Maple is one of the most easily recognized and common hardwoods in use today. Maple itself has multiple subspecies that each retains their own special characteristics and traits. There are approximately one-hundred and twenty-eight subspecies of maple. Most maple subspecies are Asiatic trees, but there are several subspecies that grow in Europe, North Africa, and North America. Maple is a diverse tree with unique qualities that make it a desirable hardwood.
In North America, maple is a choice hardwood because the tree can be found naturally here and does not need to be imported. Maple is used in the manufacturing of many products including bowling pins, bowling alley lanes, butcher’s blocks, pool cues, baseball bats, hardwood flooring, many types of furniture, archery bows, large tables, art, etc. Maple is known for its decorative wood grain, rich textures, and mottled, rippled bark.
Ambrosia Maple slabs are beautiful cuts of lumber, much like Spalted Maple. What most people do not know about Ambrosia Maple is that it is actually not a specific subspecies of maple. It is a term used to describe a maple tree that has been infected by ambrosia beetles.
The ambrosia beetles bore into a maple tree and eat inwards towards the heartwood. As a result, a fungus grows in the bore openings, creating a unique, incredibly aesthetic discoloration in cuts of the wood. Ambrosia Maple is a decorative maple due to the structural weakening effect of the ambrosia beetle, and as a result, the wood is most commonly used in furniture, bowls, butcher’s blocks, art pieces, etc.
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Named after the large leaves that the tree naturally produces, Big Leaf Maple trees produce excellent wood for a variety of functions. Big Leaf Maple comes from the West Coast and is the most predominant commercial hardwood in that area. The tree is known for being on the softer side of maple hardwoods and is therefore used for furniture and art pieces more so than for flooring or load-bearing purposes.
Big Leaf Maple slabs can be made into turned objects like bowls, plates, musical instruments, and other specialty wood creations. The Big Leaf Maple produces wavy and fine, even grain patterns. The growth rings in the slabs are generally lighter and more uniform than in harder maples.
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Similar to the Ambrosia Maple, Curly Maple is not actually a subspecies of maple either, but rather a descriptive association to a type of maple grain. Curly Maple is a trait that occurs in soft maple trees, where ripples in the grain pattern create a three-dimensional effect in the individual slabs. It is called “Curly Maple” because the grain appears as though it has “curled” along the length of the board. The effect is highly desired and often sought out, making this wood a specialty wood for crafting violins, fiddles, guitars, artisan pieces, specialty furniture, tableware, etc.
Because Curly Maple is valued for its appearance more than anything else, prices for Curly Maple slabs vary based on the aesthetic quality of each, individual slab. Curly Maple is used almost exclusively for purposes where the curl patterns in the grain will be highly prominent. The slabs are a favorite amongst woodworkers, carvers, and artisans.
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Hard Maple is a general term used to define any maple slabs that meet certain criteria for hardness, density, and tensile strength. A trait that makes hard maple logs unique is that the sapwood of the log is more commonly used than the heartwood is. The sapwood of a hard maple log is usually white or an off-white cream, sometimes presenting a reddish hue or golden texture. Occasionally, hard maple cuts will have quilted or curly grain patterns, earning those slabs preference in woodworking, furniture making, artisan pieces, etc.
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Much like Ambrosia Maple and Curly Maple, Spalted Maple is not a subspecies of maple, but rather a specific description of any subspecies of maple that has begun a decay process but was then dried and processed to prevent further decay. When a log begins to decay, this creates a strong change in the grain of the wood, giving it a unique appearance. This is called “spalting” in both the sapwood and heartwood. This is the process of rot, where fungus attacks the wood and deteriorates it.
When partially decayed maple is selected at the right time, the spalting process can be halted before the wood inherits soft spots or rotten sections. Obtaining spalted maple is luck of the draw, as the quality and overall usability of the wood will depend entirely on when the maple log was found. However, when a spalted maple log is found just in the beginning stages of decay, it can create some of the most unique, beautiful slabs available.
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Wood Vendors has Multiple Varieties of Maple Slabs
At Wood Vendors, we carry hundreds of maple slabs of many subspecies and types. We specialize in varieties of maple and are happy to meet your custom order for maple pieces. Fill out our our online form or call our direct line at 1-877-983-6367 to get started on your walnut lumber selections.