Maple is one of the most sought-after wood products in the market. However, this wood has many types, and choosing which is appropriate for your project can be tricky.
In this guide, I’ll give you the complete rundown on choosing the perfect maple wood for your project.
Maple Characteristics Overview
|Asia, Northeastern America
|Janka scale: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
|Sapwood: White shade
|Heartwood: Reddish brown
|Hardwood flooring, Furniture, Cabinets, Kitchen Accessories, Sports Equipment, Paper, Veneer
|Soft: $3 to $6 per square foot
|Hard: $8 to $12 per square foot
|Processed: $20 to $150.
Maple in a Nutshell
Maple is a remarkably versatile hardwood, which is why woodworkers prefer it over other types of wood. It has outstanding durability and is stronger than most wood. It is also known for its rich, creamy color and smooth grain pattern.
There are many types of maple trees, but the hard maple tree is the most popular among woodworkers. It is also known as “sugar maple” or sometimes referred to as “rock maple.” It is a common source of maple syrup.
Maple’s Origin + Is it Environmentally Friendly?
Maple trees are native to Asia and North America, although many varieties are also found in Northern Africa and Europe.
Most types of maple trees that grow in colder regions shed leaves during autumn. While some varieties, specifically those from Mediterranean regions, retain their foliage all year round.
The maple tree is highly acknowledged as environmentally friendly because it can capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere while growing. This helps reduce climate change by keeping CO2 levels in check.
Also, maple products work as long-lasting carbon storage and continuously help the environment.
Where Does Maple Usually Grow, and How Big?
Most varieties of Maple trees grow in temperate regions, but they can thrive in almost any climate conditions. They differ in size and shape depending on their variety. All varieties have distinctive leaves, bark, and branches.
Typically, they may reach from 20 to 160 feet tall. But most varieties may grow from 60 to 90 feet when they fully mature.
Different Types of Maple Tree
Soft maple is a category to distinguish it from hard maple, but it does not mean that they are not durable.
In fact, most soft maple species have the same hardness and density as some hardwoods like black walnut and black cherry, which are highly regarded as excellent woods for shelves, cabinets and furniture.
Big Leaf Maple
This refers to its huge leaves, which can grow as big as 6 to 12 inches. It is the only maple species commercially harvested in the Pacific Northwest’s coastal regions.
They are very durable and can be as hard as black ash wood and has higher density silver maple.
The name silver maple is derived from its wonderful silvery undertone. Its silver streaks make its finished woods aesthetically pleasing. However, this variety of maple trees has lower density and hardness.
Sugar Maple/ Hard Maple
Sugar maple, or hard maple, is a hardwood tree that grows in cold-climate areas like Canada and its northern reaches. Its wood is the strongest, hardest, and has the highest density among other species of maple.
If you are looking for sustainable and eco-friendly wood products, sugar maple is a great option. These trees grow like it’s their job, and the good news is, they’re far from endangered.
Meanwhile, those used by artisans are closely monitored and sustained through replanting programs.
Sugar maple is also popular for its sweet syrup  and is used as a condiment, baking ingredient, and flavoring agent.
What is Maple’s Color? Does it Change Over Time?
Maple has a richer, white shade with reddish-brown hues that occur naturally due to its high mineral content. The streaks are more noticeable in finished or stained products because the wood finish and stains highlight them.
However, when it is exposed to UV light and harsh climate conditions, the color of maple will naturally darken over time. After several years, the white shade of maple will develop discolorations of honey-gold streaks.
When you’re shopping for Maple Wood, one thing I’ve found super helpful is to buy pieces from the same age group. It’s the best way to get that consistent color you’re after, especially if you’re tackling projects like furniture or flooring.
Maple’s Grain Pattern, Explained
Most types of maple trees have straight grain patterns. However, there are some varieties that can develop wavy grain patterns, which are usually used for furniture. In general, maple has a smooth and even texture.
Is Maple Softwood or Hardwood?
The seeds produced by the tree are used to classify hardwood species. Both hard maple and soft maple are harvested from dicot trees. Therefore, maple is classified as hardwood.
However, maple is divided into two categories depending on its hardness. Those in the hard maple category are more durable, harder, and have higher density, such as sugar maple and black maple.
On the other hand, those in the soft maple category are typically 25% softer than hard maple.
The hard maple is considered harder than most of the wood used by furniture manufacturers, such as mahogany, black walnut, and beech wood.
Now, don’t write off the softer types like silver maple and red maple. They might not be as tough as their hard maple cousins, but they’re still denser and more stable than a lot of other hardwoods out there. So, if you’re basement is ready for hardwood flooring, I highly suggest using maple wood.
