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MAPLE, BEAR CLAW

Acer spp.

Acer spp. of the family aceraceae. This is not a single species of maple but rather a type of wood figure that is sometimes (not very often) found in maple. It is so named because it was believed at one time, and I think still is in some quarters, I believe incorrectly, that the cause of the figure is literally bear's claws scratching the tree. It is uncertain what IS the cause of the figure.

Whatever the cause, it's an interesting figure, with really heavy ray-like streaks running perpendicular to the growth rings and corresponding stripes in a flat cut surface, as you can see in the pics below. I believe it is the rather precise 90 degrees to the grown rings that leads to the conclusion that this is NOT in fact due to bear claws, which one would expect to cause a somewhat more random angle. Also, it's not clear what the mechanism would be to translate surface scratches deep into the tree (although it is certainly possible that the scratches don't go deep when made but the SUBSEQUENT tree growth continues to have stripes due to the scratches.

At any rate, I have not seen anything definitive on what actually IS the cause of this figure, which also occurs in spruce and possibly other species as well, but one of the more intelligent discussions I have seen about it says that it is not due to bear claws but just called that for obvious reasons, just as we call fine wrinkles around a human's eyes "crows feet" without any belief that they are actually made by crow's feet.



my samples: several of these have a hair too much orange; actual wood is slightly more white, like the pics from Andrew and Marc down below.

NOTE: I received the samples shown here at different times from Andrew Greenwald and Marc Prévos, both of whom told me it was maple, and to both of whom I replied, no, it's beech. OK, so I'm ignorant some of the time. It's maple. Took me a while to be sure, but I am. My apologies to both of those gentlemen and my thanks for the contributions to the site.

They also each sent pics of different pieces and those are posted below my own pics

my samples:
NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting --- colors will vary under other lighting conditions


plank and end grain


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


bear claw maple plank contributed to the site by Rob Mathison whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. HUGE enlargements are present


end grain and a side grain closeup of a perfectly quartersawn surface of the piece directly above


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


an end piece cut-off and an end grain closeup of it


some small planks


the same small planks as directly above


side grain of a broken-off edge, showing the normal small ray flakes that often occur in quartesawn maple, and which are NOT due to the "bear-claw" stripes


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of various of the pieces directly above (oviously not the same pieces)




pics from Andrew Greenwald


pairs of planks


another face grain shot


end grain shots




pics from Marc Prévos


face grain


edge grain


end grain

web pics:


two views of a pair of planks that are being readied for use as a guitar back --- the color on the first pic is likely correct and the color on the 2nd pic is just silly. Although these were labeled as bear claw maple, it is possible that they are actually bear claw sitka spruce.


guitar set labeled as bear claw maple, but might be bear claw sitka spruce