Hard Maple Furniture
Hard maple furniture is hardworking, heavy and full of light-colored hues. A member of the maple family, hard maple is the strongest of the maple woods, going the distance in absorbing shock and offering resistance to abrasion and wear. Amidst all of hard maple’s strength there is beauty in its light colors and unique figures that appear in the wood grain.
Hard maple furniture is full of light colors,
It’s stronger and tougher than most of the others,
Growing in the sapwood of the sugar maple tree,
Pretty as a picture and as strong as can be.
What Will I See in Hard Maple Furniture?
While lots of hearty furniture woods come from the heartwood of various trees, hard maple turns the tables, developing in the sapwood, or outer rings of the maple tree. It is here that hard maple takes on its light shades that are creamy white hues with a bit of reddish brown. Some pith fleck (marking in the wood where insects made tiny tunnels) or mineral streaks may be found as well. It’s loved for its light colors, hardness and fine grain.
The heartwood (inner rings of the tree) is a light reddish brown to tan color. That is where Brown Maple is cut from. We also have a wood page on Brown Maple.
Hard Maple Wood Grain
Hard maple wood generally displays a straight closed grain with a fine uniform texture that may include waves, curls or “bird’s eye” figuring.
In some hard maple wood, small knots appear along the grain. The pattern they create is called bird’s eye since the pattern looks like small swirls with eyes. Another unique grain pattern that shows up in hard maple wood are burls, which are bunches of curls that grow into the side of the tree, usually due to some trauma or disease the tree experiences during growth.
Hard maple wood can be stained or painted and looks great in both. There can be a challenge with stain due to hard maple’s tight wood grain. Its light colors look attractive in just a natural stain with tung oil or linseed oil. The oils bring out any unique curls or waves in the grain.
Is Hard Maple Good for Furniture?
One thing you can count on with hard maple furniture is its strength. It’s a dense, durable, heavy, stiff and strong wood, with a Janka* hardness rating of 1450, making it one of the hardest domestic woods used in furniture making. It is harder than white oak with a hardness rating of 1360 and walnut wood that comes in at 1010.
Hard maple offers resistance to abrasion, indentation and wear and absorbs shock well, making it ideal for furniture that sees heavy use, like dining tables, dressers and butcher blocks.
Woodworkers like hard maple for its structural stability. It glues and carves well and is great for working on with machine and hand tools. Hard maple also has good steam bending properties. All these things contribute to making hard maple a leading wood for furniture.
*The Janka Rating is used to test the hardness of wood. The Janka test measures the force required to embed a 0.444” steel ball into the wood to half of the ball’s diameter.
What Else is Maple Wood Used For?
In addition to furniture, hard maple wood’s strength and abilities to absorb shock and take a beating make it popular for items like:
- pool cue shafts
- baseball bats
- bowling pins
- bowling alley lanes
- ballroom and gymnasium floors
- cutting boards
Hard maple is also a tonewood that can carry sound waves well. It’s used in musical instruments like violins, guitars and for drum shells.
Mapping Out Hard Maple Trees
There are over one hundred maple tree species. Hard maple lumber primarily comes from the the sugar maple tree and sometimes from the black maple tree. Hard maple is also referred to as rock maple, sweet maple and black maple.
A heavy concentration of sugar maple trees grows in the Great Lakes area. They can also be found in Vermont and parts of Canada. Some sugar maple trees can reach 120 feet high, but the average sugar maple tree grows somewhere between 70 to 115 feet tall, with trunks that will have a 2 to 3 foot diameter.
Sugar maple trees produce the best tasting maple syrup. Other maple trees contribute to syrup, but sugar maples have the highest sugar content in the sap, making sugar maple sap the best tasting of the maple species.
How to Care for Hard Maple Furniture
Hard maple furniture does not require any special care from other types of solid wood furniture. Please visit our Caring for Wood Furniture page for more information.