumber.



my samples: --- colors are accurate throughout


both sides of a sample plank of sapele / Entandrophragma cylindricum --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


both sides of a sample plank of sapele / Entandrophragma cylindricum --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


several shots of the same 8-foot long plank that I bought because of the nice color and cathedral grain pattern



plank and closeup


plank and closeup --- really marvelous grain on this one. Color on closeup pic is lighter tan than the real wood; distance pic is accurate in color


sample plank and end grain sold to me as sapele / Entandophragma spp.


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plank and end grain --- the face grain has been sanded to a moderately smooth surface but the end grain has been only very rough sanded (see directly below of a fine sanded example). This plank is lighter in color than any sapele veneer I've ever had. The following statement from my wood anatomy article applies to this piece and to a similar piece of sipo:

These two pieces were sold to me as sapele and sipo, respectively, BUT ... as you can see, they have end grain characteristics that are (1) identical to each other and (2) NOT the same as EITHER sapele OR sipo. These include (1) multitudinous parenchyma bands, (2) numerous fairly long radial pore multiples, (3) even the pores that are not in radial multiples are mostly in radial strands, and (4) rays are barely discernible even with a 10X loupe. SO ... I'm dubious that these are either sapele OR sipo, BUT ... it is possible that they are some related species that is lumped in with either sapele or sipo, whichever happens to be what the loggers are supposed to be cutting that day. I also noticed in the face grain of both of these planks that they are lighter and show less grain on flat cut surfaces than what is generally the case for both sapele and sipo.


4 smaller planks cut from the same larger plank as the one directly above. Note that the 2nd from the left appears to have a substantially different color on the end grain but that's because that particular piece was fine sanded in order to get the end grain closeup directly below and as is frequently the case, fine sanding enhances the color (or to say it more properly, rough sanding makes for a lighter color than fine sanding on most woods). The face grain was also fine sanded, but that makes less difference, compared to the other pieces, than what obtained in the end grain.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the 2nd piece from the left directly above


plank and end grain


end grain closeup of the piece directly above and the END GRAIN UPDATE of a completely different piece that was put here for reasons having to do with my automated file handling. HUGE enlargements are present for the update.


some small planks, rough sanded, and the end grain from one of them


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


closeup of one of the small planks from the set above, and the same plank moistened with water. As you can see, a finishing agent will considerably deepen and enrich the color of sapele.


pomelle figure sapele plank --- the pomelle figure isn't strong but it IS a little stronger than what you see here.


side shot of the piece directly above, and the same with water added to bring out the pomelle figure


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


both sides of a sample plank of sapele --- HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


a couple of shots of a pile a sapele at a lumber yard, showing some nice color and grain variety for plain lumber


planks photographed at a lumber yard; the bottom plank has a nice shiny ribbon stripe figure that doesn't show up all that well in the pic


two sections of the same long plank cut in half


small piece and end grain --- this was cut from the plank directly above


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


both side grains and a side grain closeup of the piece directly above


quartersawn plank with very nice ray flakes (see enlargement) photographed at a lumber yard --- color is a little too orange


face of a sapele piece --- this pic and the two below were contributed to the site by Pete Burnett, whom I thank. The piece is quartersawn, so this face is quartersawn and the edge (directly below) is flat cut


edge of the piece directly above


edge closeup of the piece directly above, showing the open pores


figured sapele plank shot at a craft show --- HUGE enlargements are present


quartersawn veneer --- very nice ribbon figure in a chocolate brown piece and a golden brown piece


flat cut veneer --- there is a little too much red in these pics except for the last two which are accurate


the ebay pics posted by the vendor who sold me the flat cut veneer directly above. My pics are more accurate.


quartersawn figured veneer --- there is a weak mottle figure in these sheets that is more pronounced than what shows up in these pics


mottled veneer


sapele veneer pics contributed by Danny Tjan, whom I thank for these and other contributions to the site. Danny did not have these listed specifically as ribbon stripe, but they clearly are.


the ebay pic posted by the vendor who sold me the quartersawn figured veneer directly above. My pics are more accurate.


vendor's ebay pic of some razor mottle veneer that I see I have cleverly forgotten to take any pics of --- I'll get to it someday.


"pomelle, marbled, quilted" veneer, near as I can tell. There are so many combinations/varities in sapele that it's kind of hard to decide what to call some of them, but "pomelle, marbled, quilted" is the label a dealer put on the web picture that is by far the closest I can find to these sheets. The dealer I bought them from did not identify them at all.


more quilted sapele veneer that might be called "pomelle, marbled, quilted", or might be called some other combination of one or more of those words, but in any case show some more of the variety of figure that you get with sapele


more quilted veneer


pomelle veneer --- the middle one of these was listed as "quilted" but I see it as more of a pomelle figure. The colors are all shown correctly.


more pomelle veneer --- very light pomelle figure that might also be called a mottle; another example of how it's just about impossible to accurately "name" these fancy figures that are all over the map in this particular species.


pomelle veneer sheet and closeup


curly sapele veneer


figured veneer


yet another form of "figured" veneer --- the variety of grain patterns in this wood far outstrips normal naming conventions


fiddleback veneer --- the color differences (brown on one, brownish gray on the other) is correct


rotary cut veneer from two different lots of obviously different color, both accurately presented here.


