December 14, 2022
One perfect example of wood that is pretty common in woodworking is Maple wood. This wood gets often used for high-end furniture, cabinetry, kitchen accessories, and flooring. It is characterized by high strength and durability, making it the go-to lumber for many woodworkers. Maple wood is beautiful and accepts stains nicely. Hence, it behooves you to understand this wood deeper if you want to raise your woodworking endeavors a notch higher.
What is Maple Wood?
Maple wood originates from a deciduous Maple tree. Deciduous, of course, means it sheds its leaves when autumn comes. Thus, you will find Maple trees devoid of leaves during Winter. The genus of Maple Tree is Acer which in Latin is keen and swift, of the Sapindaceae Family.
There are around 132 Maple species around the world, and most of these species inhabit Northern Africa, Europe, and North America. However, Acer Laurinium is the only Maple species that grows in regions below the equator. It grows in Yunnan, Sumatra, Java, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
In Europe, woodcarvers love to use Maple wood from Maple species (Curly and Mountain Maples) growing in mountainous regions. The most commonly used Maple species in Europe are the Acer Pseudoplatanus and Sycamore Maple.
How Hard & Strong Are Maple Wood?
Since the Maple tree is a deciduous tree, it is a hardwood because all hardwoods shed their leaves during Autumn. Of course, the different species of Maple have different Janka Hardness ratings.
A wood’s hardness is usually measured using the Janka Test. Janka test indicates the force needed to dent a wood up to half the diameter of a steel ball. The steel ball used for this test is 11.28 millimeters in diameter. The unit of measurement of this Janka Test is Pounds of force or lbf.
Sugar Maple, for example, has 1,450 Janka. It is a bit harder than White Oak (1,360 Janka). Red Oak, on the other hand, has 1,290 Janka. Walnut, which is also a favorite wood of woodworkers, has 1,010 Janka, while Cherry has 995 Janka. Other Maple species, like the Red Maple, has 950 Janka.
The Hard Maples include the Sugar maple and Black Maple. Their woods get primarily used for flooring, cabinets, pool cues, furniture, and other wood products.
Soft Maples, on the other hand, include Red Maple, Silver Maple, Boxelder, and Bigleaf. Their woods get commonly used for boxes, railroads, crates, pallets, railroad crossties, woodenware, and veneer. The soft Maples are also not as heavy as the hard Maples, but they look almost the same in texture.
Maple Wood’s Characteristics, Properties & Colors
Maple is a great wood choice for many woodworking projects. Yet, compared to other wood types used by woodworkers, Maple wood is more valued for its sapwood. Its sapwood gets often used for making excellent wood furniture. Maple sapwood gets preferred because of its more attractive hues and appeal. Woodworkers, on the other hand, use the heartwood of other Maple hardwoods.
The sapwood of Maple carries a creamy and uniform color, characterized by straight grain. However, its heartwood takes a reddish-pink tone with less appeal than sapwood. Its sapwood also has mineral streaks and flecks that add some reddish-brown hues, adding a remarkable appeal to this wood when it is stained.
Two popular maple species are the Curly Maple and Mountain Maple. These two are valuable woods. The Curly Maple has a reddish hue, while the Mountain Maple has a yellowish-to-white shade. You will also recognize their annual rings and find inconsistent pores with narrow rays in between.
You will also find Maple wood easy to cut and split. It also changes its color when you dry it. Thus, it is advisable to carve this wood after cutting it and store the lumber vertically.
Maple is a medium-weight wood type. It is durable and might exhibit resistance to water or moisture. Yet, it is not tough enough to be rot-resistant and warp-resistant. So, to protect it from water and moisture damage, you need to treat it.
Maple carries a 650 kg/m3 density, making it a medium-dense wood. It may be challenging to work with, but it is also elastic. If you store it indoors, it will remain in good condition for far longer.
Maple, just like other hardwoods, tends to alter its color over time, especially if exposed to outdoor elements like U.V. lights. You will find, for example, patina developing on the surface of your Maple wood over time. Thus, older Maple wood might have a different hue than younger ones.
