The heartwood has a medium to dark reddish brown colour, characterized by a well defined ribbon stripped figure on quartered surface. Sometimes, when wavy grain is present, a very attractive fiddle back figure, roe figure or occasionally, beautiful mottled figure is obtained. The grain is interlocked or wavy and the texture fairly fine. Has a cedar like scent when freshly cut. The timber is liable to ring or cup shakes.
Despite high crushing and medium bending strength and resistance to shock loads, with a low stiffness category, Sapele has a poor steam bending classification as the wood buckles and ruptures severely.
Dries fairly rapidly with a marked tendency to distort. Quartered material is less liable to degrade. Medium movement in services.
Works without difficulty with both hand and machine tools but the interlocked grain affects machining properties. It nails screws and glues well care is required when staining, but it provides an excellent polished finish.
Moderately durable. The sapwood is liable to attack by powder post beetle and moderately resistant to termites in Africa. The heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment and the sapwood moderately resistant.
Quality furniture and cabinetmaking , joinery, office furniture, solid doors, boat building, musical instruments, sports goods, counter tops and flooring. Extensively used as a constructional veneer for plywood and selected logs are sliced for paneling and decorative face veneers for cabinets abd marquetry, etc.