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my sapele nightmare

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Forum topic by cathyb posted 277 days ago 1837 views 2 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


277 days ago

As some of you know, I was commissioned to make a sapele rocking chair last month. The chair turn out okay. Okay to me a real bummer, since so many other woods could have been better, but the customer is always right. Darn. So just when I was recovering from my sapele nightmare, I am working on a cabinet the fits under a bow window. It is six feet long, twenty inches deep and three feet high. It has an open display area between the cabinet on the bottom and the top. It is a pretty complicated piece with all the angles. The worse part is he wanted SAPELE. Oh my God! To add to the nightmare, he wanted the sapele stained with a red mahogany stain to match the other stained cabinets in his home. I get that.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to find some boards with nice grain only to have that grain buried under the stain. Frankly, that makes me sick! Yesterday, I cut the top that I had glued together. I had a little extra wood from that step, so I added the stain. The curly (yes it can have some curl) figure disappeared. I shouldn’t be surprised by this but now I’m in my rebel mode. I initially tried to convince him to go with Brazilian cherry. There is a wood with some character. Admittedly cherry is heavy and I’ll be taking some Alleve once this is all done, but I can’t have a bland looking piece of sapele on the top of my cabinet. To me, that would be akin to topping a wedding cake with a straw!
Anyway, today I’m going to cut up some B. cherry. Make the top all over again. Once it is cut, I’ll add some stain, then the finish. I think other than my disappointment with the awful outcome with staining is the fact that sapele is not the greatest wood to finish. I made the shelves inside the cabinet from the B. cherry. After two coats of finish(they will have three), it feels great. Sapele just takes too much finish to get a nice result. In addition to that problem, even though it is heavy it tends to get banged up easily. B. cherry is less likely to get marred which is why it has to be the new top.

Has anyone else had trouble with sapele? There is a lot of it out there. It is inexpensive, but I can’t take on another commission with that wood. Seriously….....

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com


22 replies so far

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

1002 posts in 381 days


#1 posted 277 days ago

I used sapele on a small piece, I used Danish Oil on it, first coat with plain and then coat of red mahogany follwed by a coat or two of plain. I thought it came out with a great color and it did not hide the grain.

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lew

9915 posts in 2339 days


#2 posted 277 days ago

I’ve turned some rolling pins from it and finished them with mineral oil.

It’s pretty but as you pointed, gets dinged easily. Not really what I’d consider for a “working” kitchen.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

734 posts in 901 days


#3 posted 277 days ago

If you have to change the color a lot, it’s best to use dyes for as much of this work as possible. Pigmented stains will mask the grain but the dyes won’t.

Usually I apply a dye as a base color then apply a pigmented stain to help protect against fading. Pigments tend to be more resistant to UV than dyes. You just don’t want to apply them too heavily otherwise they look like paint.

Never used sapele yet. African mahogany has been the substitute wood of choice lately though I think sapele seems to look a little more like honduran mahogany to me. The african stuff tends to have reversing grain patterns.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


#4 posted 277 days ago

Charles do you mean red mahogany stain? As a rule, I never stain anything so I was already handicapped with this project. Maybe I could try that technique for my raised panel doors…....

Lew, I have to take that tendency to get nicked easily into play. This cabinet is only three feet tall. I will have things place on it and probably dropped on it. Likely, it will get scratched as well. Once you go through the stain, it will not look pretty. It is a serious concern.

Thanks guys. I really appreciate your comments and suggestions.

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

View michelletwo's profile

michelletwo

2172 posts in 1599 days


#5 posted 277 days ago

have any mahogany?

-- We call the destruction of replaceable human made items vandalism, while the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources is called development.

View cathyb's profile

cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


#6 posted 277 days ago

JAAune, you have a good point. This is going under a bow window. It will have issues with sunlight.
I have some aniline dyes and some offcuts left. Maybe I should give it try before starting over.
Then again, I need a more resilient surface for a cabinet top. Maybe aniline dye on B. cherry.

michelletwo, we have some African mahogany. I used it for the tansu in my projects. Currently the A. mahogany supply has a lot of unstable wood with too much tension. I chose sapele because it tends to be more stable.

