MAPLE hard, soft... and sweet

Probably our most useful domestic hardwood, maple produces syrup for pancakes, school desks to scribble on ... and much more in between.

These qualities make it more valuable than heart- wood, which is uniform in color and runs from light reddish brown to dark brown.

Generally straight- grained with a consistent texture, maple also can have a bird's-eye or curly (also called fiddleback) pattern. Many woodworkers find the unique grain patterns of maple burl particularly appealing.

Soft maple, although similar in appearance to hard maple, produces lighter wood with more pronounced grain. Although not as tough, stiff, or heavy as hard maple, soft maple tends to resist warping and twisting better. Its color ranges from pale brown to almost white with brown streaks.

Working properties
Hard maple remains strong when ben;, absorbs shock well, works nicely with both power and hand tools, and resists wear. It also turns well and requires no filling before finishing. Hard maple takes a high polish and has substantial screw- holding power.
Soft maple works even more easily than hard maple. It glues, stains, and finishes well but doesn't take as high a polish as hard maple.

Uses in woodworking
Soft maple, used princi¬pally for lumber, paper pulp, and other industrial applications, continues to be suitable for cabinet frames, unseen parts of upholstered furnkure, and jigs and forms used in woodworking shops.
Hard maple applications include bowling alley sur¬faces, chopping blocks, piano frames, turnings, furniture (particularly figured-wood pieces), lad¬der rungs, rulers, tool handles, even clothes pins.

Cost and availability
Hard maple comes in average lengths of 6' to 12' and average widths of 6" to 10", while soft maple trees tend to produce somewhat wider boards. Both types are widely available and can be bought as lumber, veneer, and turning blocks. Maple is a rela-tively inexpensive hard¬wood, although bird's-eye, curly, and burl varieties can be expensive.