Hard Maple(Acer saccharum) Soft Maple(Acer rubrum
Hard Maple is also known as Rock Maple or Sugar Maple, and as one of its names implies, it is very hard for a domestic wood. Hard Maple is widely used in cabinetry and flooring, and its light blond color makes it a great species for matching any decor. Hard Maple is a fine-pored wood with a very tight grain. The sapwood is almost white, and Maple is one of the only trees for which the sapwood is almost as highly prized as the heartwood.
The wood’s high density and hardness mean that Hard Maple can be harsh on tools’ cutting edges, but Hard Maple will maintain a hard, crisp edge for moldings. The wood is quite stable, thereby making it perfect for flooring applications. Because of the tight grain, however, stains, dyes, and wax will not penetrate very deeply; therefore, surface film finishing options like varnish and lacquer are the preferred finishing methods.
Soft Maple also known as Red Maple is very misleading in name. While the wood is softer than Hard Maple, this is true by only a very small margin. The heartwood of Soft Maple is slightly darker than Hard Maple’s, with reddish-brown latewood lines that can give the lumber a pinkish hue overall. The flat sawn lumber of Soft Maple has wonderful wandering grain lines that contrast with the straight and orderly grain of Hard Maple.Color/Appearance:Unlike most other hardwoods, the sapwood of Hard Maple lumber is most commonly used rather than its heartwood. Sapwood color ranges from nearly white, to an off-white cream color, sometimes with reddish or golden hue. The heartwood tends to be a darker reddish brown. Birdseye Maple is a figure found most commonly in Hard Maple, though it’s also found less frequently in other species. Hard Maple can also be seen with curly or quilted grain patterns..
Grain/Texture:Grain is generally straight, but may be wavy. Has a fine, even texture.
Rot Resistance:Rated as non-durable to perishable, and susceptible to insect attack.
Workability:Fairly easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though slightly more difficult than Soft Maple due to Hard Maple’s higher density. Maple has a tendency to burn when being machined with high-speed cutters such as in a router. Turns, glues, and finishes well, though blotches can occur when staining, and a pre-conditioner, gel stain, or toner may be necessary to get an even color.
Pricing/Availability:Should be moderately priced, though slightly more expensive than Soft Maple. Also, figured pieces such as birdseye, curl, or quilt are likely to be much more expensive.