Hard White Maple

Acer_saccharum_drawingHard Rock Maple (Acer Saccharum): Most mature Maple trees range from 70′ to 90′ in height and have (at breast height of 54″ above the ground) measuring from 2′ to 3′ diameter. Usually commercial Maple trees are harvested in shaded forest conditions, which develop clear, straight boles and narrow crowns. Larger trees may have dark brown heart.  At one time, Maple hardwood floors were an essential part of everyday American life. They covered the floors of huge factories, schools and post offices, among a myriad of other uses. For more about the history of Maple click here. Hardwood Maple flooring continued to be appealing and popular until inexpensive carpeting hit the market after World War II. The appeal of carpet was aided by inclusion in home loans, making it popular due to its affordability. Now, hardwood Maple flooring most notable application is for gyms and professional sports flooring. The flooring planks average width and length are contingent on the amount of heart allowed, but general rule of thumb for select flooring planks is 7” wide x 9’ long. To counter too much heart wood, mills often cut smaller logs which typically contain a higher portion of white sapwood.

Distribution: North America; New Brunswick across southern Quebec and Ontario to Minnesota and throughout the entire Northeast.

General Characteristics: The heartwood of maple ranges from a light reddish brown to a cream color while the sapwood tends to be a paler cream or white. Maple is a wide-ranging species, and as a result, the intensity of “whiteness” of the sapwood can vary. Hard Maple is a diffuse porous wood with the very small pores being the same diameter from the beginning to the end of the growth ring. The pores are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. The small pores coupled with the high density of the specie results in a very dense, hard surface, making Maple flooring  exceptionally shock resistant and resistant to wear. Because of its hardness, Maple was not preferred by most early cabinet makers using hand tools. With Heppner Hardwoods moulders equipped with helical cutter heads,  machining is not a problem.

Hardness/Janka: Rock Maple is 1450 on the Janka scale which is 12% harder than Red Oak

Grain: The grain of maple is quite closed and uniform with a medium figuring. Highly figured boards are rare but quite popular and may be grouped together for a premium.

Variations Within Species and Grades: Northern hard maple is densely grained with rich, consistent color and fewer imperfections than other hardwood species. However, it is more difficult to dry without discoloration. Special low temperature kiln schedules have been developed for “white maple.” The “bright whiteness” of the sapwood varies by geography. There is an occurrence of pith flecks and pockets.  They are not considered a defect in grading and tolerance or intolerance for them should discussed and considered with a Heppner Hardwoods flooring professional.

Customized Species and Grades: Hard maple is also unique in that it can develop two relatively common forms of figure. The first is Tiger or Fiddleback Maple and the other one is bird-eye. Both forms of figure are thought to be of genetic origins. In 1897, the industry saw the need to create a separate and stand alone standard for Maple; MFMA (Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association). With the creation of the association, a universal system of grading and dimensions was adopted by all members. Traditionally these standards relates to the strip flooring and sub-floor systems used for commercial applications, such as schools and gym flooring. Today, you have all the benefits of what the collective woodworking industry have learned in the past 100 years, plus.

Finishing Acer Saccharum: The small pores coupled with the high density of Maple results in a very dense, hard surface which takes a fine polish. Care must be exercised so that the wood is not over-sanded and thus difficult to stain.  It is especially important to give extra care during the sanding process, as this wood is extremely light in color. If care is not given finishing lines and sanding marks are likely to be more obviously visible in the finished product than other types of flooring. When used in a commercial setting, Maple will often be highly varnished to provide a glossy look to the flooring, as well as to protect the wood.

Distinctions: Hard or Rock Maple  beauty  shows well au naturel and usually fits in a contemporary setting, clean and simple, when ebonized, the volume really gets amped up, think baby grand piano. With a character grade,  distressing, pegging, flat sanding with Cajun corners and accentuating the natural occurring pith pockets as though they were wormholes, is a comfortable and informal option. Another look is using hard white Maple as a feature strip in a contrasting dark specie or dark finished floor.