Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

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Common Name(s): Black Maple, Black Sugar Maple

Scientific Name: Acer nigrum

Distribution: Northeastern United States

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

Average Dried Weight: 40 lbs/ft3 (640 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .52, .64

Janka Hardness: 1,180 lbf (5,250 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 13,300 lbf/in2 (91.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,620,000 lbf/in2 (11.17 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,680 lbf/in2 (46.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 9.3%, Volumetric: 14.0%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Unlike most other hardwoods, the sapwood of Black 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 Maples, such as Black Maple, though it’s also found less frequently in other species. Black 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. The growth rings tend to be slightly darker and more distinct than in other species of Soft Maple.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable in regard to decay resistance.

Workability: Fairly easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though slightly more difficult than Soft Maple due to Black 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: Black 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: Black Maple is very closely related to Hard Maple, and some authors simply treat it as a subspecies of Acer saccharum. One way to tell the two trees apart is by the leaves: Black Maple will have three-lobed leaves with shallower notches between the lobes, (as shown below), while Hard (Sugar) Maple will have five-lobed leaves with slightly deeper notches. Also, as its name implies, mature bark on Black Maple trees tends to be dark gray or almost black.

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 available in lumber form. (Though, on average, Black Maple tends to be a bit lighter and softer than the closely related A. saccharum.) For more information, please see the article on the Differences Between Hard Maple and Soft Maple.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: There are currently no pictures of this exact wood species, but a similar species within the Acer genus is being substituted (Acer saccharum). If you’d like to contribute a wood sample of this specific species to be scanned, (even small pieces of veneer can be sent), please use the contact form.

Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

Black Maple (sanded)

Black Maple (sealed)

Black Maple (sealed)

Black Maple (endgrain)

Black Maple (endgrain)

Black Maple (endgrain 10x)

Black Maple (endgrain 10x)

Black Maple (leaf-illustrated)

Black Maple (leaf-illustrated)