Advantages of Maple Wood
If you consider the use of Maple wood in your projects, you might as well know the upsides of its use. Using Maple wood comes with the following advantages you can take note of:
As mentioned above, Maple wood has many species, and it grows in North America and Europe. So, if you live on any of these continents, you might have easy access to a Maple tree. Besides, if you don’t have Maple trees, you can readily access Maple wood from the nearest lumber suppliers and big box stores.
Upon reading the properties and characteristics of Maple wood, you will notice that it is dense and durable. Its Janka rating is above the most commonly used hardwoods like Red and White Oak, Ash, American Beech, Black Walnut, and Black Cherry.
Excellent for Decorative Applications
Another advantage of using Maple wood is its suitability for decorative applications. Thus, you can use it for carving and sculpting. For this reason, Maple wood gets used for making children’s toys and sculptures.
Maple is not that expensive. Walnut, for example, is more costly than Oak. But Oak is more expensive than Maple. Oak can be one to five dollars more expensive than Maple wood. Since Maple wood is abundant and available, it costs less to use it than other wood types. Nevertheless, it can mimic the appearance of more expensive lumber.
Maple may be hardwood, harder than Oak and Beech. But it is not warp and rot-resistant. So, you need to finish and protect it. Like Birch and Oak, Maple is also not water and moisture-resistant. Thus, it will contract and expand when exposed for a long time to moisture. However, it is dust-resistant, and you can improve its resistance with proper treatment.
Uniformity of Texture
Maple offers uniform color because it has a straight grain. Thus, it is a perfect wood for indoor usage because of its subtle grains. Its grains have fewer defects and imperfections, likewise.
Disadvantages of Maple Wood
Your knowledge of Maple wood will never be complete if you are not cognizant of the following disadvantages concomitant with its use:
It Doesn’t Receive Stains Evenly
If you use pigments on this wood, you may find it challenging to stain, especially the Hard Maple. The Hard Maple is dense with tight grain. Thus, when you finish it, the finish results in blotchiness. So, it will be advisable not to stain this wood. Instead, you can just let the aging process do the thing for beautifying the wood. Therefore, to solve this kind of uneven stain absorption issue o maple wood, you can apply an additional layer of Pre-stain wood conditioner before applying the stain.
Susceptible to Expansion and Shrinkage
Another disadvantage of the use of Maple wood is its susceptibility to shrinkage. After finishing it, it may still shrink. So, it becomes smaller than its former measurement.
Prone to Fading
Maple fades over time. When exposed to UV light, it turns yellowish. It may also result in a dual-tone wood which is not pleasing to look at.
Not Weather Resistant
As mentioned above, Maple wood is not weather-resistant. Thus, it is not suited for outdoor usage. Nevertheless, it is perfect for indoor use. It shrinks likewise due to the vicissitudes of weather. Therefore, you better be wary of exposing it to the outdoor elements.
Hard to Work With
There are many species of Maple, and some are not as hard as the Hard Maple. Yet, if you choose the Hard Maple, you may find it hard to work with. The reason is it is dense.
Typical Applications and Uses of Maple Wood in Woodworking Industry
As you explore the common uses of Maple wood, you will discover that its applications range from being used in flooring, cabinetry, kitchen accessories, and bowling pins to high-end furniture. Ash, however, replaced it as the favorite wood for baseball bats.
Woodworkers love to use Maple wood because of its smooth grain and unique tone. Besides, it has remarkable strength, making it a perfect choice for many applications.
Stained Maple might look elegant and gorgeous, but even in its unadulterated state, it is already beautiful. Maple wood can also take a lot of beating and remain in excellent condition.
Maple wood gets often preferred for wood furniture. It gets also used in traditional construction. Besides, manufacturers of musical instruments use Mountain Maple for some components of their products. Additionally, it gets used for making great wooden toys.
Another thing is that Maple wood gets also used in woodturning and sculpting, allowing woodturners and sculptors to produce the finest details of their works.
13 Major Types of Maple Wood
The oldest extant fossil of maple dates back a million years ago. There was a time, however, when maple hardwood floors were essential components of American life. Maple wood once covered large floors of factories, post offices, and schools. There are around 23 Maple types grown in the U.S. and Canada. Among these popular Maple types are the following:
1) Hard Maple or Acer Saccharum
Hard Maple gets also referred to as Rock Maple. Its scientific name is Acer saccharum, and it inhabits Northeastern North America. It can have a maximum height of 115 feet or 35 meters. Its trunk diameter can reach up to 3 feet. Moreover, it has the highest Janka Hardness rating among the different species of Maple. For this reason, it gets referred to as Rock maple.
