Sponsored by: Weyerhaeuser Hardwoods

Family Name: Acer saccharum principally,
and Acer nigrum of the Family Aceraceae
Common Names: Hard maple, rock maple,
maple, black maple, sugar maple
Height/Weight: The trees average 80 to 90 feet
in height with diameters of 20 to 30 inches.
Average weight is 45 pounds per cubic foot,
with a specific gravity of 0.72.
Properties: Hard maples dry slowly without
difficulty, although shrinkage occurs. Hard
maple is similar in general characteristics
to yellow birch. It is heavy, hard, strong and
resistant to shock and abrasion.
The wood machines well, turns well, glues
satisfactorily and can be stained to a
beautiful finish.

One Sweet Wood
Long valued for high traffic flooring applications such as basketball courts, theaters and dance floors, hard maple is also extremely popular for kitchen cabinets, furniture, guitar necks and bowling pins.

“Hard maple’s popularity soared again back in the early 1990s with the cabinet industry and the popularity of lighter and clear finishes,” said Dave Bosley, Weyerhaeuser hardwoods product manager. “Today, as finishes have become darker it is still a very poplar wood, but sees competition from soft maple and alder in the applications that do not require hard maple’s favorable hardness properties.”

The wood is generally straight grained but can also occur as intricate patterns. Maple’s array of interesting figures includes fiddleback, bird’s eye, quilted and curly. While the lumber production outpaces veneer, selected logs may be sliced into veneer. According to Bosley, some of the whitest and brightest hard maple comes from the extreme northern areas of the United States and Canada. “For those applications needing a ‘paper white’ color, hard maple from areas like the Great Lakes states is hard to beat.”

A Cabinet Favorite
Angela O’Neill, director of marketing and advertising for Wellborn Cabinet Inc., Ashland, AL, noted that maple has been a popular choice with cabinetry customers for some time. Wellborn Cabinet offers maple in every door style they feature and O’Neill estimated that the company sells 60 to 65 percent of its cabinetry in maple species, annually.

“Maple is one of those woods that goes with a wide range of looks,” she said. In addition to “standard” maple, Wellborn offers “character’ maple,” a look that has unique characteristics brought out by randomly occurring, variously sized knots, pin holes, worm holes and tracks, gum and bark pockets, sugar tracks, heartwood and mineral streaks. Cluster knots and open knots could also be a feature. “The amount of character marks will vary from each piece of wood making each kitchen unique,” said O’Neill.

In addition to being popular for its look, Doug Fauth, owner and president of Carriage Hill Cabinets in Frederick, MD, noted that hard maple also is easy to work. “It paints well and works well in a variety of door styles. It is relatively ‘clean,’ so it will work with lighter stains. With maple, the grain is more consistent and you don’t have to deal with knots and pitch or streaks as much as you might with species like cherry.”

Doug Clarner, owner of Clarner Woodworks, East Burke, VT, uses maple in his custom solid wood furniture. In addition to a variety of maple figures, Clarner uses “tap” maple, a lumber that is obtained from sugar maple trees. This wood has a spiked pattern, a result of tapping the tree multiple times for syrup sap. “Although the wood heals to full strength after each tapping, the exposure of the interior wood to the air and elements produces a deep colored design in the wood. The patterns are unique, as no two trees are tapped exactly the same and present a highly decorative figure in the wood.”

Photo courtesy of Wellborn Cabinet

Clarner said that aside from being decorative, tap maple is strong, hard, heavy and particularly resistant to shock and abrasion. “It makes an ideal wood choice for furniture that needs to endure the wear-and-tear of an active lifestyle while maintaining its attractiveness.” He combines the tap maple with plain and figured maple, resulting in an interesting, almost graphic design.

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