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Author Topic: Sapele vs. Mahogany???  (Read 13009 times)
roknroll
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« on: June 24, 2005, 08:41:25 PM »

How can I tell if my Martin D-15 is true mohagony, or sapele?? The neck on my martin D-15 is honduras true mahogany, and looks exactly like the back and sides of my martin...I know the D-15s come in Sapele or mahogany...I always thought of sapele as an inferior wood to true mahogany...any comments?     -andrew
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2005, 09:00:55 PM »

I think Taylor is the only company that uses Sapele, but I stand to be corrected.
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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2005, 09:11:40 PM »

MODEL     D-15
CONSTRUCTION:    Mortise/Tenon Neck Joint
BODY SIZE:    D-14 Fret
TOP:    Solid Sapele or Genuine Mahogany
ROSETTE:    Gold & Black Style Herringbone
TOP BRACING PATTERN:    D1 (A-Frame)
TOP BRACES:    Sitka/1 Style/Non-Scalloped
BACK MATERIAL:    Solid Sapele or Genuine Mahogany
BACK PURFLING:    none
SIDE MATERIAL:    Solid Sapele or Genuine Mahogany
ENDPIECE:    none
ENDPIECE INLAY:    none
BINDING:    none
TOP INLAY STYLE:    none
SIDE INLAY:    none
BACK INLAY:    none
NECK MATERIAL:    Solid Genuine Mahogany
NECK SHAPE:    Modified Low Oval
NUT MATERIAL:    White Corian®
HEADSTOCK:    Solid/6 String No Diamond/Standard Taper
HEADPLATE:    Solid East Indian Rosewood /Gold Foil Logo
HEELCAP:    none
FINGERBOARD MATERIAL:    Solid East Indian Rosewood
SCALE LENGTH:    25.4"
# OF FRETS CLEAR:    14
# OF FRETS TOTAL:    20
FINGERBOARD WIDTH AT NUT:    1 11/16''
FINGERBOARD WIDTH AT 12TH FRET:    2 1/8''
FINGERBOARD POSITION INLAYS:    Style 28
FINGERBOARD BINDING:    none
FINISH BACK & SIDES:    Satin/ Mahogany Stain/ Dark Filler
FINISH TOP:    Satin/ Dark Filler
FINISH NECK:    Satin/ Dark Mahogany Stain/ Dark Filler
BRIDGE MATERIAL:    Solid East Indian Rosewood
BRIDGE STYLE:    1 Style Belly
BRIDGE STRING SPACING:    2 1/8''
SADDLE:    Compensated White Tusq
TUNING MACHINES:    Chrome w/ Small Knobs
RECOMMENDED STRINGS:    Martin SP 4200 Medium Phosphor Bronze
BRIDGE & END PINS:    White w/ Black Dots
PICKGUARD:    I-01 Tortoise Color
CASE:    345 Hard Shell
INTERIOR LABEL:    Paper Label
ELECTRONICS:    optional
OTHER OPTIONS:    Available left-handed at no additional charge
OTHER COMMENTS:    All prices & specifications are subject to change without notice.
 
   
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2005, 05:35:10 AM »

Often sapele will have "ribbon" striping.  But not always. I've seen sapele Taylors with no ribboning, but a grainy "fuzzy sweater" look.

It's all good. Sounds good, right?
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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2005, 06:02:26 AM »

I believe Larrivee used sapele on the -02's. I've seen it in writing once before.
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2005, 08:50:29 AM »

My CEO5 is sapele back and sides. I can't distinguish the sound from its cousin (mahogany).
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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2005, 08:58:07 AM »

sapele is just a mahogany from Africa I believe.
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2005, 08:59:12 AM »

Often sapele will have "ribbon" striping.  But not always. I've seen sapele Taylors with no ribboning, but a grainy "fuzzy sweater" look.

It's all good. Sounds good, right?

My D-02 is indeed sapele.  Sounds great; way better than a $350 (got it wholesale) guitar has a right to.
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2005, 09:49:48 AM »

Often sapele will have "ribbon" striping. 
Heres some of that ribbon that you mentioned. You can see it on the sides too.
 http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y287/artzpics/Art1162.jpg
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2005, 12:15:36 PM »

Sapele is also known as Entandrophragma cylindricum and has been used interchangably for years with Big Leafed (also called American) Mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla. The old Guild "mahogany" Starfires with the characteristic striping were usually made with Sapele.

African Mahogany is usually used for the wood called Khaya or Benin. Three common varieties are Khaya ivorensis, Khaya anthotheca and Khaya grandifoliola.

Here is a great site showing a lot of variations with the Khaya. http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/mahogany,%20african.htm

There used to be other varieties of "New World" Mahogany available, the true Honduran Mahogany, Swietenia humilis, and Caribbean Mahogany, Swietenia mahagoni, but they were all logged out so that they are considered commercially extinct.