You can work this wood efficiently despite its hardness. Nevertheless, it tends to overheat and burn if you go high speed with your cutting blade. Thus, it is best to take extra care when cutting at high speed.
You can use Hard Maple wood for bowling alleys’ flooring, flooring for dance floors, and basketball courts. Manufacturers of musical instruments also make use of this wood. Besides, it gets used for making baseball bats, packing boxes, and workbenches. You can also use it for woodturning and making paper.
2) Soft Maple
Soft Maple does not pertain to any species of Maple. It is a term that includes various Maple species. Soft Maple has a Janka rating comparable to the Black Cherry or Walnut. This Maple species group gets referred to as soft because it is softer than Acer saccharum.
This Maple is easier to work with than Hard Maple. You can use this wood for flooring and furniture.
The soft maple wood you can use depends on where you live. If you live in Washington or Oregon, you may likely buy Bigleaf Maple. If you reside in the eastern U.S., you may have quick access to Silver Maple and Red Maple.
3) Silver Maple
Striped Maple derived its name from its green-striped bark. It has the scientific name of Acer Pensylvanicum, and it gets also referred to as Mosse Maple or Moosewood. It is also not a tall Maple tree; its trunk is not wide. Besides, it has a lighter and softer texture compared to other Maple Species.
This Maple species grows in Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula to Nova Scotia. You will also find it in Michigan, Southern Ontario, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Saskatchewan.
You can use this wood for woodturning. Manufacturers also use this wood for making musical instruments, pulpwood, crates, boxes, and other items.
4) Field Maple
Field Maple has the scientific name of Acer campestre. It is not that tall, nor small. Moreover, its crown has a round shape. Besides, it features a curved trunk. It has a smooth bark when young, but over time, it gets cracked. Its bark has a brown or dark gray color. It can also grow up to 66 feet or 20 meters.
The Field Maple belongs to the Hardest and heaviest Species of Maple. It gets used for making musical instruments, furniture, veneer, and flooring. It also gets used for woodturning.
5) Silver maple
A favorite shade tree in America is the Silver Maple. You will find this tree mainly in the eastern U.S. It doesn’t exude a majestic look during autumn. Instead, it appears a bit ragged. Its scientific name is Acer saccharinum, referred to as Silverleaf Maple, White Maple, Water Maple, or River Maple.
You will find this wood easy to work with and is excellent for use by beginners and DIYers. Nevertheless, it will help if you take extra care when cutting this wood at high speed because it can burn.
Silver Maple has a straight grain that also goes wavy at times. Moreover, this wood gets primarily used for furniture, boxes, crates, and other items. This Maple species can irritate the skin, so you must wear protective gear while working on it.
6) Bigleaf maple
Bigleaf Maple has the scientific name of Acer macrophyllum. It is the largest species of Maple and can have a maximum of 12-inch leaves. This species is a commercial wood in the U.S. and common wood on the Western Coast.
Bigleaf Maple is soft because it is softer and lighter than Hard Maple. It is abundant in Pacific Northwest. As such, it is second to Red Alder commercially in importance. It can grow up to 100 feet and up to three feet in diameter.
Its sapwood has a reddish-white color, sometimes with a grayish cast. However, its heartwood carries a lighter pinkish-brown color.
This wood’s properties are good. It gets used in making furniture, paneling, veneer, musical instruments, pallets, pulpwood, firewood, hardwood plywood, and turnery.
7) Black Maple
Black Maple has the scientific name of Acer Nigrum and is closely related to the Hard Maple. Nevertheless, you can differentiate the two by their leaf shapes. Its applications are similar to that of the Hard Maple. Thus, you can use it for furniture making and flooring.
You can also make cutting boards out of this wood and butcher blocks. Moreover, manufacturers use this wood for sports equipment. Besides, it is a perfect option for making workbenches.
