Hard maple (Acer saccharum) is just like any other commodity in the world of domestic hardwoods, where popularity rises and falls depending on consumer interest. Lately, suppliers say they’ve seen an uptick in interest on the retail side, particularly with high-grade and figured stock.
“Sales have been stronger than ever before with hard maple and it means that designers and architects are looking for the premium look of hard maple, particularly because of its light color,” says Rick Hearne, owner of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, Pa.
“Hard maple is steady for us right now, but not on fire. For us it’s more of a retail item for cabinet shops that need 100 board feet to complete an order. It’s not one we specialize in as far as buying the logs and turning them into lumber. And of course an offshoot of hard maple is birds-eye maple, which we specialize in, and that has picked up over the past six months. People are using it for airplane interiors and musical instruments like guitar necks. For the last four or five years prior to that, birds-eye has been dead in the water for us.”
The natural growing range for hard maple is in the northern parts of the Eastern and Central U.S. and in southern parts of Canada. Suppliers interviewed say it’s readily available in the U.S. and also coming down in price.
Bruce Stevens of Highland Hardwoods, a retailer and wholesaler in Brentwood, N.H., says hard maples sales have been dwarfed by a demand for soft maple in the last couple of years and that has affected its pricing.
“Hard maple has always been about $20 more per board foot than soft maple, but the prices have been reduced from what they were six months ago because the demand is lower. But lowering the price hasn’t had a great influence on demand because soft maple is what’s in vogue right now, specifically because it’s easy to work with and paint,” Stevens says.
“There will always be a demand for naturally finished hard maple. Hard maple is also consistently brighter and whiter than soft maple. The soft has a yellower tinge to it, which people don’t want.”
Skip Kise of Good Hope Hardwoods in Landenberg, Pa., offers specialty hard maple, such as figured thick slabs.
“The 16/4 hard maple is impossible to keep in stock; there are only a select few people in the country doing it. And very good hard curly maple, like tiger, is also very hard to keep in stock because there are not as many good logs out there. I see steady sales for people making specialty things and custom furniture,” Kise says.
Retail prices for No. 1 common and better 4/4 hard maple were quoted at $4.50 to $4.80/bf. Bird’s-eye maple starts at about $5/bf and costs considerably more for highly figured and thick cuts.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.