Lumber & Wood Products
Maple Lumber Properties & Uses

Maple lumber is broadly classified into two groups, hard maples (sugar maple & black maple) and soft maples (red maple, silver maple, bigleaf maple & silver maple). Below are descriptions and a summary of working properties from the USDA Forest Service's Wood Handbook. The Handbook provides much more technical information on all commercial North American species.

Hard Maple
Hard maple includes sugar maple (Acer saccharum) A photo of the hard maple grain.and black maple (A. nigrum). Sugar maple is also known as hard and rock maple, and black maple as black sugar maple.

Maple lumber is manufactured principally in the Middle Atlantic and Great Lake States, which together account for about two-thirds of production.

The heartwood is usually light reddish brown but sometimes considerably darker. The sapwood is commonly white with a slight reddish-brown tinge. It is roughly 7 to 13 cm or more (3 to 5 in. or more) wide. Hard maple has a fine, uniform texture. It is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock and has high shrinkage. The grain of sugar maple is generally straight, but birdseye, curly, or fiddleback grain is often selected for furniture or novelty items.

Hard maple is used principally for lumber and veneer. A large proportion is manufactured into flooring, furniture, cabinets, cutting boards and blocks, pianos, billiard cues, handles, novelties, bowling alleys, dance and gymnasium floors, spools, and bobbins.

Ease of working: Superior
Resistance to splitting in nailing: Fair
Nail holding: Superior
Resistance to splitting in screwing: Intermediate
Ease of gluing: Fair

Soft Maple
Soft maple includes silver maple (Acer saccharinum), A photo of the soft maple maple (A. rubrum), boxelder (A. negundo), and bigleaf maple (A. macrophyllum). Silver maple is also known as white, river, water, and swamp maple; red maple as soft, water, scarlet, white, and swamp maple; boxelder as ash-leaved, three-leaved, and cut-leaved maple; and bigleaf maple as Oregon maple. Soft maple is found in the eastern United States except for bigleaf maple, which comes from the Pacific Coast.

Heartwood and sapwood are similar in appearance to hard maple: heartwood of soft maple is somewhat lighter in color and the sapwood, somewhat wider. The wood of soft maple, primarily silver and red maple, resembles that of hard maple but is not as heavy, hard, and strong.

Soft maple is used for railroad crossties, boxes, pallets, crates, furniture, veneer, wooden ware, and novelties.

Ease of working: Intermediate
Resistance to splitting in nailing: Fair
Nail holding: Superior
Resistance to splitting in screwing: Intermediate
Ease of gluing: Fair

Drying Hardwood Lumber (USFS)