Hard maple (Acer saccharum) sales are generally consistent with last year, according to suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News.
“Our hard maple sales are pretty steady. It’s not on fire and it’s not dead. There does seem to be a good supply of it. Bird’s-eye has been recessed for several years, though. It used to be a very hot item, but it’s not very strong now. But regular hard maple is doing well,” says Rick Hearne, owner of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, Pa.
Hearne says he was told by a retired sawyer from Lancaster County (Pa.) that during good economic times customers favor lighter woods and in tough times darker woods take preference.
“That observation definitely seems to hold true from what I’ve seen. In 2008, walnut was really popular and those were very difficult years for many. Over the past two years I’d have to say the lighter woods have been doing better. The wood spirit of the people has been light, so to speak,” says Hearne.
“Hard maple is a good dense hardwood with very tight grain. When you cut the wood, it doesn’t accumulate waste in pours and it’s very easy to wipe down, but you need to know how to read the grain. It will bend well and has a good spring to it, which is why it’s used in baseball bats. It also stains and dries well and produces a beautiful finish.”
Says Hilton Peel Jr., owner of the Hardwood Store of North Carolina in Gibbonsville, N.C. He says hard maple says have not returned to previous levels.
“The sales have slowed down from what they were a year ago. We’re coming out of the recession and people are being more conservative. They’re not putting a whole lot of money in stained cabinetry, but we are selling tons of poplar for painted projects. I suppose that might only be true for this particular area, but a painted project can cost just the same,” says Peel.
Peele says he’s sold about 7,000 bf of hard maple this year, down from the 10,000 bf sold in 2012.
“We recommend soft maple for anyone who’s going to stain it, but for people making tables of any kind they want something dense, which is the hard maple. They used to just like soft maple over the hard for the price, but the price of hard maple has dropped a lot. It’s pretty reasonable now and, at one point, was less than soft maple,” Peel adds.
“Sales have been constant on hard maple,” says Scott Roberts of Roberts Plywood in Deer Park, N.Y. “We haven’t seen any changes, except pricing is up slightly. Availability has been good. I’ve been pulling most out of the supply out of the Appalachian regions of New York and Pennsylvania, but some special customers want the super-white hard maple out of Wisconsin and Michigan,” says Roberts.
“Projects include everything from kitchens to furniture to doors and millwork. The instrument people want curly and bird’s-eye maple. I’ve also seen it used for store fixtures and corner displays.”
Nationally, retail prices for 4/4 FAS hard maple average $4.25/ bf for regular stock, $8/bf for quartersawn and $9 to $16/bf for bird’s-eye.
This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue.