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Forum topic by kkaiser posted 01-11-2012 07:28 AM 984 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 1964 days

01-11-2012 07:28 AM

Could someone please explain the difference between hard maple and soft maple.
do they finish like the birdseye and tiger. I know they don’t have the same features.

Can they be used for the same types of projects?

Thanks for the help

8 replies so far

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


930 posts in 1772 days

#1 posted 01-11-2012 07:32 AM


One is really hard, the other is soft. They can look alot alike, it’s just the density.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View a1Jim's profile


115166 posts in 2994 days

#2 posted 01-11-2012 08:14 AM

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5032 posts in 3310 days

#3 posted 01-11-2012 08:50 AM

Without getting too detailed and as a rule knowing there are exceptions.

Hard Maple is more dense/heavy and lighter in colour then Soft Maple. Make no mistake in that despite the name “Soft” it is anything but. Soft Maple has a more greyish tone and a softer feel to the shavings. Both age to a honey coloured patina.

Whatever you use, I would stay away from mixing the specie as they take stain differently so unless you are good at using toners, dyes, NGR etc…… can look ghastly when mixed.

The maples that grew near me, the hard maples had smaller leaves with a heavier bark, mottled where as the soft maples had a much smoother bark, larger leaves and the leaves fingers were longer. Also, the keys that seed and fall from the tree on hard maples are much smaller then the keys from the soft maple.

When purchasing hard maple of grades “Select and Better” the consistency of colour and grain is better then the soft maples.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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1562 posts in 1893 days

#4 posted 01-11-2012 02:06 PM

Soft maple, red maple in this case, Acer rubrun, has a density between cherry and black walnut. It is a fine wood in my opinion. As was stated, it is “softer” than “hard” maple, but it is not soft in the context of comparative woods like walnut and cherry.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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22669 posts in 2283 days

#5 posted 01-11-2012 02:12 PM

I love soft maple; We always have a plentiful supply here at the plant and I use it a lot.


-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View NiteWalker's profile


2735 posts in 1994 days

#6 posted 01-11-2012 03:56 PM

I love soft maple. I use it on all my paint grade projects. I could use poplar, but it’s too soft for my preference. Soft maple is up there with cherry and walnut, which is pretty hard and doesn’t dent easily. It’s also not as hard on tool edges.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

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1459 posts in 2903 days

#7 posted 01-11-2012 04:35 PM

Here in New England, there’s many kinds but we break it down to 3 hardnesses.

Hard Maple or what we call Rock Maple or Suger maple grows up in the higher elevations tends to grow very slowly and produces the best sugar content for making maple syrup. It is very hard, so hard when its dried for firewood that when you bang 2 together it almost has a metalic sound. It tends to be more of a cream color and It is the wood most often associated with Birds eye Maple. Rock maple tends to turn brown when rotting.

Soft Maple or swamp maple tends to grow in the low lands or swamps and grows much faster has a higher moisture content to it. Has a much lower sugar content and it is white in color, Its the wood most commonly found that spalts also tends to rot fairly quickly. Usually Tiger or Striped boards are soft maple

*Moose Maple (Called this as the moose will eat the bark off it in the winter). Is very soft and is more closer to Poplar than Maple, except that it is white in color. This wood usually dosen’t make it into lumber and is turned into pulp to make paper. I’ve had some milled and makes a fine wood for trim its just not worth it for the loggers.

Its not wise to mix and match the 2 as they take a finish differently.

-- Doug...

View StumpyNubs's profile


6830 posts in 2217 days

#8 posted 01-11-2012 04:41 PM

Soft maple tends to have more figure and often can display a rainbow of color. I have piles of soft maple and LOVE it!

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