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Hard maple sales have seen better days

Hard maple’s popularity has waned, according to hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News who describe current demand as average at best.

Curly maple.

Rick Lang of Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood, N.H., says that during the last six months or so hard maple sales have been steady, but that means sluggish compared to what they used to be. He’s noticed an interesting relationship between the once-prevalent hardwood and how it plays on its own former underdog in soft maple.

“We can tell because we’re not replacing inventory very fast. I’m not sure why, but what has happened over the past 12 months is that soft maple has become more popular and I think has taken the demand away from hard maple. It used to be because of the price, but price has escalated to being more than hard maple,” says Lang, who adds that when he started in the industry in the 1970s soft maple was only regarded as a weed tree.

“Now manufacturers tend to find it easier to use soft maple from a manufacturing standpoint because it’s easier to work with than hard and it’s easier on cutting knives. There is also quite a trend towards paint-grade products like kitchen cabinets and the soft grade is more advantageous to use for the consumer because it accepts finishes better than hard maple, making it more economical.”

Jeffrey Levin of GL Veneer in Huntington Park, Calif., says his company is mostly involved with seeking unique West Coast hard-maple logs for custom veneers and live-edge slab tabletops. They have more character and figure to them than the homogenously colored East Coast hard-maple logs because they grow much faster, he says.

“Maple is not as in demand as it was five years ago, which was spurred by the office-furniture people. Walnut and white oak are the in-demand items in that arena, currently. The maples we work with contribute to our diversification program. We are logging very unique logs. West Coast maple is more quilted and figured,” Levin says.

Steve Jackel of West Coast Woods in Watsonville, Calif., says hard maple sales have been about the same for the last several years.

“We aren’t noticing any discernable change with hard maple sales. It seems to be a constant. It’s used mostly for cabinetry, face frames, cabinets and doors,” Jackel says. “Some people like it for its hardness and for its color. Hard maple is difficult to stain, but they are probably using clear finishes on it. We sell white maple, so we don’t really deal with paint-grade maples.”

Hard maple retails for about $5.40/bf, according to lumber dealers.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue.

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