Maple Lumber – Wood FAQs & Supplier Information

Maple Wood Kitchen

Maple Wood Kitchen

Well known for its distinctive leaves and unmatched beauty, the maple tree produces some of the most common and versatile lumber milled today. The trees commonly referred to as “maples” are technically part of the Acer genus; the word Acer comes from a Latin word that means “sharp,” like the multiple points of the maple leaf. The many-pointed leaf of the sugar maple may be most familiar, since it functions as the emblem on the Canadian flag. Along with the rest of North America, Canada is home to many maple trees; almost all 129 species of the Acer genus are native to the Northern Hemisphere, and over 60% of maple lumber is manufactured in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes States.

Maple trees generally grow to heights ranging from 30-145 feet and have many distinctive characteristics. In addition to the flowers of the particularly beautiful red maple species, some maples produce a unique fruit called “samaras,” which can also be called “maple keys” or “whirlybirds.” In addition to providing ornamentation and shade, some maple trees are also popularly used in the art of bonsai; Japanese and other species of maples reach heights of only 2-3 feet tall and work well in response to leaf-reduction techniques. The pollen from the maple tree is so plentiful, that the continued existence of the honeybee depends heavily on maple trees. The sap that comes from sugar maples can be used to make maple syrup, as well as maple sugar, yummy maple cream and maple taffy.

The timber that comes from maple trees can be described as being either “hard” or “soft.” Hard maple, also called “rock maple,” comes from sugar maple trees and has a texture that is both consistent and fine. Its coloring includes reddish-brown sapwood and lighter reddish brown heartwood. Usually having a straight grain, hard maple with birdseye, curly, or fiddleback graining can be found for special projects, as well. Even though such decorative graining might not be apparent until the wood has been sawn, sometimes it can be detected in standing trees with rippled patterns in their bark.

Because of its unique durability, hard maple is commonly used to make equipment used in recreational sports: gymnasium floors, bowling alley lanes, bowling pins, pool cue shafts, and baseball bats. It is also used for flooring, cabinets, butcher’s blocks and various types of quality furniture. Since it is considered a tonewood, effectively carrying sound waves, maple is often used for pianos and other instruments including guitars, as well.

Unlike hard maple, soft maple is typically found in the eastern United States. The silver maple, red maple, and bigleaf maple are all similar to the sugar maple in their texture as well as their coloring. Instead of being heavy, hard, and strong, however, this wood is more suitable for railroad ties, boxes, pallets, crates, veneer, and more ornamental or lower-end furniture.

The maple tree has certainly earned a place among tree-lovers and wood-workers alike, and J. Gibson McIlvain, a leading importer and wholesaler of lumber, is second-to-none in its admiration of this celebrated wood.

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