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

1002 posts in 381 days


#7 posted 277 days ago

I meant red mahogany Watco Danish Oil. I don’t use stain when I can help it, but on Mahogany, African Mahogany, and Sapele, I find one coat of Red Mahogany Watco Danish sandwiched on both ends by the plain Watco Danish comes our really well. I’ve attached two pics. The lighting in the photos makes it look like two different colors, but they’re identical.

View cathyb's profile

cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


#8 posted 277 days ago

Nice Charles. I’ll have to run down to Woodcraft and pick up a can. Maybe I should use that on the B. cherry instead of the sapele. The cherry already has a good red tone, so if it were scratched, it would not have as much contrast with the applied color.
Clearly something has to change before I settle on a top. As much as it pains me to do so, I think the top has to be cherry.
Do you all agree with that or not?

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

View gfadvm's profile

gfadvm

10408 posts in 1274 days


#9 posted 277 days ago

Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry) is one of my favorites. Yes, it is heavy but almost impossible to dent and darkens pretty quickly to a beautiful hue. It is also the easiest wood to finish that I have ever worked with. I have a couple of pieces with nothing but BLO and Renissance wax on them and they still look new after 4 years of handling by small children!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


#10 posted 277 days ago

Thanks gfadvm. I have worked with Brazilian cherry. I love that wood. It is heavy, but finishes like a dream. I guess I’ll try adding a little aniline dye. It’s too bad that any of this is necessary. With a little patience the cherry would have given him that beautiful rich tone that he desired. Honestly, I was extremely disappointed when he chose the stained sapele over the cherry. When his entire great room is filled with stained wood that someone thought was a great idea, how can I question his decision.
Off to work….... I have some cherry to mill…......

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

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cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


#11 posted 277 days ago

I thought I’d call Woodcraft about the mahogany oil. They don’t have any. Then I thought about how much I adore shellac in these troubled times. They suggested that I add red trans tint to my shellac. That idea certainly could be a winner. I have some garnet shellac flakes that I will mix up with alcohol. It will take a few days to get my mixture ready. In the meantime, I’ll go with the cherry. What I especially like about the shellac as a sealer and color enhancer is that it is less like to saturate the grain and it is a fabulous sealer for my top coat.

Thank you all for your suggestions and support.

Aloha…....

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

734 posts in 901 days


#12 posted 277 days ago

Just be sure to do a test board with that shellac and dye mixture. I said earlier that dyes don’t hide the grain but I should qualify this slightly. If the dye is added to a finish then used as a toner, it will start to obscure the grain if it is applied too heavily.

I use the above technique all the time to make slight adjustments to the color of projects and never have any issues anymore. In the past though, I have accidentally obtained a painted look.

Also, if you color the shellac too strongly, even tiny runs or drips will look terrible since they’ll be much darker than everything else.

My reason for using shellac for the toner base is because it dries fast, doesn’t cause adhesion issues with other finishes and uses a different solvent than my topcoat of lacquer. Because of this, I tend to seal the wood with lacquer then use shellac toner after the lacquer dries overnight. This allows me to wipe off the shellac with alcohol if I make a mistake or decide the color is wrong. Lacquer is then used to seal the toner.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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cathyb

757 posts in 1828 days


#13 posted 277 days ago

Thanks JAAune. I just milled the cherry. I do have so shorter pieces that I will test before I apply any finish.
I know how terrible that trans tint can be. After my shellac sets up overnight, I will do some testing tomorrow.
Later today I have to glue up my new top, then cut then sand. I have a little time to play around with that color issue.
Thanks so much..

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

View PASs's profile

PASs

552 posts in 1682 days


#14 posted 277 days ago

Would love some pics of your progress in the project.
I think I’ve made some stuff out of sapele, but I’m not always sure what I’m using.
This was an early turning…sapele?

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

View lateralus819's profile

lateralus819

1269 posts in 473 days


#15 posted 277 days ago

Hmm I LOVE sapele. It smells AWESOME, very easy to work, pretty hard. Not to mention gorgeous.

Heres my kitchen table.

8/4 sapele. little pomelle here and there.

-- Never confuse mistakes with failure. Kevin

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