Maple is more affordable than other hardwood, especially considering its durability and aesthetic quality. Maple products have a certain beauty and elegance, which makes them a good alternative to other expensive hardwoods.
(Interesting Read: Cheapest Hardwood for Furniture Projects and More)
Maple has a high resistance to warping and splitting, making it an excellent choice for furniture and flooring. It is one of the strongest and most durable hardwoods. I’ve found that items I’ve made from Maple just seem to have a longer lifespan compared to other hardwoods I’ve worked with.
Due to the abundant supply of maple, you can easily avail it from most lumber suppliers and large box stores. It is a good alternative and is popular for DIY projects.
One of the downsides of maple is its high density, especially for projects that require lighter weight. On the other hand, it could be more advantageous for heavy-duty projects like floorings for bowling alleys or dance floors.
Due to maple grain structure and density, stains may not be flattering as it highlights the grains and pitch markings of the material. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some woodworkers, myself included, it adds a layer of uniqueness to the finished product.
Common Uses of Maple Logs
Maple logs are highly sought after due to their strength, fine grain, and attractive light coloration. The inherent stability and resistance to warping or splitting make maple logs ideal for crafting durable items.
Most DIYers prefer maple wood because they work well with simple tools and equipment. You’ll commonly see it used for furniture, cabinets, jigs, and workbenches.
Maple is also ideal for baseball bats because of its high density and stability. It will certainly last longer, even when subjected to high-impact activities.
It is also used for musical instruments like stringed instruments and drumsticks due to its rigidity, durability, and density. It has compact graining, so it is resistant to splitting and lasts longer.
Maple also makes good flooring due to its high density and durability. It can withstand heavy weight and will not easily break or chip.
Maple Logs Pricing
Maple logs are significantly cheaper than other hardwoods. The price of the maple logs varies depending on the sizes. Typically, uncut timber costs from $100 to $200. While the maple logs cost $200 to $400.
How to Tell if a Furniture is Made From Maple?
Maple furniture is distinguishable for its outstanding grain patterns, texture, and color. Your maple furniture should have unique grain patterns, sometimes wavy and lacking straight patterns.
Also, fresh Maple furniture starts with a light creamy or yellowish hue, but give it some time, and it will mature to a lovely golden yellow.
Is this Wood Ideal for Outdoor Use?
I’ve got to level with you—despite its durability, Maple isn’t your best bet for outdoor furniture. Unlike other hardwoods, the harsh climate affects its durability and lifespan. With this, maple furniture can last longer if maintained inside your home.
What to Look For When Buying Maple
Some wood producers may substitute inferior and cheaper wood. Therefore, finding authentic and solid maple in the market can be challenging. So let me share some pointers on how to make sure you’re getting the real deal:
Look for signs of markings and grains. Inspect the patterns, texture, and color to ensure it is authentic.
Ensure that the wood product is not substandard. Expert wood artisans have high regard for their technique which shows in their output.
Authentic and high-quality wood furniture usually come with a warranty.
Ensure that the wood used is sustainably-sourced.
Maple Stains and Wood Finishes
Maple is versatile and can work well with various stains and wood finishes. Below are some of the most common finishes used for this type of wood:
It is recommended for wavy grain wood, which gives a clear finish. Its clear color gives a minimal finish and does not highlight all the grains and density of the wood. I’ve used it a few times when I wanted to keep the natural look of the wood mostly unchanged.
You may use an oil finish to give maple an aged amber look. The most common types of oil used are tung oil and linseed. They bring out the maple’s curly or tiger patterns, which makes the maple furniture unique.
I recommend using wood dye if you want a uniform finish to the wood. Unlike oil, the wood dye penetrates the grains resulting in a more even finish. However, it may permanently alter the color of the wood. I usually go for it when I want a dramatic transformation in my projects.
How to Maintain Maple-Made Furniture
Although maple is popular for its durability and resiliency, proper maintenance can extend the lifespan of maple pieces. But their maintenance is easy and you only need to do it once a year. Here’s what I recommend:
To bring back the natural gloss of your furniture, apply tung or linseed oil once a year.
Alternatively, you may rub pure orange or lemon oil into your furniture. Combine equal parts olive oil and lemon juice. This is a cost-effective and eco-friendly option to restore the inner glow of your maple furniture.
There are many reasons why maple wood is a popular choice among woodworkers. It is outstanding in terms of durability and aesthetic value, yet it is more affordable than most hardwoods.
However, choosing which type is best for your project can be challenging. But hopefully, this guide helped you to determine which is the best option for your next project.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.