With the problems with Big-leaf mahogany, I predict we will start seeing more guitars from the other "mahoganies" perhaps even including the Phillipine "mahogany" Luan, which is not well thought of.
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« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2005, 06:25:37 PM »

Correct. Sapele refers to a region of Africa.  Gallagher's Doc Watson models use sapele.  Nothing inferior about them.
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« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2005, 03:19:16 AM »

Sapele sounds same as mahogany but muddier to my ears (so I suppose TO ME, sapele is an inferior tonewood for application of guitars in most circumstances), but I could be crazy.  Fact is which guitar player isn't?
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« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2005, 05:41:22 AM »

Can't say I hear "muddy" in sapele...I've only played some sapele Taylors, some CEO-5's, and some solid sapele Washburns.  The Taylors sound very bright, as Taylors tend to do, and the CEO-5's sound absolutely huge and articulate. The Indonesian solid sapele Washburns might sound a little "muddy", but to me they just sounded "restricted".
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« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2005, 05:51:44 AM »

I'd be pretty impressed  to see someone demonstrate that they could hear the difference between a mahogany and a sapele guitar with identical shapes, tops, strings, and bracing from the same builder. The more I learn, which ain't much so far, the more I tend to be sceptical about a lot of accepted beliefs in the world of acoustic guitars. No offense intended. Could just be my old half-dead ears and my constant questioning of accepted collective wisdom.
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« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2005, 06:08:51 AM »

Some builders feel there is a difference.  Jean prefers genuine South American Mahogany.  Unfortunately the cost has gone up to the point that Larrivee will be adding a $100 upcharge to all mahogany guitars on July 1st.  Larrivee could have switched to Sapele and kept the cost the same, but Jean wants to continue using mahogany.  I personally don't notice a huge difference, but then again I'm not that good!   ^_^ J
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« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2005, 02:27:04 PM »

Sapele is not mahogany.  Neither are Khaya or Luan or any of the other woods that look like mahogany and are commercially marketed as African, Asian or whatever mahogany to sell them to people who are not familiar with these other woods. 

Yes Sapele and Khaya and Luan are all distantly related to mahogany, but the relationship is biologically distant.  It is kind of like the relationship between cedar and Adirondak spruce - both come from conifer trees, both make good sound boards but they are quite different woods and one is relatively plentiful while the other is quite rare.  If people didn't already know about and appreciate cedar as a tone wood, it might sell better if it were marketed as Rocky Mountain Adirondak.  Yes the name sounds silly to those of us who know that the Adirondaks refers to a location in the East of the U.S. and the Rocky Mountains refers to a place in the Western part of the U.S., but this is similar to using a term like African for a kind of wood that only grows in Central and South America. 

Sapele is a really nice and desireable tone wood in its own right and over time, these alternative tone woods are going to be taking an ever increasing share of the real mahogany tone wood market since real mahogany is being cut out of existance and is going the way of Brazilian rosewood.  Already guitar makers who use it are calling it Sapele instead of African mahogany which is what they used to call it (Taylor did this for years).  Mahogany is not quite as bad off as Brazilian rosewood yet, but it is well on its way since the world demand for it for furniture and guitars and all kinds of things is insatiable and growing every year and mahogany trees are hard to grow and take about 60 to 90 years to mature.  Recently strict worldwide export and import controls were instituted on mahogany under the CITES treaty.  They are not quite as strict as the current controls on Brazilian rosewood, but they are strict and they weren't there previously.  As prices go up for mahogany I think we will also be seeing a decline in the quality used on guitars and eventually even start seeing 3-piece backs and other tricks to use small sized boards that were previously tossed out such as we are now seeing on some rosewood guitars.
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« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2005, 05:42:43 PM »

Sapele is not mahogany.  Neither are Khaya or Luan or any of the other woods that look like mahogany and are commercially marketed as African, Asian or whatever mahogany to sell them to people who are not familiar with these other woods. 

Yes Sapele and Khaya and Luan are all distantly related to mahogany, but the relationship is biologically distant. 

Thank you C10E for making this far more clear than I did. The fact that they are called "Mahogany" does not make them so. The only true mahoganies are from the genus Swietenia. The only commercially avaiable species of Swietenia is macrophylla or Big-leafed mahogany, sometimes erroneously called Honduran mahogany, although it definitely comes from Honduras, among other locations.

The term "Mahogany" is so pervasive that people used to refer to Koa as Hawaiian Mahogany. 
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« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2005, 01:17:31 AM »

Yes.  Sweetennia Macrophylla (honduras) and S. Mahoganii (african) are true mahogany.  Although evolutionarily they are much closer related to Khyah or even Acacia (Koa, blackwood) than just saying that all Angiosperms are related or gymnosperms are related.
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« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2005, 08:17:26 AM »

As far as sound goes, I think sapele does sound a lot like mahagony. I recently played a Martin CEO 5 that had a huge sound. There's also a used David Crosby signature D-18 with figured sapele b/s at a local store. Liked the sound of the guitar, hated the deep "V" neck. A great guitar but not $3,000 great...


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« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2005, 02:38:29 PM »

"Yes.  Sweetennia Macrophylla (honduras) and S. Mahoganii (african) are true mahogany. "


A couple of corrections - it is spelled Swietenia macrophylla.  This is real mahogany and it is sold under several marketing names such as Honduran mahogany or Tropical American mahogany or other names.  The second species you mention, Swietenia mahoganii is not from Africa and it is not called African mahogany.  S. mahoganii is a species of real mahogany that comes from the Caribbean and countries bordering the Caribbean.  This is the species that gave mahogany its common commercial name.  The third of the three species of genuine mahogany is Swietenia humilus which is from Central America.  Both S. mahoganii and S. humilus were so over logged many decades ago that there is none left in commercially useable quantities.  Mahogany is found only in the Central America, South America and Caribbean region.
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