Botanical name: Acer saccharum, A. nigrum
Common/commercial names: Sugar maple, black maple
Distribution & Availability
Eastern USA, principally Northeastern and Lake States. A cold weather tree favouring a more northerly climate. Widely available as lumber and veneer. The higher quality grades of lumber are available selected for white colour (sapwood), although this can limit availability. Figured maple (birdseye, curly, fiddleback) is generally only available in commercial volumes as veneer.
The sapwood is creamy white with a slight reddish brown tinge and the heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The amount of darker brown heartwood can vary significantly according to growing region. Both sapwood and heartwood can contain pith fleck. The wood has a close fine texture and is generally straight grained, but it can also occur as “curly”, “fiddleback”, and “birdseye” figure.
Physical & Mechanical Properties
The wood is hard and heavy with good strength properties, in particular its high resistance to abrasion and wear. It also has good steam bending properties.
Hard maple dries slowly with a large shrinkage, so it can be susceptible to movement in performance. Pre-boring is recommended when nailing and screwing. With care it machines well, turns well, glues satisfactorily, and can be stained and polished to an outstanding finish.
Rated as slightly or non-resistant to heartwood decay. The heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment, but the sapwood is permeable.
Flooring, furniture, panelling, kitchen cabinets, worktops and table tops, interior joinery: stairs, handrails, mouldings, and doors. The hard wearing properties and tight smooth grain make this species ideal for high traffic flooring applications, such as theatres, concert halls, gymnasiums and basketball courts.
The lighter coloured sapwood will tend to darken over time on exposure to UV light. Hard maple lumber is often sorted for the white (sapwood) colour, which the NHLA grading rules define as White maple or Sap maple. For more information, refer to AHEC’s publication The Illustrated Guide to American Hardwood Lumber Grades.