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Difference between hard and soft maple?

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Forum topic by yellowtruck75 posted 07-06-2010 11:49 PM 8790 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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yellowtruck75

410 posts in 1720 days


07-06-2010 11:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: maple

What is the difference between hard and soft maple? I have some soft maple available to me and I am wondering if its the right type of wood to make a chair out of. What is the difference between using hard and soft maple when making furniture, especially rockers?


21 replies so far

View Jesse.R's profile

Jesse.R

50 posts in 1578 days


#1 posted 07-07-2010 12:00 AM

very little. as far as accual hardness goes there very close. hard is alittle harder and polishes to a slightly higher sheen. soft is alittle easier on blades. hard maple produces birds eye soft produces curly figure. generally soft has a more interesting grain patern where hard is more uniform. either will work for furniture about the same.

-- jesse

View mnguy's profile

mnguy

161 posts in 2051 days


#2 posted 07-07-2010 12:05 AM

A quick check of some online resources indicate the major differences in terms of furniture making are: – Hard maple is denser than soft, and therefore somewhat stronger, but not to a great degree – Soft maple has more color variation, even within a single board, and so is usually used for paint grade work or darker stained finishes.
In regards to specifics around rockers, I don’t know if there are differences in terms of bending, etc.

View huff's profile

huff

2804 posts in 1938 days


#3 posted 07-07-2010 01:21 AM

Color will be the biggest difference from my experience. Usually hard maple is lighter and more uniform in color and soft maple will have more mineral streaks etc. I use both all the time and really don’t see a big difference in strength or hardness. I’m sure there is, but not that big of a deal.

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14742 posts in 2329 days


#4 posted 07-07-2010 01:40 AM

There is a difference when making long skinny stocks for Kentucky rifles. Western Big Leaf is too soft for that.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View poroskywood's profile

poroskywood

614 posts in 2017 days


#5 posted 07-07-2010 01:52 AM

Also, Hard Maple is generally more expensive.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View richgreer's profile

richgreer

4524 posts in 1728 days


#6 posted 07-07-2010 02:04 AM

The Janka hardness index is about 700 for soft maple and about 1400 for hard maple. That does not translate directly into strength. It really only indicates how much pressure is required to push a bee-bee into the wood.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View yellowtruck75's profile

yellowtruck75

410 posts in 1720 days


#7 posted 07-07-2010 02:54 AM

I am looking to use soft maple to make anoth Maloof rocker, using soft male because it available to me for next to nothing. I will be finishing it with poly and oil so there will be no dark stains or paint involved. Thoughts on a final look with a natural finish?

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richgreer

4524 posts in 1728 days


#8 posted 07-07-2010 03:08 AM

My opinion FWIW – - A Maloof rocker is a lot of work. I’ve heard 100 hours but, since I have not made one myself (yet), I really don’t know other than to say it is a lot of work.

Why put that much work in and not get a true first class result? I think using soft maple would compromise the quality of the final product. Someone could make indentations into the wood with their fingernails.

Just my opinion.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View yellowtruck75's profile

yellowtruck75

410 posts in 1720 days


#9 posted 07-07-2010 03:26 AM

richgreer
never thought about the possibility of the dent in the wood.

as far as the work involved, I am finishing my first maloof right now and 3 rocker all together. They are alot of work but don’t be intimidated by them they are more a learning experience than anything and VERY worth the time and effort.

View Randy L. 's profile

Randy L.

19 posts in 1592 days


#10 posted 07-07-2010 05:35 AM

I don’t mean to hijack your thread… But I had a similiar question. I wanted to use maple to build my kitchen cabinets, as I wanted a very light colored wood. What would you folks recommend – hard or soft maple for kitchen cabinets?

Thanks!

-- Randy - Milton, WI

View poroskywood's profile

poroskywood

614 posts in 2017 days


#11 posted 07-07-2010 02:46 PM

Hard Maple is the industry standard for Maple cabinetry ie., Woodmode. Thats a white, clean and modern look. Soft would be less expensive… Rich has a great point about dents….. I’m sure Soft Maple would be fine and would probably create more of a rustic feel over time.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View uffitze's profile

uffitze

199 posts in 1608 days


#12 posted 07-07-2010 04:38 PM

If the wood is cheap or free, I wouldn’t be too concerned about using soft over hard maple. You will find that the soft is easier to work with. And, considering that it’s your first rocker, you’ll be able to live with a few small mistakes easier than if you were using expensive, highly figured hard maple. Maloof’s classic finish (BLO, poly, wax) will provide a penetrative finish that will help to deal with the small dings that you’ll get from things like the rivets on your Carrharts.

(And considering that I’ve seen folks using alder for kitchen cabinets, I wouldn’t be too concerned about using soft maple there either. IMHO, alder is too soft though.)

View rhett's profile

rhett

699 posts in 2320 days


#13 posted 07-07-2010 04:57 PM

Soft maple is paintgrade wood IMO. For cabinetry and furniture I prefer hard maple. It is best for clearcoats and stains.

Soft maple gets very blotchy when finished and I have found it to be very inconsistent from board to board as far as hardness. It also has a tendency to get stringy when you do edge work.

-- It's only wood.

View rtb's profile

rtb

1099 posts in 2366 days


#14 posted 07-08-2010 01:24 AM

Hard Maple aka rock maple is sugar maple. All of the various maples are lumped under soft maple. Lots of variations from type tp type and location where each is grown. Note that Sam Maloof pre fered walnut for his chairs which is not near as hard as ‘hard maple’

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14742 posts in 2329 days


#15 posted 07-08-2010 01:47 AM

I don’t think walnut is much harder than soft maple, is it?

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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