Is Maple a Hardwood or a Softwood?

Every woodworker and furniture aficionado knows the importance of durable, light, and smooth grain patterned wood. Maple wood, as one of the great woods, features these qualities. It’s a wood that looks great, very strong, and stains nicely.

What makes maple even more attractive and preferred in the wood product industry is its affordability and ultra-durability. It’s can easily be worked with, take a beating, and maintains great looks for years. Besides, maple is usually stained to make it look similar to pricier woods, such as mahogany or cherry. This is because it can take stains absolutely well.

In general, hardness is one of the basic properties of wood that is often misunderstood, of which maple wood is not excepted from the confusion. The question is, “is maple a hardwood or a softwood?” Maple trees are a common species of hardwood found in North American forests. Maple has different variations, but it’s commonly categorized into “Hard Maple” and “Soft Maple.”

Is Maple a Hardwood

The strength of Maple Wood

Maple wood is one of the most common hardwoods found in North American forests. Even though there are numerous variations of the maple species, the wood is mainly separated into two lumber types, including Hard Maple and Soft Maple.

  • Hard Maple: This category is usually referred to as the lumber that emerges from the species called “Acer Saccharum,” which shares a similar meaning with “sugar maple.” The only other species that is often called hard maple apart from “Acer Saccharum” is the Black Maple (Acer nigrum).
  • Soft Maple: This category comes from different variations of the maple species and is called different names, including Bigleaf maple (Acermacrophyllum) and Red Maple (Acerrebrum)

Woodworkers usually use Hard Maple and Soft Maple to make products, such as cabinets, furniture, and instruments. Notwithstanding, Hard Maple is used more often for hardwood flooring because of its higher density and for it being harder (about 25%) than Soft Maple.

Several unique grain effects can be produced with Hard Maple and Soft Maple species. Several case reports have shown how customers that are looking for a unique look seek after grains such as tiger-striped, curly, birdseye, and even wormy. These grains are unarguably special, and designers often prefer them. Nonetheless, cabinet and flooring manufacturers would want to settle down with the regular grain of the Maple species for its consistent grain pattern and beautiful coloration.

The Janka Hardness Scale

The Janka scale helps rank wood for hardness. According to this scale, hickory (ranking at 1,820) is the hardest domestic hardwoods; Hard Maple is with a Janka rating of 1,450; red oak is with a Janka rating of 1,290; poplar is with a Janka rating of 540, making it is in the lower end of Janka scale.

Grain Patterns

Another way to know the hardness of woods is to check their grain patterns. Hard Maple features an interlocked and tight grain pattern, which makes it resist cracking. Also, its grain lines help influence water penetration. You should know that red oak comes with open pores and broad grain, which makes moisture pass through at a higher degree when compared with Maple, which has glassy and closed pores.

Maple Wood Properties

Maple wood features an amazing surface that is user-friendly. It can easily be cleaned because of its fine pore structure. Maple, when compared to beech wood, is impressively less prone to water penetration, which makes it ideal for making tables in pubs and restaurants.

The Hard Maple is exceptionally heavy, strong, hard, fine-textured, and straight-grained. It is resistant to shocks and ideal for bowling alley floors. Maple has diffuse, even-sized pores, which offer it a fine grain and texture. Its curly grain is usually used for instruments such as violin backs (to form a pattern called “fiddle-back figure”).

Moreover, Maple wood has numerous applications; including veneers, parquet flooring, musical instruments, and furniture, Interior furnishings.

Scientific nameAcer
Wood TypeHardwood
Workability and FinishingEasy to work and finishing well
Wood colorWhite with some reddish-brown hues
DurabilityGreat
Tree Height40 to 60 feet tall and 35 to 45 feet wide
ApplicationsFurniture, flooring, cabinetry, veneers

Frequently Asked Questions

Is maple wood a strong wood?

Yes, maple wood is a strong wood. It comes after hickory wood as the second hardest wood. This makes it preferred by lots of woodworkers who need it for different types of flooring.

Is silver maple a hardwood?

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is one of the four species of maple trees under Soft Maple. It is soft when compared to its counterpart (hard/sugar maple).

Is sugar maple a hardwood?

Hard Maple is typically and most often referred to as Sugar Maple. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is one of the well figured and most available woods on the market; nevertheless, it may not be easy to work with. Sugar Maple is hard, strong, heavy, and shock-/abrasion-resistant.

Is red maple a hardwood?

Red maple is usually seen in an extremely large area of eastern America, and its wood is slightly stronger, heavier, and harder when compared to other species under the category of Soft Maple, though it is not as strong as Hard Maple.

Is Manitoba maple a hardwood?

Manitoba maple is a soft whitish kind of wood when compared to other available maples. It’s a weak wood that often needs pruning for good form maintenance. Nonetheless, Manitoba maple is great when used as a restoration species for tough areas or sites where it’s native.

Conclusion

Maple wood is one of the well-known hardwoods in North American forests. It’s an affordable species available in abundance and versatile (used for numerous purposes). Maple is a hardwood, and because of its hardness, it is resistant to scratches and can impressively last for a very long time (but must be regularly maintained). Besides, it features light color, which makes it susceptible to stains, and has great workability with ideal finishing properties.

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