The wood commonly known as Zapote is known to botanists and other scientists as Manilkara zapota. M. zapota is native to the tropical Americas, ranging from southern Mexico through Central America.
For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to M. zapota as Zapote from here forward. Please note that Zapote is also commonly called Sapodilla and Chico Zapote.
The heartwood of Zapote ranges in color from a pink or red to a darker reddish brown. The pale yellowish sapwood gradually transitions to heartwood and is not sharply demarcated. Gum pockets are commonly found in Zapote.
The grain of Zapote is straight (or occasionally wavy) with a medium to fine uniform texture.
Zapote is reported to have outstanding durability against rot and also has a high degree of insect resistance. Intact Zapote beams have been found amid the ruins of Mayan temples.
Checking is common with Zapote and even turning blanks are sometimes sold dry instead of green.
Zapote can be difficult to work on account of its density, but it generally produces good results.
Zapote has a moderate blunting effect on cutters.
Zapote turns and finishes well.
Zapote has no characteristic odor.
Pricing and Availability:
Zapote is a fruit tree, and isn’t usually harvested for lumber. Occasionally available, it should be moderately priced for an imported wood.
In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.
None of my favored vendors are currently offering Zapote at this time although it is worth noting that my stock was purchased from West Penn Hardwoods, albeit some years ago.
Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for Zapote this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings. I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.
A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer. I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand. It happens to me all the time!
Zapote is commonly used to make cabinetry, furniture, archery bows, flooring, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.
Zapote is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
To the best of my knowledge, the United States government does not place any restrictions on Zapote.
I realize that inherent in working with wood is the killing of a part of the natural world that may be slow to return and if I become deeply concerned about this fact, I will have to find a new hobby. I hope that such a time does not come to pass or at least not any time soon. In part because I am concerned about legally and responsibly obtained wood, I am reluctant to buy from sellers outside of well-established and known vendors. I am highly unlikely, for example, to purchase any wood from auction sites, such as Ebay, because of uncertain sourcing and documentation, as well as the potential, even likelihood, of material being misidentified in order to achieve a higher selling price.