Species of the Week: Soft Maple

Our Species of the Week this week is Soft Maple!

Soft maple, growing naturally in the hardwood forests of North America, is one of the most prolific and sustainable species, similar to hard maple but slightly softer in impact hardness.

Soft maples are somewhat like hard maple, but much more variable in colour, especially from one region to another. The sapwood of soft maple is normally greyish white but can be darker, with pith flecks as a natural characteristic. The heartwood of soft maple varies in colour from light to dark reddish brown. The difference between sap and heartwood is greater than in hard maple.

This highly sustainable, managed hardwood from natural forests of North America, with excellent environmental credentials, is considered where hardness and hardwearing properties may not be essential. It is used in furniture, cabinet making and joinery as well as doors, kitchen cabinets and for turning and mouldings.

Soft maple lumber is excellent to machine, bore, plane and finish. It turns, glues, planes, drills and carves well but screwing and nailing is only fair. It produces good mouldings. Soft maple can easily be sanded, stained and polished to a fine and smooth finish, and has good steam bending properties. It is regarded as a substitute for cherry when stained. Its mechanical properties and performance also make it a substitute for beech.

The wood is non-resistant to decay and the heartwood is moderately resistant to preservative treatment. The sapwood is permeable.

American soft maples grow widely across the eastern USA in mixed hardwood forests with more red maple in the northeast and silver maple concentrated in the mid and southern states. The name can be misleading as soft maple is not technically very soft. There are a significant number of sub-species – all sold as soft maple. Several, including Pacific coast/big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), grow in the northwest USA, for which there are specific grading rules that apply.

Soft maple from the USA is widely available as sawn lumber in a range of sizes and grades, but rarely as veneer. The lumber is normally sold unselected for colour. West coast production is usually sold surfaced and graded from the better side, in a departure from standard NHLA Grading Rules.

*All information has been pulled from americanhardwood.org.

Images:

An American soft maple daybed, designed by Wiid Design Studio.

American Maple- Rustic Grey by Vaughan-Bassett Furniture.

American Maple- Natural Maple by Vaughan-Bassett Furniture.


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