What is Maple Wood?

What is Maple Wood?

Maple wood is extremely sturdy, beautiful, and stainable. Maple is a popular choice for woodworkers and furniture enthusiasts due to its light, creamy hue, smooth grain pattern, and outstanding durability.

Although there are dozens of types of maple trees worldwide, the Hard Maple is the most popular among American woodworkers (aka Sugar Maple or Rock Maple).

Sugar maple trees thrive in Ohio and provide the sole component in pure maple syrup, maple sap.

Maple Wood’s Characteristics


White with hints of reddish-brown


Sugar Maple Tree (Acer Saccharum)


1450 on the Janka scale


$3 to $8 per board feet

Common Uses

Furniture, hardwood flooring, cabinets, sports equipment, kitchen accessories

Frequently Asked Questions About Maple Wood

With so many maple wood items available, people are frequently inquisitive about the wood's numerous applications and how it compares to other wood species. A few of the most frequently asked questions are addressed below.

What Color is Maple Wood?

While many trees are revered for their heartwood by woodworkers, maple is typically employed for its sapwood which is  excellent for wood furniture. It is often a white tone with reddish-brown tints imparted by pitch flecks and mineral streaks, though the color will darken slightly with age. Stains bring out the mineral streaks more, which means you'll see them more frequently and they'll be darker as well.

On the other hand, the heartwood has a brownish-red color that can occasionally be fairly dark, however it will naturally darken with age.

Why Does Maple Wood Change Colors Over Time?

Almost all hardwoods change color over time. Natural darkening of light-colored woods, such as maple, occurs as a result of exposure to UV light and oxygen. Even a white maple piece will develop a honey-gold patina over time. As a result, it is often preferable to purchase sets in bulk rather than collecting a collection piece by piece, as parts added later will have a slightly different hue.

What are the Common Uses of Maple Wood?

Maple wood is frequently utilized in the manufacture of upscale furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and kitchen items. Maple is frequently used as flooring in bowling alleys and for bowling pins due to its longevity and resilience. It was also a common choice for wood baseball bats until it was mainly supplanted by Ash, which is just as strong but lighter.

Maple is a popular choice for woodworkers of all types due to its distinctive color, smooth texture, and strength. While it can illuminate a space in its natural bright tone, stained maple is equally beautiful and can be dressed up to suit any preferred style. Maple wood is also frequently used when durability is an issue due to its ability to withstand abuse.

What Does the Grain Pattern of Maple Wood Look Like?

Maple wood has a beautiful, consistent texture and a mainly straight grain, however variations such as birdseye, tiger, flame, curly, wavy, quilted, or fiddleback grain occur and are frequently used for custom artisan furniture. When grain has been given additional character in this way, it is referred to as "figured." Figured wood is typically the result of a strain, damage, or disease that occurs throughout the tree's growth.

Is Maple a Hardwood or a Softwood?

Hardness is likely one of the most misunderstood properties of wood in general, but maple wood further complicates matters.

Hardwood is a technical term that refers to wood that has been harvested from a dicot tree, such as a broadleaf type. By contrast, a softwood is derived from a gymnosperm tree, such as a conifer. This does not refer to the wood's resistance to force, scratches, or dents.

The term "softwood" refers to species such as fir, pine, and cedar. Among the hardwoods are cherry, oak, walnut, and maple.

What makes maple so perplexing is that it can be defined as both hard and soft.

What’s the Difference Between Hard Maple and Soft Maple?

The word "soft maple" is an umbrella term that refers to numerous distinct maple tree species. On the other hand, "hard maple" refers to lumber derived from the acer sacharrum species and is synonymous with "sugar maple." Apart from Acer sacharrum, the only other maple species that is occasionally referred to as hard maple is the Black Maple (acer nigrum). Indeed, the two species are so closely related that some regard black maple as a subspecies of acer sacharrum.

Because both hard maple and soft maple are derived from dicot trees, they are classified as hardwoods.

Hard maple, also known as sugar maple, is the most durable of the maple species, with a janka value of 1,450, making it one of the hardest domestic woods used in furniture construction.

Although there are numerous varieties of soft maple wood, the most common are striped maple, silver maple, red maple, bigleaf maple, and box elder. Although it is referred to as "soft maple," it is actually only approximately 25% softer than hard maple and is still harder than Douglas fir, southern yellow pine, or California redwood wood.

