Hard Maple (Acer saccharum)

Hard Maple (Acer saccharum)

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Common Name(s): Hard Maple, Sugar Maple, Rock Maple

Scientific Name: Acer saccharum

Distribution: Northeastern North America

Tree Size: 80-115 ft (25-35 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (705 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .56, .71

Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 15,800 lbf/in2 (109.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,830,000 lbf/in2 (12.62 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,830 lbf/in2 (54.0 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 9.9%, Volumetric: 14.7%, T/R Ratio: 2.1

Color/Appearance: Unlike most other hardwoods, the sapwood of Hard Maple lumber is most commonly used rather than its heartwood. Sapwood color ranges from nearly white, to an off-white cream color, sometimes with a reddish or golden hue. The heartwood tends to be a darker reddish brown. Birdseye Maple is a figure found most commonly in Hard Maple, though it’s also found less frequently in other species. Hard Maple can also be seen with curly or quilted grain patterns.

Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight, but may be wavy. Has a fine, even texture.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores that are uniformly spaced; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; tyloses or mineral deposits are absent; parenchyma marginal; both narrow and wide rays, spacing normal.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable, and susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Fairly easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though slightly more difficult than Soft Maple due to Hard Maple’s higher density. Maple has a tendency to burn when being machined with high-speed cutters such as in a router. Turns, glues, and finishes well, though blotches can occur when staining, and a pre-conditioner, gel stain, or toner may be necessary to get an even color.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Hard Maple, along with other maples in the Acer genus have been reported to cause skin irritation, runny nose, and asthma-like respiratory effects. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Should be moderately priced, though slightly more expensive than Soft Maple. Also, figured pieces such as birdseye, curl, or quilt are likely to be much more expensive.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Flooring (from basketball courts and dance-floors to bowling alleys and residential), veneer, paper (pulpwood), musical instruments, cutting boards, butcher blocks, workbenches, baseball bats, and other turned objects and specialty wood items.

Comments: In tree form, Hard Maple is usually referred to as Sugar Maple, and is the tree most often tapped for maple syrup. Sugar Maple’s leaves (pictured below) are the shape that most people associate with maple leaves; they typically have either 5 or 7 lobes, with vivid autumn coloring ranging from yellow to purplish red.

Hard Maple ought to be considered the king of the Acer genus. Its wood is stronger, stiffer, harder, and denser than all of the other species of Maple commercially available in lumber form. (It’s also the state tree in four different states in the US.) For more information, please see the article on the Differences Between Hard Maple and Soft Maple.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the wood sample (burl) of this wood species.

Hard Maple (sanded)

Hard Maple (sanded)

Hard Maple (sealed)

Hard Maple (sealed)

Hard Maple (endgrain)

Hard Maple (endgrain)

Hard Maple (endgrain 10x)

Hard Maple (endgrain 10x)

Hard Maple (burl)

Hard Maple (burl)

Hard Maple (full board scan)

Hard Maple (27″ x 6.8″)

  • Jean

    I purchased a hard rock maple dining room talbe about 20 years ago. It is time to refinish the table top. Any tips on how to do this & what products to use? Any help would be appreciated. thanks in advance.


  • Ned Milburn

    Hi Jean,

    I don’t know if you’ll read this response, but just in case…

    I am a guitar builder and have refinished guitar tops before. I also need to refinish a dining room table fairly soon. Rather than sanding which is messy (dusty – with finish dust that is likely more toxic to lungs than just wood dust), my tool of choice is a rectangular hand scraper (aka: cabinet scraper – Lee Valley carries sets of these). Skilled use of this tool means you can scrape once and begin to refinish, compared to sanding where you’d have to use a random orbit power sander (or similar) and start at rough paper down to fine paper, a time consuming process and very dusty since it sends so much dust airborne. Scraping doesn’t send much dust airborne at all.

    There are many fine commercial finishes, including newer water-based poly-urethene finishes, that have great chemical AND water resistance once cured. Oil based finishes, while more difficult to clean up and more toxic to work with (require powerful solvents for clean-up), may offer better resistance for your application. Drying will take a day to a week or more, full curing will take several months.

    It is likely best if you contact a local finishing supply shop and/or a local woodworker to get some more advice.

    Good luck!

    – Ned.

    • Keith

      Hi Ned, I’ve worked with a hardwax oil that is VOC-free, only takes 1 coat, has tons of colors, and only cures/dries to wood fibers. It’s called Rubio Monocoat. Looks pretty expensive off the bat but it only takes one coat and has a great spread rate. It’s easy to spot repair too which is really nice. Anyways, check it out.

  • Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable, and susceptible to insect attack.