Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Red maple (Acer rubrum)

Common Name(s): Soft maple

Botanical Designation: Not a distinct species of maple. Soft maple is a commercial term meant to differentiate the wood of some types of maple from hard maple (Acer saccharum).

Distribution: Temperate regions of North America

Average Dried Weight: 30.2 to 38.0 lbs/ft3 (485 to 610 kg/m3) depending on species

Janka Hardness: 700 to 950 lbf (4,230 N) depending on species

Comments: Don’t be fooled by the name, most species of soft maple have a hardness and density near black walnut (Juglans nigra) or black cherry (Prunus serotina)—two highly regarded cabinet woods in North America. Soft is a relative term, and is only used to differentiate it from hard maple (Acer saccharum). For many applications, soft maple’s hardness is sufficient, and its reduced density generally means it’s easier to work with and machine than hard maple.

Exactly which species are sold under the soft maple umbrella will vary based on geography. See the species listing below for a better breakdown of what to expect. For a comparison of the physical properties of the different species, please see the complete article entitled: Differences Between Hard Maple and Soft Maple.

Maple species of North America

Soft maple species on the East coast (listed in order of commercial prevalence)

Soft maple species on the West coast:

Hard maple species (none occur on the West coast; listed in order of commercial prevalence)

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood.

Red maple (Acer rubrum)

 

Curly maple and walnut (turned)

Identification: Since soft maple is not a distinct species, the information below is for red maple (Acer rubrum) as an example of a typical soft maple species. See the article on Hardwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

Red maple (endgrain 10x)
Red maple (endgrain 10x)
Red maple (endgrain 1x)
Red maple (endgrain 1x)

Porosity: diffuse porous

Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples

Vessels: small to medium; moderately numerous to numerous

Parenchyma: banded (marginal)

Rays: narrow to medium, normal spacing

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Red maple is more or less indistinguishable from other soft maples such as striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), however, it can usually be separated from hard maple (A. saccharum)according to techniques in this article.

Notes: None.

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