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Author Topic: soft vs. hard maple for furniture  (Read 9729 times)

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Offline brooktrout

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soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« on: November 11, 2005, 12:40:53 PM »
I have received mixed opinions re: soft maple vs. hard maple, especially soft curly vs. hard curly maple for furniture. Some say soft is greatly inferior and some say the opposite. Any experienced furniture builders who have used both that can help me? Thank you

Offline Gary_C

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2005, 03:15:49 PM »
There is a lot of furniture being made out of soft maple. If you see a piece of just "maple" furniture in a store, chances are it is soft maple and that is legal as long as you do not advertise "hard maple".

Soft  is obviously easier to work and lighter. Good soft maple lumber will bring almost as much as hard maple. I have one woodworker that will not buy hard maple because it is too hard and difficult to work.

To each his own opinion.   8) 8)

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Offline twoodward15

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2005, 03:45:38 PM »
Just because it says soft maple doesn't mean it's soft.  It's just softer than hard maple.  It is a hardwood and certainly a lot harder than pine, which I am assuming you were worried about.  Don't let the name fool you.  Next time you have a woodworking friend over get out a piece of each (both grade material) and ask him if he can tell the difference.  I'll bet he can't.
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Offline oakiemac

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2005, 04:14:08 PM »
To me soft maple has a little different look. I saw a lot of red maple and I can easily tell it from hard maple. But if I was building something I would almost prefer the soft maple. It looks nice and is easier to saw and machine. Also less expensive.
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Offline D._Frederick

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2005, 06:51:18 PM »
The broad leave maple we have here in the NW isn't much harder than pine, you can indent both with your thumb nail. It does work easy and there is no resin like pine has.

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2005, 07:48:29 PM »
That's another thing, the term 'soft maple'. There are a number of different species, red maple, silver maple, striped maple, box elder, douglas maple, big leaf maple. I think everything except box elder and striped maple would be welcome in my furniture. Just my $0.02 :)
Move'n on.

Offline Sawyerfortyish

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2005, 08:06:40 PM »
Around me the soft maple has worms in it that make black stripes around the worm hole. If you seen a floor made out of it you would walk by the standing hard maple and cut the soft maple :o.

Offline Tom

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2005, 08:09:43 PM »
Our Maple, Sweet Gum and Magnolia have black lined borer holes like that.  You're right, it can really be pretty.
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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2006, 01:28:43 PM »
We are marking a lot of soft maple for sale, but hard maple continues to be the prefered and in demand here with the highest prices being paid. The timber buyers are "bumping" into one another chasing it down.

I wonder how long it is going to last??
~Ron

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2006, 01:44:31 PM »
I don't know Ron, but Miller Veneers in Indianapolis are chasing it hard all over. They have outrageous prices. My latest news letter from the Marketing Board says:

Panel Grade 1A , min 18" top, 4 clear face, 8'9", less than 30 % heart $5381.60/mfbm

Desk/Door grade 2B min 14" top, 4 clear face, min 8'1", less than 30% heart
$1810.15/mbfm

Yellow birch is almost as insane.

International log rule, delivered at the marketing board yards. Have you guys sold maple to them? If a guy is going to be cutting this stuff might as well ride the wave. ;D

In my kneck of the woods most of that product is off clearcuts and high grades because it's like chasing down birdseye. I'm very suspicious that some wood is coming off crown lands and being sold illegally by wood brokers. The company sure wouldn't know for certainty where the wood is from. Even though we have a chain of custody system, it's not fool proof. Loads can easily be diverted and wood sorted.  ::)

Move'n on.

Offline metalspinner

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2006, 01:57:55 PM »
I'm in the middle of building my kitchen cabinet's out of Silver maple.  In fact, I've been in the "middle" of it for a year now. :o  This soft maple is beautiful and easily worked.  The door panels are figured.  I think for things that do not get hard abuse - like cabinet doors and such, soft maple is just fine.  For counter top trim and built in breakfast bar, I went with hard maple.  My soft maple does not have a bright white color that the hard maple has.  It is more of a  salmon color.  I did use a mix of sap and heart throughout.
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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2006, 05:21:35 PM »
How long is it going to last?  A good while.  They have been putting hard maple in upscale houses for quite some time.  That will also filter down to the lower scaled houses as well.

I think that the demand for the diffuse porous woods is here to stay for about another 20-25 years.  Everything goes in cycles, and the ring porous cycle has run its course, for the time being.
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Offline Dale Hatfield

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2006, 10:31:40 PM »
I would hedge my bet on it lasting a little longer then the length of the cherry run.
Cherry has fell off here even on export logs and  anything that looks like a Maple is up.
But Good hard maple around here has always been steady.


Dale
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Offline jrdwyer

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2006, 10:38:11 PM »
The soft maple in the bottoms around here is both red and silver with silver being more common on really wet backwater flooded areas like in the Ohio River bottoms.  But the longer the duration of flooding, the more likely the silver maple will be defective in the lower 3-6 feet. Also, the wetter the ground, the more likely the wood will be wormy.  Red maple on upper bottoms can be very white with little wormyness.

There is a difference in density between red and silver maple. The wood books give red a SG of .54 at 12% Moisture Content, whereas Silver is only .47 at 12% MC. For comparison, bigleaf maple from out west is .48 and sugar maple is .63. 

I saw some beautiful soft maple lumber on a bar front a few weeks ago. Very light red or salmon in color. The wood species threw me, and in talking to the owner  he mentioned a few logs of soft maple that he seperated out because they were red. He had his own portable mill out back.

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2006, 06:01:31 AM »
Lumber buyers around here usually specify no silver maple.  The problem is that I've only seen silver maple a few times, and then only close to a river. 

Their definition on silver maple has more to do with heart color than the actual species.  Logs with big heart are considered silver maple, even though it isn't.

Go figure.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: soft vs. hard maple for furniture
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2006, 06:12:06 AM »
Most our red maple has big heart, but if you find a nice one that isn't multistemed (fire, cutting) or had the bark chewed or rubbed off it by moose in it's early years it can be nice wood. Alot of the good stuff goes for curly maple.
Move'n on.


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