Sponsored by: Columbia Forest Products: North America’s largest manufacturer of hardwood plywood and hardwood veneer.
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Acer saccharum, and various species of Acer including Acer rubrum, Acer saccharum and Acer nigrum of the Family Aceraceae
Figured maples include: curly maple, bird’s-eye maple, cross bar, flair, tiger stripe, quilted and fiddleback maple.
Average height is 100 feet, but some maples grow to 130 feet tall or more. Average weight for hard maples is 45 pounds per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 0.72.
• Because of changes in grain direction, saw and machine chipout can occur. Caution should be taken with tool speeds and feed rates.
• Care should be taken when finishing figured maple to avoid creating a splotchy or washed out appearance. The use of a washcoat or glue sizing is recommended.
• The wood is resistant to shock and should be dried slowly to avoid problems. Defined as a deviation in direction from straight grain in one or more growth rings of the tree, maple figure comes is many forms. “Figure may be caused by compression from large limbs, vine constrictions, injury, genetics, insect infestation, growth conditions and numerous other causes, some known while others remain a mystery,” said Ang Schramm, Technical Services Director, Columbia Forest Products.
This special form of growth occurs in only 2 to 5 percent of all maple logs, according to Veneers, A Fritz Kohl Handbook. The occurrence applies to both hard and soft maples.
Although bird’s-eye is the most well-known, maple also yields a range of other figures. Curly figure, said Schramm, occurs when the grain, normally oriented in a generally straight line parallel to the upward growth of the tree, becomes compressed in a more-or-less washboard pattern due to one of the causes listed above. “During processing into veneer or lumber, the knife or saw will cut across these regions of the log, producing a pronounced striped appearance across the grain. Because the cut crosses the wavy grain at a somewhat radial approach, it leaves a repeating pattern of end-grain, flat-grain, end-grain, giving the resulting surface an almost iridescent three-dimensional look that is greatly enhanced with the application of finish materials.”
Curly figure may be categorized into non-specific groups, with names like cross bar, flair, tiger stripe, mottled, quilted, or fiddleback, depending on the intensity and relative population on a given surface. Generally speaking, Schramm said, cross bar and flair figure occur in isolated regions on the surface. Tiger stripe is used to describe figure that is boldly pronounced on the radial plane and distributed over a high percentage of the surface. Fiddleback, named for its association with the backs of fiddles and stringed instruments, is usually much smaller in size relative to tiger stripe.