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Red maple Acer rubrum

It is easy to be fooled into thinking red, or soft, maple is exactly that, and many woodworkers mistakenly favor sugar, or hard, maple (A. saccharum). In reality soft maple is only slightly softer than hard maple, and it has a better color and a more interesting grain pattern. It is often known as red maple, named for the color of the leaves on what can be a big tree.


Type Temperate hardwood
Other names Soft maple, scarlet maple, swamp maple, water maple
Similar species Silver maple (A. saccharinum), bigleaf maple (A. macrophyllum)
Alternatives Red elm (Ulmus rubra)
Sources Eastern seaboard of North America
Color Pale brown or beige-cream, with slight pink or gray hues Texture Fine and even
Grain Straight, with some wave, but of consistent hardness
Hardness Medium-hard
Weight Medium (39 lb./cu. ft.) (620 kg/cu. m); the related species tend to be lighter.
Strength Moderate, but bends well
Seasoning and stability Slow but easy to season; little movement once dry.
Wastage Watch out for blue staining that can occur during seasoning, and there will be a few small knots and defects, but generally wastage should be low.
Range of board widths Very good
Range of board thicknesses Very good
Durability Poor

Plain-sawn faces often display marvelous wandering lines - reminiscent of the contours on a map. Quartersawn sides
have slightly wavy lines and a faint mottled effect from the medullary rays. Many special effects are available.

There is plenty of certified red maple available.

It is plentiful, and often unnecessarily disregarded because woodworkers assume it is softer than it is, which is a pity as the reddish hue is interesting and the lumber is easy to use. It is economical to use.

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Updated: 12/2017   copyright 2011 Rowecraft