Maple trees are one of the most common species of hardwoods in North American forests. There are an abundance of variations of the Maple but they are commonly placed into two categories – Hard Maple and Soft Maple. Typically, Hard Maple is most often known as Sugar Maple. Soft Maples on the other hand are comprised of a few varietires of Maple Species such as Big Leaf Maple (Acer Macrophyllum) and Red Maple (Acer Rebrum).
Many common products like furniture, cabinets, and musical instruments are made using both Hard and Soft Maple. For hardwood flooring however, Hard Maple is used much more often since it has a 25% higher density than Soft Maple.
The beautiful thing about both Hard and Soft Maple species is that they can produce a variety of unique grain patterns and effects. Birdseye, tiger striped, wormy, and curly are all grain patterns that are sought after for unique and pleasing effects in a variety of products, and especially coveted by designers. Hardwood flooring and cabinet manufactures typically prefer the regular grain of the Maple species for its excellent coloration and beautifully consistent grain pattern.
So, how can you tell the difference between Soft and Hard Maple? These tips might help.
- Observe the leaves. If the tree is still standing and yet to be harvested, take a look at its leaves. Hard Maple leaves have sinuses which are U-shaped valleys between the points of the lead, also referred to as lobes. The lobes are similar to the round gaps that we have between the fingers on our hand. A Soft Maple leaf, however, will have sinuses that are more V-shaped.
- Take note of the color. Hard Maple usually has a lighter, more uniformed color. While Soft Maple is typically darker, sometimes carrying hues of brown, red, or even grey.
- Weigh the boards. While there are many variables that can sway the results, taking a Soft Maple board and a Hard Maple board to determine which one is heavier (denser) is one way you can tell the difference between the two. Often, Hard Maple boards are heavier than Soft Maple boards. This method is not always 100% accurate, however.
- Test with Iron Sulfate. By dabbing a small amount of Iron Sulfate to the Maple board you will get one of two reactions. If it is on a Hard Maple board, iron sulfate will create a pale blue or green coloration on the board. On a Soft Maple board, the chemical will turn dark blue to black in color.
Whether you are choosing between Hard or Soft Maple, rest assured that both can produce fantastic results for a variety of hardwood lumber products. At American Lumber, we are able to offer an excellent supply of both Hard and Soft Maple hardwoods to fit your need. If you use Maple in your production or would like to know more about whether Maple would be a good fit for your production, give us a call. We are always happy to help.