Common Name(s): Soft maple
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.
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.