There are approximately 200 species of maple worldwide. But sugar maple is the most abundant species of maple used for commercial purposes in the United States. It grows primarily in the Central to North Eastern United States and can be found as far south as Missouri and Tennessee. Sugar maple can grow in most types of soil, but it seems to flourish in moist, well drained landscapes between the 2500 to 4500 foot elevations.
Sugar maple is a fine, even textured wood that is sometimes referred to as hard or rock maple. Its color ranges from cream to pinkish-tan. It weighs 45 lbs/cu. ft. which classifies it as a heavy domestic hardwood. Its grain pattern is usually straight to wavy, but on rare occasions can have a desirable birdseye pattern. Maple is above average for hardness, strength, and stiffness. It is also well known for its high density, excellent toughness and shock resistance. Durability is not one of its strengths, so only indoor use is recommended.
Wood Species Index
Sugar maple usually machines well, but at times can be somewhat difficult to cut. It can have a dulling effect on blades and cutters. When this occurs, usually it will require more pressure to push the lumber, or cause burning. Using carbide blades and cutting at a slightly slower speed can usually solve these problems. It is not recommended for hand tool use due to its hard, dense characteristic. It also can be turned and carved without problems, as long as sharp tools are used. Maple ranks above average for bending strength and excellent for holding fasteners, but re-drilling is required. Gluing is usually no problem as long all-purpose PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue is used. But be careful not to over tighten the clamps. The fine, even texture of maple does not require filler, and makes it very suitable for achieving smooth glossy finishes. Stain blotching can be a problem, especially with darker stains. Blotching occurs when stains are absorbed unevenly into the wood. To prevent blotching, a shellac wash coat should be applied prior to staining.
Maple has a wide variety of uses. Some of these include: cabinets, musical instruments, tool handles, counter tops, cutting boards, butcher blocks, and pool cues. Its close grain pattern and high shock resist characteristics make maple very suitable for roller skating rinks, dance floors, basketball courts, and lanes for bowling alleys, as well as bowling pins. Birdseye maple is frequently sought after for high-end cabinets. Because of its unusual and interesting grain pattern, birdseye maple is more expensive than the typical maple grain patterns.