Making Big Leaf Maple Pop

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Forum topic by cdarney posted 578 days ago 1057 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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68 posts in 1657 days

578 days ago

I have very nice piece of Big leaf maple that I’m working into a project. Just throwing a little alcohol on to the wood shows amazing figure. I like to maximize the “pop” in the figure. Does anyone have sugguestions for maximizing the figure in this beautiful piece of wood?

I tried transtint dye with birdseye maple to enhance the figure but I don’t have much “spare” wood to work with for testing. I don’t want to darken the maple significantly but would like the maximize the figure.


9 replies so far

View jumbojack's profile


1176 posts in 1250 days

#1 posted 578 days ago

Tung oil will pretty much do what the alcohol did.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View NewEnglandsWoodWorks's profile


117 posts in 1227 days

#2 posted 578 days ago

Marc Spagnuolo made a video specifically about this. Just search on youtube pop goes the maple…

-- Brett

View shipwright's profile


4900 posts in 1424 days

#3 posted 578 days ago

It’s hard to beat shellac, particularly finished with a French polish.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees.

View bhog's profile


2069 posts in 1316 days

#4 posted 578 days ago

I really like dying figured big leaf,followed by shellac like shipwright suggested.

There are a couple things in my projects that are big leaf maple, all dyed followed by shellac.

-- I don't drive a Prius.

View MonteCristo's profile


2094 posts in 814 days

#5 posted 577 days ago

If it’s that good, I would skip the dye and use tung oil alone.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Ripthorn's profile


746 posts in 1611 days

#6 posted 577 days ago

In building my guitars I did quite a bit of testing to find what would best pop the figure while keeping it natural. Oils work well, as does shellac, but the absolute best product I found was actually a can of Krylon crystal clear in satin. It was all of $4 at walmart and beat out my oils and such. This guitar neck was finished that way:

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View cdarney's profile


68 posts in 1657 days

#7 posted 507 days ago

I ended up sanding the Big Leaf Maple down to 600 grit with Abra. I then used clear Watco Danish oil until the wood stopped taking it – which was quite a bit then sanded it lightly when very dry. When I attached it to the table top I was working on I sanded it the entire top and covered with sanding sealer shellac. The other wood was Cocobolo and it turned the maple a rather unattractive yellow. I sanded everything done to bare wood. After a couple of tries at this I learned NOT to contaminate the maple with the cocobolo! I wanted a harder top since it’s a coffee table so I used Arm-R-Seal on it. Turns out the Arm-R-Seal doesn’t like to dry on Cocobolo even when I used mineral spirits and acetone to clean the Cocobolo first. I cleaned it off and sanded again to wood. I finally brushed on several thick coats of sanding sealer shellac and wet-sanded down to 2000 grit.

Unfortunately the pictures can’t do it justice. The figure and chatoyance of the BL Maple is spectacular.

Thanks very much for all suggestions.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1420 posts in 987 days

#8 posted 505 days ago

Ripthorn has it right. Water white gloss acrylic lacquer will emphasize the grain just like the alcohol did without adding any color. Also, don’t sand beyond 220.

-- Clint Searl.............We deserve what we tolerate

View cdarney's profile


68 posts in 1657 days

#9 posted 505 days ago

I worked with several test pieces and found that the BL Maple looked better sanded further than 220. It’s a softer maple I guess. Using Tiger Maple (hard maple) on another project 200 was the max without losing figure. 180 grit was good as well.

I’ll try the acrylic the next time I work with figured maple.

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