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The sapwood is pale yellow or whitish, the heartwood pinkish when freshly cut, darkening to typical mahogany colour of reddish-brown. Sapele is characterised by a marked and regular stripe, particularly pronounced on quarter-sawn surfaces. Occasionally mottle figure is present, It is fairly close textured, and the grain is interlocked. It is harder and heavier than African mahogany. weighing about 640 kg/m³ when dried. It has a pronounced cedar-like scent when freshly cut.
The timber dries rapidly with a marked tendency to distort. Quarter-sawn material is less liable to degrade in drying.
Sapele is much harder than African or American mahogany, and in resistance to indentation, bending strength, stiffness, and resistance to shock loads, is practically equal with English oak.
Medium – Works fairly well with hand and machine tools, but the inter-locked grain is often troublesome in planing and moulding, and a reduction of cutting angle to 15° is needed to obtain a good finish. It takes screws and nails well, glues satisfactorily, stains readily, and takes an excellent polish.