Maple wood is a strong and versatile species of wood. It is beloved by wood craftsmen for making durable and hard-wearing furniture and home products as well as more delicate objects like musical instruments.
According to Wood Magazine, maple is one of the United State’s most useful domestic hardwoods.
What is Maple Wood?
Maple wood comes from a deciduous hardwood tree. This means that the leaves change colors and drop their leaves in the winter. There are around 132 species of maple trees found in Asia, Europe, and North America. The species of maple are recognizable because of the palmate leaves that are veined and lobed with three to nine veins in each lobe.
There are two main types of maple, soft maple and hard maple. Hard maple is also called sugar maple or rock maple. Hard maple is the most common maple that craftsman use for furniture and architectural products. The sap of hard maple trees is used to make delicious maple syrup.
Quick Details of Maple Wood
|Ranges according to the location in the tree from white to light cream to hints of golden red to deep red in the center
|Fine even texture with a high luster with some figured dark spots in certain types of maple
|Straight grain to a curly grain
|Non-durable nor resistant to insect infestations
|Moderate workability with hand and power tools, easy to burn when machined, finishes well though some blotches when staining
|No distinct odor
|Some allergic reactions and asthma like symptoms with the sawdust
|Modest pricing, although more expensive for figured types like bird’s eye maple
|Lumber and veneer have adequate supply
Different Types of Maple Wood
There are two main varieties of maple tree wood, hard maple and soft maple. Figured maple is a maple wood type that has a pattern. Both hard maple and soft maple can have figured patterns.
Hard maple is also known as sugar maple or rock maple. This is most of the hard maple wood variety. There are two other varieties of hard maple called black maple and Florida maple. Hard maple is one of the hardest of all American hardwoods.
Soft maple does not refer to a specific variety of maple wood like hard maple does. Rather, it is a broad category of trees that are not hard maple. These varieties are still hardwood, but they rank further down on the hardness scale than hard maple. Some common varieties of soft maple are Red maple, Silver maple, Bigleaf maple, and Striped maple.
Figured wood features irregular grain patterns. These irregularities are caused by a variety of factors including fungus, disease, and injury. Wood crafters prize these irregularities because they create gorgeous wood grain. They have labeled these irregularities according to their patterns. Some of the most common maple wood figures are Bird’s Eye, Curly Maple (Flame or Tiger), Wormy Maple, and Quilted Maple.
General Maple Wood Characteristics
Maple wood is a popular wood type with properties that makes it easy to work with a durable variety for furniture and other decorative objects.
Both hard maple and soft maple are hardwoods, though hard maple is harder and more durable than soft maple. Hard maple is used most often where hardness and strength are important like butcher block countertops and furniture.
The color of maple wood depends on where it is harvested from the tree. The maple wood color of sapwood, the wood nearest the bark, has a white to light creamy color. Heartwood, the wood closest to the center of the tree, has a reddish appearance. The maple color wood will change and darken over time with exposure to UV rays from the sunlight.
Maple wood has a fine texture and an even grain. This makes maple woodworking more straightforward. The grain can be more or less distinct. It can be light and even or it can have a slight flaming pattern with darker colorations.
Sustainability of Maple Wood
Maple trees have a medium to fast growth rate depending on the variety. They grow from 12”-24” per year with the harder varieties growing the slowest. Maple wood is a sustainable type of wood in that they serve to capture carbon during their life and then store it in the form of furniture. In order to make sure that your maple wood comes from a sustainable forest, check to see if it has certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.
Maple Wood Pros and Cons
Consider the pros and cons of this versatile wood before you decide if you should use it for your next building project.
- Strength – Maple wood is a strong and durable hardwood for furniture and architectural elements.
- Sustainable – Maple wood is a sustainable source of wood.
- Cost – Maple wood is an inexpensive type of hardwood. Figured maple is more expensive than standard hard or soft maple. It ranges from $4-$17 per board feet.
- Availability – Maple wood is easy to find and available in specialty as well as big box stores.
- Staining – Maple is a dense hardwood. It can be difficult to stain unless there is someone who knows what they are doing.
- Density – Maple wood is dense and fine-textured. The hard variety can be difficult to work with.
Maple Wood Uses
Maple wood is a versatile wood type. It is also a delicate and beautiful wood that wood crafters use in large and small projects.
Maple Wood Instruments
Maple wood is a tonewood. This means that its tight grain echoes acoustic sound well. Figured maple is often used in high-end violin construction.
Maple Wood Butcher Block
Maple wood is a dense wood that stands up well to dents and scratches. Hard maple is ideal for butcher block countertops as it has excellent strength.
Maple Wood Baseball Bats
Another great use of maple wood is to create baseball bats. Baseball bats require a strong, durable, and fine-grained wood like maple to survive the constant pressure and impact of a baseball.
Maple Wood Floors
Maple wood can have a fine texture and light grain pattern, but it can also feature more distinct wood grains. This wood floor has a dark and light wood graining. It is made from Rocky Mountain Maple.
Figured Maple Cabinets
Figured maple in the flame pattern creates a distinctive look for this cabinet in this contemporary-style bathroom. Maple wood has a versatile look and works with rustic and modern styles.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
Is maple a hardwood?
Yes, maple is a deciduous tree that loses its leaves in the winter. Therefore, maple is a hardwood unlike pine or Douglas fir wood. Not only that, hard maple is one of the hardest of American hardwood varieties similar to cherry.
What does maple wood look like?
Standard maple wood has a fine texture and a light and even grain. The sapwood is white to cream and the heartwood has a reddish hue. Figured maple wood can have a distinctive pattern of grain with dark brown or black markings.
Where can I find maple lumber or maple boards?
Raw maple is easy to find. You can find pieces at either woodworking stores or at big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes. Figured maple is available in boards or veneer. Find these online or at specialty woodworking stores.
Is Silver maple a hardwood?
Silver maple is a soft maple, so there is confusion about whether or not it is a hardwood. All maple is considered hardwood. Soft maples are still hardwoods, but they rank lower on the hardness scale than hard maple varieties.
Maple wood is one of the most available and utilized types of American hardwoods. It is great for woodworking projects as well as decorative features in homes and for use in wooden instruments. The only downside of this wood is that it can be more difficult to work and to finish due to its dense and fine=grained texture.