Wisdom Behind The Wood #1: Hard Maple

Hello everyone! My name is Nolan Russell, the Operations Manager here at The Boardsmith. As a Certified Arborist, former Tree Care Professional, and all around tree nerd I wanted to share some of my knowledge about maple wood with you all.

The cutting board we sell the most often is the Carolina Cut End Grain Maple. Each one of those cutting boards is made from high quality hand selected cuts of hard maple. The scientific name of the hard maple tree is Acer saccharum, other common names used are rock maple or sugar maple. Distinctive traits are the large palmately lobed pointed leaves and the double samaras. Hard maple accounts for roughly 9% of U.S. timberland and is primarily grown in the Great Lakes region. Hard maple is also used for paper, wood products, and to make maple syrup by harvesting maple sugar. The sap of the tree is collected in early spring and evaporated or boiled into a syrup. It takes roughly 34 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of syrup.

Hard maple wood uses include cutting boards as it is hard and diffuse porous with very small pores. These small pores help to prevent moisture and food particles from penetrating inside the board. Hard maple is also the hardest of the woods we use to craft cutting boards. It registers 1450 on the janka scale, for comparison the average two by four at Home Depot is somewhere around 500 on the janka scale. The only difficulty in using hard maple is that it tends to be more prone to mineral spotting and streaking than other woods. While these small idiosyncrasies don't affect the functionality of the cutting board, aesthetically some people dislike the contrast it creates. Even with effective sorting and conscientious milling, it is impossible to eliminate all spotting and streaking. Another hard maple characteristic is that it also tends to be more sensitive to moisture exposure than black walnut and black cherry. For this reason, it is extra important to keep hard maple well-oiled to help fend off seasonal moisture changes.

Thank you for taking the time to read about maple wood! If you own a hard maple cutting board I hope you were able to learn a new fun fact to tell to your family and friends about your board. Next month come back and we'll learn a little bit about the black walnut tree aka Juglans nigra.