Alternative to Maple?

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Forum topic by bringitonhome posted 02-28-2011 09:29 PM 4380 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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28 posts in 2350 days

02-28-2011 09:29 PM

Hi folks-
I was wondering if someone could recommend a substitute for hard maple. Looking for something lighter, and cheaper if possible. This is for some trim work. I’ve already done all of the “eye-level” trim (window and door casings) with maple, and dyed them a dark brown. Now that I’m doing the crown and base, I’d like to get something that’s a bit easier to work with, and that will be easier to hang on the ceiling. One of the doorways has a pine door which i dyed with the same product. It’s a pretty close match since it’s such a dark color, so I guess I could always use that if I have to.

Just wondering if there was a hardwood that has a less grain, and is closer to the white/creamy color of maple.


18 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


14837 posts in 2281 days

#1 posted 02-28-2011 09:37 PM


-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Dandog's profile


250 posts in 2049 days

#2 posted 02-28-2011 09:41 PM

Poplar is green some times but you can find some real white peaces or pine and use a little 50/50 bleach and water then clean it off after about 10 min with borax soap.

-- life an woodworking is one big experiment

View Bertha's profile


12982 posts in 1968 days

#3 posted 02-28-2011 09:46 PM

As above, poplar is my favorite working wood for mock-ups or hidden structural pieces. I’ve found some exceptionally clear and stable pieces at the big box stores. It machiines well & is very forgiving on hand tools. It’s quite a bit lighter than hard maple but it’s not “light” by any stretch. It will, of course, dent more easily than maple & a few pieces of mine have resisted even staining. There’s a chisel chest in my projects section that’s built entirely from cheap poplar from Lowe’s. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1283 posts in 3011 days

#4 posted 02-28-2011 09:47 PM

soft maple is a lot easier to work than hard maple. It is still hard and will hold up to abuse.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View superstretch's profile


1530 posts in 1968 days

#5 posted 02-28-2011 10:14 PM

+1 for poplar. Just watch out for the green stuff.. it does some funky things when staining or whatever else you might have in mind

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View bringitonhome's profile


28 posts in 2350 days

#6 posted 02-28-2011 11:02 PM

Hm. I’ve never seen poplar that was anything but bright green. Will look into it.

View HokieMojo's profile


2103 posts in 3003 days

#7 posted 02-28-2011 11:09 PM

I had poplar plywood that was almost as white as my holly. If you apply an oil based stain, it will turn quite yellow so if you want to preserve the color, go with a water based finish.

View pete79's profile


154 posts in 2415 days

#8 posted 02-28-2011 11:17 PM

I’d vote for birch as well. There’s a toybox in my projects section made out of solid birch and birch ply – some is stained, some is not.

-- Life is a one lap race.

View Ollie's profile


146 posts in 2549 days

#9 posted 03-01-2011 12:02 AM

Sycamore is great, sometimes you can find it with tiger, or ripple effect just like maple but a bit whiter.

-- Ollie, UK.

View Earlextech's profile


1154 posts in 1965 days

#10 posted 03-01-2011 12:02 AM

Soft maple or birch!

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Brrman's profile


60 posts in 1947 days

#11 posted 03-01-2011 12:15 AM

The green poplar usually turns brown/yellow over time.

I would suggest birch as well.

-- "Being a perfectionist does not make one perfect..."

View bringitonhome's profile


28 posts in 2350 days

#12 posted 03-01-2011 12:43 AM

Ok, I found this list –
seems that birch is almost as heavy as maple.

So i guess it breaks down like this:

Maple: Heavy, Expensive, The real deal
Birch: Heavy, cheap(?), looks very much like maple
Poplar: Light, moderately cheap, looks sorta like maple
Pine: very light, cheap, looks the least like maple

View reberly's profile


191 posts in 1964 days

#13 posted 03-01-2011 02:18 AM

I would recommend red maple. Cheaper as a “soft maple” but just as white.

-- "Big Timber is our Legacy" ,

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

325 posts in 2194 days

#14 posted 03-01-2011 02:22 AM

Maple and birch are the same price around here. But if you can get birch cheaper, it behaves much the same as maple and may be the most similar you can find without going more expensive. I also have some grey elm that I can hardly tell from maple but that’s more expensive around here.

-- Scroll saw patterns @

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2261 days

#15 posted 03-01-2011 02:33 AM

I would just use pine… I did that in my house a few years ago and with the staining it looked just like some of the other hardwoods that were also stained dark. I’ve found it’s also pretty easy to manipulate to match a colour… and it’s pretty inexpensive.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

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