Sapele Vs Walnut: Which Wood Type Is Better?

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Wooden furniture has always been a lucrative market all over the world. As a result, many different types of wood have been exported at high prices and have sparked an interest. 

It would be negligent not to mention Sapele and walnut wood as popular and preferred woods in the wood furniture market. Thus the characteristics, durability, or pricing of both types of wood are constantly compared to one another. 

This article will explain the distinctions between Sapele vs walnut. Without further ado, let’s dive into the details.

Overview Of Sapele And Walnut Wood

What is Sapele wood?

Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum) is a member of the same botanical family as the well-known American and African mahogany. This deciduous tree is native to West Africa, such as Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ghana. It contributes significantly to the Nigerian economy by exporting vast quantities of Sapele each year.

The Sapele tree has a straight trunk and only a few lateral branches. When growing alone, it can reach a height of 45 meters and a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters. Sapele usually grows close together, with crowns one-fifth the width of the tree’s height. The tree’s leaves, which can grow up to 10cm in length, will fall off during the dry season. 

Sapele wood is a popular wood type on the market, well-known for its toughness, rich brown hue, and excellent finish. 

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Moreover, they are resistant to scratches and damage. Sapele wood is used to make cabinets, doors, musical instruments, and even floor coverings due to its excellent characteristics.

What is Walnut wood?

There are numerous varieties of walnut trees available on the market. However, the most common are three types: black walnut, English walnut, and butternut. Each plant has a different origin. Specifically, English walnut grows extensively in Iran (Persia), whereas black walnut is native to North America.

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Despite belonging to the same plant family, each of the three walnut types has distinct traits. For example, the black walnut tree is the tallest of the three. When fully mature, it can reach heights of 30 to 37 meters.

Meanwhile, butternut is the shortest, growing to a height of 20 to 30 meters. On the other hand, English walnuts are the champion in terms of trunk diameter. When mature, the English walnut tree has a trunk diameter of 1.5 to 2 meters.

According to the Janka scale, walnuts are hardwood. The wood is often lighter brown to dark brown. Furthermore, because walnut wood is pretty easy to work with, it is commonly used to manufacture furniture, flooring, cabinets, etc.

Sapele Vs Walnut: 5 Key Differences

Customers are always more concerned with the differences between Sapele vs walnut wood. The following section will compare these two based on 5 criteria: workability, hardness, availability, color, and pricing.

Workability

The hardness of Sapele is pretty high. It also has interlocking grains that form throughout the growing process. These particles form a strong bond with one another. As a result, some machines can have issues when working.

Besides, Sapele wood’s surface responds strongly with the blade. Therefore, the worker needs to use a razor-sharp blade during cutting. Furthermore, they must have vast experience and great attention to deal with the challenges when working with this type of wood. However, all of the hardships are rewarded when the result is an exceptional quality product.

Sapele wood tabletop – source

In terms of workability, walnut is the superior choice over Sapele wood. Because the walnut tree comprises different species, some are easy to work with while others are not. For example, the grains of black walnut and English walnut are uneven or figured. As a result, these two varieties are tough to work with. However, it is easier to work with than Sapele wood.

On the contrary, butternut is pretty soft and easy to deal with. It has embossed grains on the surface of the wood. However, crafters can clean the embossed grains easily with fine-grit sandpaper. Additionally, butternut can also be readily cut and trim by hand or machine. Finishing ability is also quite good.

Hardness

Sapele and walnut are two well-known hardwoods on the market. According to the Janka hardness scale, Sapele wood is more rigid than walnut wood. 

Sapele has a hardness of 1410 lbf (6280N). As a result of its exceptional hardness, it is considered beneficial for flooring.

Meanwhile, the hardness of the three most common walnut trees varies greatly. Following the Janka scale, English walnut has the highest hardness among walnut species. It has a hardness of 1220 lbf. On the other hand, butternut has the lowest hardness, at only 490 lbf. Despite its poor toughness, butternut is widely used to make furniture and decorative products.

Availability

Nigeria and West African countries have always traded enormous quantities of Sapele wood every year since time immemorial. This quantity meets the global need for Sapele wood. However, due to deforestation, its production has declined by 20% over the last three decades. Sapele is even listed in the TUCN Red Book. Therefore the annual harvest is restricted.

Sapele is now regarded as a rare and valuable wood. As a result, many countries are trying to improve production to fulfill demand in the coming decades.

The walnut tree is widely planted and grown in various regions of the world. Black walnut is a famous tree native to North America. It is widely used and readily available on the market.

black walnut logs – source

Furthermore, butternut is easy to find in the market in the form of a lumbar and block. Although native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada, butternut is now widely grown in other nations to suit rising demand.

English walnut is the most challenging wood to find on the market among the three major walnut species. Its rare raises the price of English walnut. Users mostly buy it in the form of veneers or plywood.

Color

Sapele wood is one of the most beautiful woods in the world. Its heartwood ranges in color from golden to dark reddish-brown. The darker the hue of Sapele, the older it is. Furthermore, Sapele wood is well-known for its grain patterns with ribbon themes. Due to the features above, it becomes distinctive and eye-catching in the wood market.

The variety of colors available in walnut wood is one element that helps it win the hearts of consumers. Like Sapele wood, the hue darkens over time. English walnut color ranges from light brown to dark chocolate. Moreover, the grain pattern is also rather varied, including curly, crotch, and burl.

In addition, the color of black walnut varies from pale brown to rich chocolate brown. The sapwood ranges from pale yellow-gray to virtually white. Meanwhile, butternut is lighter in color than the other two varieties. It has light to medium tan heartwood, sometimes with a reddish tint.

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Price

Generally, Sapele is a rare wood. But, as you all know, something rare is expensive. Thus, it leads to Sapele wood’s high market price. Its price is lower than mahogany and black walnut but higher than that of butternut.

Although not as rare as Sapele wood, black walnut is a high-quality domestic hardwood. As a result, they are highly pricey. 

Besides, the cost of English walnut and butternut is rather expensive. Therefore, they are primarily utilized in the production of veneers and minor projects.

Sapele Vs Walnut: Which Is Better?

As you are aware, Sapele and walnut both have advantages and disadvantages. However, when it comes to selecting which wood is better, walnut is the most suitable option for beginners in woodworking.

Why is it said that walnut wood is suitable for beginners in woodworking? Because walnut is an easy type of wood to deal with. For example, workers can use both their hands and machines to work with butternut. In contrast, to cut Sapele wood, the craftsman needs to have experience, focus, and a razor-sharp blade.

Furthermore, walnut wood comes in various colors, ranging from light brown to dark chocolate. Except for English walnut, black walnut, and butternut are always available in the market. Thus, customers do not have to wait long for the type of wood they need. All of these benefits contribute to walnut wood becoming popular and well-liked by customers.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the differences between Sapele vs walnut. Each type of wood has its own characteristics in workability, color, hardness, price, availability. Then, based on your needs and budget, you can choose the best wood type for your furniture.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions. We are always willing to help you.

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