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Hard maple sales show no signs of slowing

Lumber suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News say that even though hard maple is not selling as fast as cherry and walnut — the most popular sellers right now — it has produced a steady sales volume in the last five years.

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Perhaps the best attributes of hard maple (Acer saccharum) are its texture and clarity. Also known as sugar maple, rock maple, sweet maple and black maple, it is prevalent in the northern regions of the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

Jerry Anton, a wholesaler with O’Shea Lumber in Glen Rock, Pa., says sales have recently increased over 2011.

“Hard maple goes hand in hand with soft maple. If hard maple becomes used more and the demand is higher and the pricing goes up, then people will switch to soft maple because they are kind of interchangeable as far as how they look. But there are some applications where you want to stick with the hard maple. Soft maple’s a little versatile because it can be painted, but if [customers are] looking for a lighter color they’d select hard maple.”

Josh Furbish of Maine Coast Lumber in York, Maine, described hard maple sales as consistent.

“It’s pretty popular. Both furniture makers and cabinet builders use it quite a bit. Hard maple is very clear and guys really like that. It’s very stable. It’s tough to work with because it’s fairly dense, so it’s not the easiest cutting or sanding hardwood going, but the biggest thing we hear over and over again is the clarity. It’s just a good tree and a good clean wood,” says Furbish.

“We see just about every flavor of wood go out the door for custom woodworking — hickory, walnut, maple, birch — but there’s no trend with maple at the moment. A lot of months are cyclical. We’ll be ripping through one thing and then all of a sudden we just can’t keep it here. It’s not like that with hard maple. Sales are very consistent.”

“It’s been about the same over the last five years,” says John Sliney of Vienna Hardwoods in Vienna, Va. “It’s just steady. I never see any decline or increase in sales.”

Henry Troyer of Keim Lumber Co., in Charm, Ohio, says hard maple has always been a popular wood for butcher-block tops. “A lot of my customers like a lighter color on their tops, but some use it because it has a tight grain and it’s hard. But I’d say we use more in millwork as far as trim for houses, casing, baseboard and so forth,” says Troyer.

Retail prices for 4/4 FAS hard maple were quoted at $2.50 to $3.90/bf.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.

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