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MAPLE, SOFT

Acer spp.


A NOTE ABOUT MAPLES IN THE USA



Acer spp. of the family aceraceae. There are a handful of Acer species that are considered to be soft maple, but by far the two most prominent ones are Acer rubrum, which is also called "red maple" and has its own page on this site ("maple, red") and Acer saccharinum. Although most likely most of the woods shown here on this page are Acer saccharinum, I'm pretty sure some of them are Acer rubrum but were listed as "soft maple" instead of "red maple" and thus found their way here instead of to the "maple, red" page.

The characteristics of woods sold as soft maple (and this is more true of Acer saccharinum than it is of Acer rubrum) are distinctly different that that of wood sold as hard maple, the primary difference being, not surprisingly, that hard maple is very hard and soft maple is generally pretty soft. Soft maple, in my own limited experience but also backed my many comments I've seen on woodworking forums, tends to fuzz up when turned or planed, unless the operation is performed with razor sharp tools.

A commonly touted test for whether a wood is a hard maple or a soft maple is the "fingernail test" where you simply see if you can dent the wood with your fingernail. Unfortunately, in reality this test is very unreliable. Although it is true more often than not that hard maples won't dent and soft maples will, sometimes soft maples cannot be dented and sometimes hard maples can.



my samples:




face and side pics of a sample chunk of soft maple sold to me with no botanical designation. This piece is freshly sanded but had been sitting around for 9 years and sanding it did not noticible change the color.

end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


face grain closeup and side grain closeup of the piece directly above


On the piece directly above, I had not done an end grain update, so I sliced off the angled side to make it rectangular and then did the update, showing the new piece here as end grain, end grain closeup, and END GRAIN UPDATE. HUGE enlargements are present.


sample plank and end grain listed as silver maple / white maple / Acer saccharinum


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of silver maple / Acer saccharinum --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of silver maple / Acer saccharinum --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


both sides of a sample plank of silver maple / Acer saccharinum --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


first face and the end grain of a sample of soft maple / Acer saccharinum. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION A


the second face, before and sanding, showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


first face and the end grain of a sample of soft maple / Acer saccharinum. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION A.


the second face, before and after sanding, showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


both sides of a sample piece of spalted silver maple / Acer saccharinum. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain of the piece directly above


finished box tops shot at a craft store. Neither was marked as figued (just "soft maple") but clearly the first is curly and the second is quilted



The Wood Book pics


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
soft maple (Acer dasycarpum, also listed as silver leaved maple, white maple, and silver maple) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views. My own data base only lists this as swamp silver maple and I hypothesize that this is a relatively obscure species of maple and is not likely to be what you get when you buy"soft maple".



web pics:


planks with wet and dry sections


flat cut planks


quartersawn planks


misc planks


plank listed as Northern soft maple


plank listed as curly soft maple / Acer Saccharinum


curly planks --- curly maple can be hard maple or soft maple and there is a page on this site for just "maple, curly" which is both but I have left some here just to be inclusive for soft maple


curly soft maple tuning stock


plank listed as curly soft maple but this looks to me very much more like curly hard maple than soft maple. On the other hand, I am not very familiar with soft maple, so I could be wrong about that.


bowl shot at a craft show, listed as curly soft maple --- HUGE enlargements are present


Two views of a little turning I did specifically to show many aspects of the grain. This turning was done 9 years ago and I just now got around to taking the pics (I TOLD you I was a world class procrastinator. Or wait ... did I put off telling you that?) Anyway, the piece was taken from the same batch of soft maple as my sample shown at the top of the page and was pretty much pure white. The polyurethane finish yellowed the wood, as it does with most maple, and I don't think much if any of the darkening is due to ageing since the unfinished sample at the top of the page was white before I sanded it and it too had been sitting around for 9 years.