Maple Wood: Types, Color, Density, Uses, and More

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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 article, our expert woodworkers will provide a comprehensive guide to determining the right maple wood for your project. 

Maple Characteristics Overview

SourceAsia, Northeastern America
HardnessJanka scale: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
ColorSapwood: White shade
Heartwood: Reddish brown 
Common UsesHardwood flooring, Furniture, Cabinets, Kitchen Accessories, Sports Equipment, Paper, Veneer
Estimated PriceSoft: $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. 

maple wood

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. 

sawing soft maple on a table saw

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

Soft maple is a category to distinguish it from hard maple, but it does not mean that they are not durable. 

soft maple

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.

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.

hard maple

If you are looking for sustainable and eco-friendly wood products, sugar maple is a great option. They grow abundantly in natural environments and are not endangered. 

Meanwhile, those used by artisans are closely monitored and sustained through replanting programs. 

Sugar maple is also popular for its sweet syrup [1] 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 maple is exposed to UV light and harsh climate conditions, its color will naturally darken over time. After several years, the white shade of maple will develop discolorations of honey-gold streaks. 

dining room furniture made of maple

Therefore, purchasing a set of maple of the same age is recommended to achieve uniform color rather than buying separate pieces, especially when creating 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. 

applying stain on maple wood

On the other hand, those in the soft maple category are typically 25% softer than hard maple. 

Maple’s Density/Hardness

The hard maple is considered harder than most of the wood used by furniture manufacturers, such as mahogany, black walnut, and beech wood. 

Although some maple tree species are significantly less tough, like silver maple and red maple, they still have higher stability and density than most hardwood. So, if you’re basement is ready for hardwood flooring, we highly suggest using maple wood. 

Advantages

Price

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 soft wood
Durability/Strength

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. Maple products remarkably last longer compared to other hardwoods.

Availability

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.

Disadvantages

Density

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. 

maple wood candle holder
Staining

Due to maple grain structure and density, stains may not be flattering as it highlights the grains and pitch markings of the material. However, some woodworkers prefer it because it gives uniqueness to wood products.

Common Uses of Maple Logs

Woodworking

Most DIYers prefer maple wood because they work well with simple tools and equipment. It is typically used for furniture, cabinets, jigs, and workbenches.

Baseball Bats

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. 

Musical Instruments

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.

Flooring

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 hardwood floor

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. 

When fresh, they have a light creamy to yellowish shade, which will darken to golden yellow over time.

Is this Wood Ideal for Outdoor Use?

While maple is very durable, we do not recommend them for outdoor use. 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. Here are the things to remember when buying:

bedroom furniture made of maple wood

Legitimacy

Look for signs of markings and grains. Inspect the patterns, texture, and color to ensure it is authentic.

Craftsmanship

Ensure that the wood product is not substandard. Expert wood artisans have high regard for their technique which shows in their output.

Quality

Authentic and high-quality wood furniture usually come with a warranty.

Eco-Friendly

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:

Zinsser shellac

Dewaxed Shellac

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.

Oil

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. 

Wood Dye

We 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.

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 can be done only once a year. Here are a few options:

pouring linseed oil

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. 

Conclusion

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 woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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