How Dense/Hard is Maple Wood?

Typically, the Janka Test is used to determine the durability of wood. This is accomplished by pressing a steel ball into a block of wood and measuring the force necessary to bury the ball halfway. The result can be shown in either pounds of force or as a numerical value followed by the word "Janka."

Hard maple (from a sugar maple tree) has a Janka rating of 1,450. It outperforms the majority of other hardwood species used by furniture manufacturers. For instance, white oak comes in second at 1,360 Janka. Red oak is next at 1,290 Janka, followed by walnut at 1,010 Janka and cherry at 995 Janka.

With that in mind, red maple, which is actually a "soft maple wood," comes in at 950 Janka. Box elder, as well as bigleaf, silver, and striped maple, all fall between approximately 700 and 800 Janka. Again, this means that it would take at least 700 pounds of force to embed something the size of a BB in the wood, indicating that it is highly resistant.

Where Does Maple Wood Come From?

There are hundreds of types of maple trees across the globe. The wood used for furniture available through TY Fine Furniture is usually from the sugar maple tree, unless otherwise specified.

Where Do Sugar Maple Trees Grow?

The sugar maple, also known as the hard maple, is found only in the northern United States and parts of Canada. It spreads as far west as Minnesota, brushes through Missouri, and then descends as low as Tennessee before resuming its upward trajectory toward the east coast. The greatest concentration of sugar maples is found in the Great Lakes region, while they are also found in large numbers in Ohio. Indeed, it is the state's official tree and is indigenous to the Green Mountain Forest. Because wood grows abundantly here, the majority of our artisans get their materials locally.

How Big Are Sugar Maple Trees?

Sugar maple trees can reach a height of 120 feet. One of the first is Canada's "Comfort Maple." It is reported to be around 500 years old and is 80 feet tall with a 20-foot trunk circumference.

How Can I Tell if the Furniture I Have is Maple Wood?

Manufacturers rarely pass off other wood species as maple simply because it is one of the most affordable possibilities due to its abundance. However, maple wood is frequently dyed to resemble more expensive hardwoods such as mahogany or cherry. Unfortunately, unless you are a wood specialist, this can be difficult to discern, which is why it is always better to acquire wood furniture from a reputable and well-established furniture maker.

Can Maple Wood Furniture Go Outside?

In theory, you may leave maple wood furniture outside as long as it is properly sealed and maintained on a yearly basis. However, the elements would eventually take their toll, and the maintenance required to avoid weathering and aging would make it unadvisable. Consider our tropical hardwood options of Teak, Ipe or Cumaru instead, these sustainably sourced tropical hardwoods are very weather resistant and durable for long term outdoor use. 

Is Maple Wood Eco-Friendly? Are Sugar Maple Trees Endangered?

Maple wood is an excellent choice for eco-friendliness. Not only are the trees plentiful, but those used by our artisans are frequently acquired locally and are always harvested sustainably. This means that shipping is minimized, the carbon imprint is limited, and our woods will be maintained for future generations.

Additionally, maple wood can be tinted to resemble other types of wood, such as mahogany. Unlike maple, mahogany harvesting contributes significantly to deforestation in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and is thus classified as "vulnerable." Much of the mahogany trade continues to be illegal today. Therefore, adopting something like maple that is native to the area and grows abundantly is a wiser decision for someone concerned about the environment.

What to Look for When Purchasing Maple Furniture

It's not always possible to find high-quality maple wood furniture, simply because some manufacturers take costs and/or do not use natural solid wood. When looking for maple wood furniture, keep the following in mind:

  • Authenticity: Is this maple wood genuine?
  • Craftsmanship: Is it of high quality?
  • Quality: Is there a lifetime warranty on the product's quality?
  • Eco-Friendliness: Is the wood sourced sustainably?

How to Care for Maple Wood Furniture

Care instructions for maple wood furniture are mostly determined by the sort of finish applied to the wood. Due to the tight grain of maple wood, it does not take oil finishes as well as other furniture hardwoods. Additionally, oil treatments cause maple to discolor slightly over time. As a result, maple furniture is frequently lacquered or varnished. These finishes are low-maintenance and, in most cases, maintenance-free.

Discover the many wood finishes we offer and how to care for them.

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