American soft maple

Acer rubrum, Acer saccharinum

General Description

In most respects the wood of soft maple is very similar to that of hard maple, although due to its widespread growth it may be more susceptible to regional colour variations. Generally the sapwood is greyish white, sometimes with darker coloured pith flecks, and the heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The wood is usually straight grained. The lumber is generally sold unselected for colour.

Other Common names

Red maple, silver maple

Distribution & Availability

Wide distribution throughout Eastern USA, however, Pacific coast/big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) grows exclusively in the Pacific Northwest. Availability is improving as demand increases in export markets.

Case Studies

Philip Koomen Trio

Philip Koomen Trio

Koomen’s trio in American soft maple shows off the natural characteristics of the timber.

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View Physical & Mechanical Properties

Physical & Mechanical Properties

Soft maple is about 25% less hard than hard maple, has medium bending and crushing strength, and is low in stiffness and shock resistance. It has good steam bending properties.

American soft maple - Physical & Mechanical Properties

Specific Gravity (12% M.C.):
Acer rubrum
0.54
Acer macrophyllum
0.48
Average Weight (12% M.C.):
Acer rubrum609 kg/m3
Acer macrophyllum545 kg/m3
Average Volume Shrinkage (Green to 6% M.C.):
Acer rubrum10.50%
Acer macrophyllum9.3%
Modulus of Rupture:
Acer rubrum92.393 MPa
Acer macrophyllum73.777 MPa
Modulus of Elasticity:
Acer rubrum11,308 MPa
Acer macrophyllum9,998 MPa
Compressive strength (parallel to grain):

Acer rubrum45.093 MPa
Acer macrophyllum41.025 MPa
Hardness:
Acer rubrum4225 N
Acer macrophyllum3780 N
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View Working Properties

Working Properties

Soft maple machines well and can be stained and polished to an excellent finish. It glues, screws, and nails satisfactorily. It dries slowly with minimal degrade and has good stability which means there is little movement in performance.

American soft maple - Working Properties

SawingExcellent
PlaningExcellent
DrillingGood
BoringExcellent
TurningGood
Carving
Good
Moulding
Good
Nailing
Good
Screwing
Good
Gluing
Good
Finishing
Excellent
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View Main Uses

Main Uses

Furniture, panelling, interior joinery, kitchen cabinets, mouldings, doors, musical instruments, and turning. Soft maple is often used as a substitute for hard maple or stained to resemble other species such as cherry. Its physical and working properties also make it a possible substitute for beech.

American soft maple - Main Uses

Doors
Flooring
Furniture
Joinery
Kitchen cabinets
Mouldings and
turnings
Veneered panels
Sports goods

Tool handles

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Other Information

Eastern soft maple: Typically red maple in the North and silver maple through the Midwest and Southern USA. It is essential to discuss this with your supplier, as they are very different in appearance. The red maple tends to resemble hard maple and is much more consistent in colour, while the silver maple has a wide range of colours and can have a slightly softer texture. Both species can produce a highly figured wormy variety which is sold WHND or Worm Holes No Defect. All soft maple varieties can be sorted for colour according to the NHLA specifications in The Illustrated Guide to American Hardwood Lumber Grades.

Pacific coast / big leaf maple: This Pacific Northwest species follows the grading guidelines for red alder. The main lumber grades are Select & Better, No.1 Common, and Frame. It is sold kiln-dried, surfaced, and graded from the better face with naturally occurring pin knots, which are not considered a defect. For best results, consult your supplier for the grade that will suit your needs.

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