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Thread: Maple question?

  1. #1
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    Maple question?

    ok Frank Fusco prompted this question... i know that in my parts we have both soft and hard maple,, the soft maple is SOFT yet harder than pine. the HARD is hard and i mean real hard. yu can dent soft maple with thumb nail but you gonna break your nail on hard maple.. our hard maple is basically a sugar maple. so for you research types,, what species are rated as hard and what are soft...??? frank has alot arkansas maple and he says his is hard.. we have silver maple and its soft. so how do you distingush it in boards and tree form?
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
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  2. #2
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    Thanks for posting that Larry.
    If enneyone out there can identify the woods by looking at them, I'll mail a piece for classification.

  3. #3
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    Well I have done some research for you guys

    I have a book bought at Lee Valley written By Bruce Hoadley that helps with the identification and naming of wood. Hardwood as well as softwood.
    Here is a link if you are interested it’s a really great book to be able to identify wood when you have no bark, no leaves.

    Identifying Wood - Lee Valley Tools

    Anyway Larry according to the book the following are classified as hardwoods

    . All the wood below are part of the Acer family.(scientific name)

    Wood Type
    Specific Gravity
    Field Maple
    Unknown
    Bigleaf Maple
    .48
    Boxelder
    .46
    Black Maple
    .57
    Norway Maple
    Unknown
    Sycamore
    .56
    Red Maple
    .54
    Silver Maple
    .47
    Sugar Maple
    .63


    The next item that comes up of relevance is the aspect of specific gravity which it is said is related to the hardness of wood. The higher the specific gravity the harder the wood.

    So looking at the table above,( well there was one there in my original document) the Sugar Maple is definitely the harder of the two when you compare it to Silver Maple.

    There is no listing in the book of Arkansas Maple.

    The book has a method for determining the type of wood by cutting the wood across the grain and examining the end grain under a very strong magnifying glass. What you see is the early wood late wood structure that we normally see as annual rings. Between these rings of early and late wood are the cells and fibers. By looking closely at the pore structure (each wood has a different density and structure along with color and size of pore you can clearly determine the type of wood. One can see rays and pores and late wood and early wood lines. In maple the ray sizes are approximately the same diameter as the pores.
    Soft Maple has a grayish cast which will often distinguish it from the creamy white to light reddish brown of hard maple.

    Specific gravity for the hard maple group ranges from .57 thru .63

    Soft Maple group ranges from .46 thru .54
    The most common soft maple group is red other soft maples include silver maple and box elder. It does say there are many species within a group however some cannot be identified with certainty.
    Bigleaf Maple has heartwood that has a pinkish cast and slightly larger pores than sugar maple. Field Maple and Norway Maple are European and would both be classified as soft maples. Sycamore in England resembles hard maple.

    This whole thing gets more complicated if one dissects the wood lengthwise and looks at the rays under a microscope. Then you can definitely tell if its hard or soft maple by examining the rays in the cell and tube structure.

    Hope this helps you guys.

    You can also read some more info on this site:
    http://www.hardwoodinfo.com/species_...cies=softmaple

    The book I have has coloured pictures in of the cell structure which I have used to identify and actual species from before. Quite fun actually.
    All you need is loupe and a sliver of the end grain and good light.
    cheers

  4. #4
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    Hey Larry, In the general sense, deciduous trees are hardwoods and conifers are softwoods. Of course as Rob was so kind to point out hardness is relative. Another factor with hardness is the local where the trees grow. Guitar makers prefer swamp ash for electric guitar bodies because it has different properties than regular ash. I knew a guy who was looking for ash that grew in annually flooded woods for this reason. I know that certain areas of the country have a lot of silicates in the soil that are drawn up into the wood as the tree grows. I understand it is a pain to sawmill because it dulls the blades quickly.

    Hardness in maples is affected by the orientation to the sun. North facing maples (hillside) will have closer growth rings and is rather hard. Box Elder (acer negundo) is really soft and generally considered a pest except for us turners who know it can have awesome figure and color.(I had to add this little turning point for your enjoyment)

  5. #5
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    You can Tell Soft and hard maple just by :
    Color
    Weight
    Mineral Marks
    and grain
    If it can be Moulded I'll Mould It.
    I am a Profile Knife Grinder, Carbide service, Saw grinder, Moulder Operator in industry

  6. #6
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    I know in my area we have a lot of Silver leaf Maple and some red leaf both are soft maples. You can really tell the deferents between the two when you plane and machine the wood (red leaf works a lot better as it is a little harder) I have had some red leaf that was easy to mix up with Rock Hard Maple. I alway tried to get Red Leaf when I ordered and usually paid a little more for it but it was worth the extra cost.

    Jay

  7. #7
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    Mr Wizard, the Janka Scale please . . . http://mimi.com/mra/green/janka.pdf

    Or for those who don't like reading . . . (sorry, no soft maple listed)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    But wait, there's more:

    "Hard maple" is the common term for two species of maple trees: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and
    Black Maple (Acer nigrum). Hard maple is commonly used in the manufacture of flooring, furniture,
    cabinets, billiard cues, and other finished wood products. "Soft maple" is the common term for four
    species of maple trees: Silver maple (Acer saccharinum), Red maple (Acer rebrum), Boxelder (Acer
    negundo), and Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)."
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 03-13-2009 at 02:49 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Caughron View Post
    I know in my area we have a lot of Silver leaf Maple and some red leaf both are soft maples. You can really tell the deferents between the two when you plane and machine the wood (red leaf works a lot better as it is a little harder) I have had some red leaf that was easy to mix up with Rock Hard Maple. I alway tried to get Red Leaf when I ordered and usually paid a little more for it but it was worth the extra cost.

    Jay
    Jay, I'll bring a chunk next time I'm your way.
    Comparing with Rob's description, I see no grayish cast in the end grain. There might be some reddish coloration. A sanded piece does show nice figure and a certain chatoyance, even without being wet or finished. And, it is really hard-hard. I'm curious, but don't care that much, it is nice wood and great to work with.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    Jay, I'll bring a chunk next time I'm your way.
    Comparing with Rob's description, I see no grayish cast in the end grain. There might be some reddish coloration. A sanded piece does show nice figure and a certain chatoyance, even without being wet or finished. And, it is really hard-hard. I'm curious, but don't care that much, it is nice wood and great to work with.
    Sounds good Frank and look forward to another visit.
    Jay

  10. #10
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    Hey Frank, just had a thought here if you are near Larry or wish to mail a small piece of that wood to Larry, he can bring it with him when he comes over to my place and we can have a go at identifying it from the book I have. I dont have an electron microscope so there will be no pictures except of the two of us indulging in some malt drink of sorts while trying to figure it out.
    cheers

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