Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wood of the Week: Maple

When I was 5 years old, I moved from the western plains to New England. Trees were a new thing for me. I remember walking past yards in the early Spring & wondering why there were buckets hanging from the trees. The explanation was particularly absurd to me. They were "harvesting pancake syrup". It's hard for a child to accept the idea that syrup comes from trees and not from a magical talking woman shaped like a bottle. I've since shunned Mrs. Butterworth & now go for the real stuff.

The North American Sugar Maple (hard maple, rock maple) serves as mascot to the States of Vermont, New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin & the entire nation of Canada where its leaf flys proudly on flags and airplanes. The syrup derived from the maple sap is a fixture in the North American- flapjack, waffle, french toast-sweet breakfast. The wood harvested from the Maple tree is a staple of North American cabinetry & furniture making.

Maple is a hardwood. Grain patterns go from soft and straight to "birds eye", "fiddle back" and "curly" patterns. Maple wood is used for simple utilitarian things like butcher blocks and flooring because of its rugged durability. It is also used for high end furniture and instrument making because of its lush silky sheen. Everything from solid bowling pins to veneered harps utilize the strength and beauty of the wood. Maple has a mellow clean bouquet when being milled. It's an easy strong wood to use in joinery and woodturning. Maple wood is referred to as a tone wood because of its acoustic qualities, making it a favored wood among drum and guitar makers. On an early Spring morning, as the sap rushes up to make new leaves, you can almost hear the Maple tree sing as it works.



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