Whether they prefer the soft or hard variety, most woodworkers can relate to using one or both maple trees for their projects. Sales of both have been steady during the last year, according to suppliers who attribute its popularity mainly to its clarity and widespread availability.
“Maple sales have always been good. It’s definitely popular as far as cabinetry goes with both the hard and the soft. A lot of guys will buy the soft because they prefer it as a step up to poplar for paint-grade projects. Soft maple is also a pretty common choice for stained or clear work. Sales have been stable in both over the years and it’s easy to get. I can just make a phone call and place an order anytime.” says Josh Furbish of Maine Coast Lumber in York, Maine.
Maple trees grow mainly in the eastern U.S. and parts of Canada. Furbish says he’s commonly asked the difference between the two varieties. The species that are classified as soft maple (Acer rebrum) are red maple, silver maple and big leaf maple. Hard maple (Acer saccharum) is traditionally known as the sugar maple and is the denser of the two.
Steve Gebhart, owner of Steve’s Hardwoods, a retailer and wholesaler in Bucyrus, Ohio, says maple is generally selected by his customers who are making cabinets because of its light hue. He also sells a lot for cutting boards and countertops.
“Right now, hard maple sales are good. Soft maple sales are kind of slow, but it always comes back around. A couple of years ago hard maple was hot, then died off for cherry and then everyone wanted soft maple. Now hard is back in demand. The same thing happened with walnut where I couldn’t get rid of it four or five years ago and now everybody wants walnut,” says Gebhart.
This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue.