Sapele varies in color from log to log but is generally medium to dark red-brown. Finishing brings out an intense depth of color and highlights its natural luster, which is similar to mahogany. This veneer has a fine grain, a distinct and desirable stripe formation, and often carries a lively figure. Flat cut Sapele shows the characteristic heart or cathedral grain The highly prized Pommele Sapele is intensely marked with a swirly grain and randomly interspersed blisters, or Pommele markings. A high degree of luster gives Sapele a three-dimensional effect.

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