Curly Maple

curly-mapleGeneral:  Curly Maple is not actually a species, but simply a description of a figure in the grain—it occurs most often in soft maple, but is also seen in hard maple. The curl is much more pronounce in soft maple than the hard variety.  In hard maple the curl is more slight and is often referred to as “figured.” Other names for this phenomenon are: tiger maple, fiddleback maple, (in reference to curly maple’s historic use for the backs and sides of violins), or flamed maple.  Most commercial lumber is harvested in the Northeast quadrant of the US.

Description:  In general maple sapwood is creamy white with a slight reddish brown tinge and the heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The amount of darker brown heartwood can vary significantly according to growing region. Both sapwood and heartwood can contain pith fleck. The wood has a close fine, uniform texture and is generally straight-grained, except in the case of “curly” maple.

Curly Maple gets its name from the ripples in the grain pattern that create a three dimensional effect that appears as if the grain has “curled” along the length of the board. This  grain pattern is most pronounced when the board is quartersawn, and the curls usually become much less pronounced or absent in flatsawn boards. Hence, on wide boards where the grain tends to be close to vertical (quartersawn) near the edges and horizontal (flatsawn) in the center, the curly pattern will be most evident on the edges of the board, with the figure diminishing in the center.  It is not completely clear what environmental conditions (if any) cause this phenomenon.

Workability:  Maple wood turns well, is harder to work than softer woods, and has high nail-holding ability. With care it machines well, turns well, glues satisfactorily, and can be stained to an outstanding finish. Polishes well and is suitable for enamel finishes and brown tones.  The “curly” effect adds some challenges that are not insurmountable but need to be addressed.  The interlocked grain must be tackled with sharp knives and blades to avoid tearout.

Common Uses:  Curly Maple is treasured for high-end furniture.  Other uses are paneling, ballroom and gymnasium floors, kitchen cabinets, worktops, table tops, butchers blocks, toys, kitchenware and millwork: stairs, handrails, mouldings, and doors.  Curly Maple is also highly desirable for veneer.

SRH Stock:

Thicknesses:  4/4″ in soft and hard maple.  8/4″ in hard maple only

Widths:  4″ to 10″

Lengths:  Mostly 8′ and 10′ with some shorts (<5′), occasionally 12′ available.

Surfacing:  Skip planed

Curly Maple Links:

The Wood Database