more rotary cut veneer, most presented as book matched and all from the same flitch



web pics:


planks with wet and dry sections; the first two are rift cut and the last one, listed as Entandrophragma cylindricum, is quartersawn. The color on the first one is likely too pink.


flat cut planks


quartersawn planks, mostly ribbon stripe


misc planks


planks with colors that are just silly


planks that have been mositened on the surface for the pics --- unlike some of the web-pics on this page, I believe the colors on these planks.


plank with finishing agent applied, so looks richer than raw wood


plank listed as quartersawn figured


figured


quilted


both sides of a quilted plank and closeups of both sides


both sides of a quilted plank and closeups of both sides


both sides and a closeup of a plank listed as "quilted" but which seems to me to be much more "pomelle" than quilted --- just another example of how loosely these terms are used.


pomelle figured plank


rift cut veneer that was listed as quartersawn


quartersawn veneer


ribbon stripe veneer


flat cut veneer


listed as "flat cut veneer" but looks quartersawn to me


quartersawn figured veneer from a vendor whose pics always add a shine that is not present in the wood


quartersawn fiddleback veneer


veneer


veneer all from the same vendor


veneer sheet closeups with both levels of enlargement available. These are all from the same vendor as the set directly above


figured veneer, all from the same vendor


figured veneer sheet closeups with both levels of enlargement available. These are all from the same vendor as the set directly above


curly veneer


pomelle veneer, all from the same vendor


pomelle veneer sheet closeups with both levels of enlargement available. These are all from the same vendor as the set directly above




fiddleback veneer


veneer listed as "figured" --- looks like fiddleback to me


figured veneer


mottled veneer --- frankly, without seeing it up close, I would think this was makore --- you can usually tell the difference up close because sapele tends to be more grainy and/or have more of an interlocked grain, than makore.


quartersawn mottled veneer


razor mottled veneer that could just as easily have been labeled curly ribbon stripe veneer --- these lables are SO loose.


striped veneer


seagrass veneer and pomelle swirl veneer


pommele planks


pomelle plank and closeup


listed as pomelle planks, these look more like quilted to me, but the figure variations in sapele are so wide that naming conventions are not uniform


pomelle plank with wet and dry sections


pomelle veneer


gray-dyed pomelle veneer


pomelle quilted plank


pomelle quilted veneer


pomelle marble quilted veneer


pomelle pebble veneer


blistered plank


a veneer with the interesting designation "reverse blister", which seems accurate but I believe might have been made up by the selling dealer since I have not seen the designation elsewhere and I know this dealer to be quite careless about designations.


blistered veneer --- the second pic is of a type that the vendor usually calls "waterfall blister" (see directly below)


veneer listed as "waterfall blistered" (the first two) and "waterfall pomelle" (the next three). There is, as far as I can tell, only one vendor who uses the term "waterfall" so I hypothesize that it is a made-up term. Also, I note that I cannot tell the difference betweeen what she calls "blistered" and what she calls "pomelle", but she is very loose with descriptive terms so I don't find this particularly surprising.


flat cut waterfall veneer


roapy veneer


wavy figure veneer


listed as quilted veneer, the absurd color on this pic is the kind of thing that drove me to create this web site in the first place.


quilted veneer


rotary cut veneer --- these are all from the vendor whose pics always add a shine that is not present in the wood. Veneer from at least one of these lots is in my own samples above and you can see that there is no shine.


listed as "flat cut figured" veneer but looks rotary cut to me --- this was posted by the same vendor as the rotary cut sheets directly above and she is extraordinarily loose in nomenclature --- seems to just use whatever phrase strikes her fancy at the time, even to the point of calling obviously flat cut pieces quartersawn and vice verse.


these two pics are from the same board, so I'm sure the purple color is bogus. I've seen several vendors posting purple pictures of wood that definitely isn't even remotely purple. There seems to be some lighting condition that causes digital cameras to pick up brown and brown-orange as purple, and the vendor who posted these pics shows many woods as purple, regardless of the true color.


listed as sapele crotch veneer but this looks suspeciously like makore crotch veneer to me





sapele bowl shot at a craft show. I found this to be a particuarly elegant turning. HUGE enlargements are present and the sapele grain is shown very clearly and to great advantage in this turning.


9"x2" bowl turned and photographed by John Fuher. HUGE enlargements are present which REALLY show the grain nicely, although John had the F-stop set too low so only the rear portion is in focus. Thanks for the pic John.


bowl with nicely representative grain (and what I believe is too much green color)


bowls by Bryan Nelson (NelsonWood). Bryan fine-polishes his bowls with 1200 or even higher grit sandpaper while they are spinning at high speed on the lathe and then finishes them there with a friction polish of his own devising, thus achieving a shine and color vibrancy that is beautiful to behold. Although Steve did not list these as having any particuarl figure, the first one is pomelle, the second one is "figured" (a catch-all term) and the last is normal sapele


shallow sapele bowl by Steve Earis --- the second enlargement in particular nicely shows both the shinyness and the porosity that is often exhibited by sapele


pomelle sapele bowl