8) Red Maple
Red Maple has the scientific name of Acer rubrum. It is named Red Maple because of the red color of its seeds, flowers, and twigs. Besides, its leaves turn red during autumn. You will find this tree proliferating in the Eastern United States.
Similarly, its wood is solid and hard. It is also a bit heavy. Moreover, it is harder than many soft Maples but is a bit softer relative to Hard Maple. You can use this wood for making veneer, musical instruments, woodturning, and other wooden items.
9) Norway Maple
The scientific name of Norway maple is Acer Platanoides, a broadleaf tree that grows up to 25 meters. Its bark is grey and characterized by fine ridges. Its twigs are brown and slender, bedecked with small white spots.
Norway Maple is native to Central and Eastern Europe and came to the UK in the 17th century. Its timber is like that of the Sycamore with a pale cream color. It is hard and strong.
You can use this wood for woodturning and furniture. You can also use this wood for making boxes, crates, veneers, and pulpwood.
10) Sycamore Maple
The scientific name of Sycamore Maple is Acer pseudoplatanus. It may be called sycamore, but it is a natural maple species under the genus Acer. This Maple species thrives in Southeast Asia and Europe.
Sycamore Maple is easy to work with, being a moderately hard type of wood. You can use it to make pallets, crates, veneers, packing boxes, and other wooden items. It can grow up to 40 meters or 132 feet high, with a trunk circumference of up to 2 meters or 7 feet.
11) Box Elder
The scientific name of Boxelder is Acer negudo. It grows fast and is native to the United States. It is drought-resistant but doesn’t exude much ornamental appeal for homeowners. It has brittle and weak wood and can break quickly in ice storms or when buffeted by winds.
It has a Janka Hardness rating of 720 lbf and is easy to work with. You can use it for carving and sculpture. It is affordable and is perfect for beginners in woodworking.
12) Pacific Maple
Pacific Maple has the scientific name of Aglaia cucullate. It is native to the Pacific islands. But you will also find this Maple in Southeast Asia. However, the Pacific maple is not a real Maple, for it is not under the genus of Acer. Nevertheless, it comes under the Maple category, and its international trade name became Pacific Maple.
If you would look at the Pacific Maple wood, you will see that it is a cross between Spanish Cedar and Mahogany. It appears like Mahogany. Nevertheless, its wood doesn’t carry the physical attributes of the two wood types. You can use this wood for making boats, furniture, interior construction, gunstocks, tool handles, and veneers.
13) Queensland Maple
Queensland Maple has the scientific name of Flindersia spp. It can grow up to 100 feet or 30 meters high and has 3 feet or 1-meter diameter. Its Janka Hardness rating is 810.
Queensland Maple has an interlocking grain that can be wavy at times and comes with coarse to medium luster. You can use this wood for making cabinets, gunstocks, veneers, and many types of furniture.
Most Common Questions Related to Maple Wood
As you learn the different attributes and types of Maple wood, you can now decide which Maple wood is best for your projects. Yet, it will also help if you are cognizant of the following FAQs about Maple wood:
What Are the Differences Between Soft and Hard Maples?
You will notice that there are soft wood and hard Maples, and you might wonder what this distinction is. Well, the main difference between these two Maple classifications is the hardness level.
Hard Maple species come with denser wood and have a higher Janka rating. Besides, hard Maple wood has a lighter tone compared to Soft Maple. Soft Maples are lightweight and grow quicker than Hard Maple. Moreover, soft maples have less tight grains.
Is Maple Wood Softwood or Hardwood?
For a tree to qualify as hardwood, it has to be a dicot tree and a deciduous one. Deciduous means it sheds its leaves during autumn. Maple wood is a deciduous tree and a dicot one. Thus, it is hardwood. It also has a higher Janka Hardness rating compared to softwood. Besides, the soft Maples are still hardwood.
Maple is quite a popular wood because woodworkers love to work with it. It is durable and sturdy and has enough qualities that endear it to woodworkers. You can produce high-end furniture using this wood. Besides, it has an elegant look, further enhancing the furniture’s appeal.
If you decide to use Maple for your projects, you must decide whether to use hard or soft Maples. After reading this post, you will become familiar with the species of hard Maple and soft Maple. After reading this post, you can better decide which Maple species to use for your woodworking projects.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.