Bob Taylor 's experience suggests that Sapele's frequency range extends further both ways of the low and high frequency spectrum than that of South American (Tropical) Mahogany (Hog) as demonstrated in this visual chart. In practical terms it means that it is closer to the frequency range of Rosewood than Hog. It is also heavier (denser) than Hog. It is together with Ausie/Tasmanian Black wood probably the most underrated tone wood in my opinion. It is characterized by its even ribbon-like striping that extends over the whole length of the body as opposed to Hog's pattern that tends to "break up".
Gallagher guitars have an affection for using Sapele and Indian Rosewood as their "industry standard". The Doc Watson model has Sapele B&S. http://www.gallagherguitar.com/docwatson.html
This graph more or less corresponds with what Sean, Fingerpicker and I figured out at the X-Stock tonewood shoot out. Rosewood has more bottom end than hog, but also that scoop in the mids. Hog, OTOH, is strong in the mids. Koa we perceived as more like hog than rosewood but with stronger tops.
Jikkel! We are not that dof, not that cloth-eared and were not that vrot.
The guy that builds mine didn't require a deposit. He insists that I first play the guitar and decide whether I want to buy it or not.
That's very unusual. That said, I don't really have a problem with the builder wanting some money up front. After all he has to buy the materials up front. Also once you've taken a deposit from people you know that they're probably going to collect the guitar after you've made it.
The question of what it's going to sound like is interesting. A lot of makers these days have their own philosophy about design and tone. This is a good thing IMO - if everybody is making guitars that sound like Martins then you don't really have a choice. I like that Taylor doesn't sound like Larrivee, Larrivee doesn't sound like Martin etc etc and then you have all the smaller and custom builders as well. This is a golden age for acoustic guitarists.
What this does mean, however, is that when you buy from a luthier you buy their philosophy as well. They can color things somewhat with changes to the bracing and with selection of woods, but a Lowden ain't going to sound like a Martin and that's that.
I think there's two ways to go about it.
1) Buy the guitar based on the luthier's reputation and explore the sound of the guitar that you eventually get and see where that takes you and what it gives you.
2) Buy from a luthier because you know his instruments and want his sound.
For me buying an Ohlson or a Manzer or a Benjamin would be an example of (1). Buying a Lowden or a Fylde would be an example of (2) - I have played those instruments and have an idea of what I'm likely to be getting.