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Price changes lead customers to hard maple

Soft maple is catching up with hard maple in price, according to hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News. As a result, buyers are choosing hard maple.

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“Soft maple is slowing down a little because the price is going up, practically to where hard maple is,” says Bob Laurie of L.L. Johnson Lumber Mfg. Co. a retailer and wholesaler in Charlotte, Mich. “So soft maple has lost its price advantage.”

He adds that soft maple currently sells for about $.15/bf less than hard maple. The different was closer to $.30/bf earlier this year.

“Soft maple finishes easier, but hard maple holds up better, especially for countertops and butcher blocks. Either way, customers are looking for a clear, light grade.”

“There’s not as much of a price difference as there was years ago,” adds Chad Muterspaw of C.R. Muterspaw Lumber, a retailer in Xenia, Ohio. “The soft used to be a lot cheaper, but now there’s not much of a difference. Now, they’re so close, people just go with the hard just to have extra durability.”

Muterspaw says customers are looking for bright, white stock to accept stain and clear-coat finishes.

“We are also seeing people want ambrosia and spalted maple because they pick up interesting color variations which people only looked at as defects in the past. The ambrosia is typically soft, and the spalted and clear good white are typically hard.”

On the veneer side, Matt Gilland of Superior Veneer in New Albany, Ind., says hard white-maple sales have stayed strong throughout the summer.

“I don’t really see that changing,” Gilland says. “We have requests for both, but we sell more hard maple than soft. Customers want it as white as they can get it and they want it predominantly plain sliced for staining and clear coating.”

Nationally, 4/4 soft maple is selling for $3.25 to $3.70/bf, based on quantities of less than 100 bf, according to quotes received. Hard maple is selling for $3.40 to $4.40/bf.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.

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