Birch vs Maple

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Forum topic by Mark posted 03-11-2012 01:57 AM 41135 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1807 posts in 3267 days

03-11-2012 01:57 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

okay everyone. my question plain and simply is what are the differences between the two? They both look the same to me. What are the pros and cons about the diffences? Just wondering.

-- M.K.

16 replies so far

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3334 days

#1 posted 03-11-2012 02:11 AM

birch is good for canoes
maple is good for bowling lanes

both can be machined for pancakes

but only maple is good on them

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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7836 posts in 3296 days

#2 posted 03-11-2012 02:17 AM

add enough sugar david and they both work…lol….sorry mark, well this subject is longer then what we have time for right now, but i would suggest you google them both and it will tell you all you want to know about each species…there are so many varieties of maple that out do birch…but dont get me wrong, there are some birch that are just down right beautiful…they are both a hardwood , yes…but… this is where you google them and read…enjoy…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

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3902 posts in 3690 days

#3 posted 03-11-2012 03:15 AM

Big difference Mark.
1st you have white birch and yellow birch.
White birch is soft and very easy to work.
Yellow birch is a little softer than maple.
I have used all three.
White birch for floors is a no no.
Yellow birch is good for floors but maple is harder.
I made two bedroom set one with white birch and one with maple and they are completly of different color.

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96 posts in 2584 days

#4 posted 03-11-2012 03:33 AM

we need a mohs hardness scale for wood…...

View ShaneA's profile


6928 posts in 2591 days

#5 posted 03-11-2012 03:35 AM

Birch seems to have more color variation. Birch also seems more prone to warping. One of the guys where I buy lumber from joked one time “that you better nail birch down, because it will walk off on you”, it is kinda true. Has a mind of its own. The “figure” of birch is also different than maple. Maple is more like tiger stipes, birch is wavy or ribbony. I like to use birch, relatively low cost (near red oak) but way more interesting, to me, at least.

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18265 posts in 3669 days

#6 posted 03-11-2012 05:18 AM

Curly maple is the most beautiful wood in the world ;-))

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

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3058 days

#7 posted 03-11-2012 11:59 AM

Don’t know if this will help or not.

Maple comes in two varieties: hard and soft. Both varieties are harder than many other woods; hard maple is so hard (a 5 on a scale of 1 to 5) that it’s difficult to work with. Soft maple, on the other hand, is relatively easy to work with. Because of their fine, straight grain, both varieties are more stable than many other woods. They also tend to be less expensive than other hardwoods. You won’t find maple at your local home center, but most lumberyards have a good selection of it.

Birch comes in two varieties: yellow and white. Yellow birch is a pale yellow-to-white wood with reddish-brown heartwood, whereas white birch has a whiter color that resembles maple. Both types of birch have a hardness of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. Birch is readily available and less expensive than many other hardwoods. You can find birch at many home centers, although the selection is better at a lumberyard.
Birch is stable and easy to work with. However, it’s hard to stain because it can get blotchy, so you might prefer to paint anything that you make with birch.

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View WDHLT15's profile


1738 posts in 2469 days

#8 posted 03-11-2012 12:50 PM

The pore structure for both birch and maple is very similar. The wood is diffuse porous which means that there is generally one pore size and they are evenly spaced over the growth ring during the year. This is unlike ring porous hardwoods like oak and ash where there are very large pores in the spring and then smaller pores later in the year that provide a very distinct annual ring that produces a strong grain because of the two pore sizes. Also the medullary rays that move from the pith out to the bark are about the same size in maple and birch, so the ray fleck on the quarter sawn boards is very similar.

They are the way they are because of the type and arrangement of the pores. They are called vessel elements in hardwood.

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

View ChuckV's profile


3118 posts in 3520 days

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

Here are some quotes taken from How to Build Shaker Furniture by Thos. Moser.
  • Yellow Birch
    One of the cabinet woods most widely used by the early American builder was yellow birch. It is quite hard, has machining properties similar to cherry, is extremely strong and commonly available in lumber yards across the country.
  • Rock Maple
    Rock maple, also called sugar maple or hard maple, is not to be confused with the softer red or swamp maple. Being very hard and close-grained, it polishes better than any other. Maple is not an easy wood to work with. Since few people can tell the difference between maple and yellow birch, and since birch is easier to work and more readily available, for general applications the use of yellow birch is advised.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3267 days

#10 posted 03-11-2012 09:43 PM

wow…thanks alot eeryone….i didn’t think i’d get that much detail in return. I never really get a chance to work with birch so I was just kinda wondering the odds between the two. I LOVE maple. I’ve worked with birch on a very minute project and I found it splinters alot and splits. Didnt really like birch.

-- M.K.

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12 posts in 1488 days

#11 posted 04-30-2014 11:58 PM

I’m confused right now because I’ve been working with what I thought was maple stock for a long time (mostly 1.5” cubes), now I’ve gotten another supplier that sent me what he insists is birch, and it is exactly what I’ve been working with, so i don’t know whether I’m wrong or he is. I have worked with both in the past, and I was pretty sure I could eyeball which was which. With this block size at least, what I’ve always thought was maple seems to splinter more readily on the edge, but is denser, so it takes more effort when sanding to put a good bevel on it, and it doesn’t “sink” when you put pressure from the side… whereas the birch was a little softer, it would dent with pressure from the side, and it wouldn’t take near as much sanding to get the same bevel. The birch also seems to have dark speckles in the grain more often, whereas the maple didn’t. I’m wondering if I had it backwards all this time…

View Woodknack's profile


11600 posts in 2373 days

#12 posted 05-01-2014 03:06 AM

hard maple is so hard (a 5 on a scale of 1 to 5)

Hard maple isn’t even the hardest US domestic lumber. On a scale of 1 to 5, it’s a 2 at best (closer to 1.5).

-- Rick M,

View LiveEdge's profile


582 posts in 1613 days

#13 posted 05-01-2014 04:41 PM

I think instead of using arbitrary scales it’s best to refer to the janka scale of hardness.

Paper Birch 910
Yellow Birch 1260
Red Maple 950
Big Leaf Maple 850
Hard Maple 1450

I think maple is one of the hardest common domestic lumbers, (I can only think of hickory as being harder) but it’s true that exotics can get much harder with species like Cumaru and Ipe being up in the 3500 range.

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5111 posts in 1714 days

#14 posted 05-01-2014 04:59 PM

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11600 posts in 2373 days

#15 posted 05-01-2014 08:40 PM

Locust, hickory, mulberry, osage orange, pecan, live oak, pear; there are quite a few domestics harder than maple.

-- Rick M,

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

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