Wood Species Guide

Maple

Maple

Scientific Name: Acer saccharum

Other Names and Species: Bird's-eye Maple, Black Maple, Curly Maple, Hard Maple, Rock Maple, Rough Maple, Sugar Maple, Sweet Maple, Thumbnail Maple

Origin: Throughout most of North America. Commercial species are concentrated in the eastern United States and Canada, particularly in the mid-Atlantic and Lake states.

Appearance: The sapwood of sugar maple is a lovely creamy white, while the heartwood ranges from creamy white to light reddish brown. This wood has a closed, subdued grain and a uniform texture, with medium figuring. The figuring is variously described as quilted, curly, "bird's-eye," and "fiddleback." During the grading process, interestingly figured boards are often culled from the group and sold at a premium. Due to its light color and durability, maple is a popular choice when a "contemporary" look is desired for a wood floor.

Properties:Like black maple (B. nigrum), sugar maple is classified as a hardwood (other species of maple are considered soft). And like teak and white oak, it has a high crushing strength. It is stiff, strong, dense, and extremely tough, with excellent shock resistance. It is notably resistant to abrasive wear; and for this reason, it is the hardwood flooring of choice for such high-traffic/hard-use locations as bowling alleys, basketball courts, and other sports facilities.

Workability: Sugar maple is so hard that machining of the wood can be difficult. Yet it does sand satisfactorily. However, because of its density and light color, sanding marks and finish lines will stand out more clearly than in darker woods, so extra care must be taken when sanding and finishing maple hardwood floors. It is fairly resistant to splitting and has good holding ability.

Principal Uses: Sugar maple has been called "nature's perfect flooring," and it is known to have been used as a flooring for sports activities going back over 150 years. There is practically no limit to the uses that can be found for sugar maple. As flooring, it has been used to create a bright, cheerful, and elegant ambiance in countless homes, as well as providing a highly durable surface in gymnasiums, bowling alleys, and dance floors. In addition, this resilient wood is used for lumber, furniture, cabinetry, shoe lasts, tool handles, bowling pins, musical instruments, spools and bobbins, wooden novelties, piano frames, crates, and pulpwood. Last but not least, its sap provides a delicious, edible distillation in the form of pancake syrup.