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Maple, Hard, Soft How do you really know?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, Dec 10, 2004.


  1. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    This has been bothering me. Is there a test?...t
     
  2. M_A_T_T

    M_A_T_T

    Mar 4, 2004
    Canada
    Western Maple is the softest, the hardest is Sugar Maple which is Rock Maple, and Eastern is in the middle, along with European, *I THINK*.

    Typically, Western more often goes quilted, while Rock is the one that goes birds-eye.

    For me, if there's no figuring to help, I just stand by the lumber rack for a few hours looking at every piece, trying to figure it out. Western is usually easy, has a silvery look and an amber heartwood, can also feel different. The harder Maples have a dark heartwood.

    Honestly, on the last neck I built, it was a Maple/Merbau/Maple/Merbau/Maple lamination, I know for sure the center strip was Rock, but I have a feeling the two outer strips were Eastern, which I've heard refered to as "Eastern Soft", though it didn't show ANY signs of being weak.
     
  3. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Hard or "rock" maple is a common name given to sugar maple. There are a bunch of other species of maple: sugar, silver, red, big leaf, box elder, sycamore maple, and the european maples.

    It's hard to say exactly how to recognize the different species. The most common ones you see on US lumber racks are big leaf, red (sold as "soft maple" around here), and sugar (sold as "hard maple'"). Maple is usually sold reginoally so it's probably relatively local if you see it on the racks.

    The big leaf is pretty soft and if it's quilted, it's probably big leaf. It's pacific northwest. It can be amber in tint but some of it is white.

    Hard maple has a brightness to it and is very fine grained. Once you've planed it, there is a noticable difference in it's sheen than soft or big leaf. It's obviously heavier than its counterparts. If it's bird's eye, it's probably hard maple. New england and southern canada is its range.

    Soft (red) maple has a dullness to it. It's generally pale white and often has mineral coloration including greys and sometimes a slight green tint. It's closer in texture and color to big leaf than hard maple. Its range is northern/eastern us. Most common curly maple east of the pacific northwest is red/soft maple.
     
  4. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    Is Tiger Maple considered hard or soft maple?
     
  5. andvari7

    andvari7

    Aug 28, 2004
    Ennui
    Soft, unless it's from Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple). You'll have to ask the dealer where it's from.
     
  6. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    Actually I'm thinking buying an old 10 year old furniture made out of maple and cutting it up to make a neck out of it. Would this be bad idea. Assuming I'll find a very straight piece made from rock maple.

    Cheers
     
  7. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I know the "Janka test" involves driving a 1/2" (I think) steel ball bearing into a piece of green and dry timber. That's how the Janka number is determined.
     
  8. M_A_T_T

    M_A_T_T

    Mar 4, 2004
    Canada
    "Tiger Maple" is just the type of figuring, like curly, flame, quilt, etc. It's actually another name for flamed maple. Personally, the softer maples flame the best.
     
  9. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    Which maple is harder, rock maple or Birdseye, assuming both were cut from the same area?
     
  10. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I'm almost 99% sure that both are the same hardness.
     
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    The birdseye figure does not significantly affect the material properties if the rock maple.
     
  12. M_A_T_T

    M_A_T_T

    Mar 4, 2004
    Canada
    Birdseye is a type of figuring, which appears in rock maple.
     
  13. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Note that bird's eye figure only shows properly on flatsawn surfaces. On quartered surfaces it will show as a ripple.

    It's hard to put into words how to tell the soft maples from hard. It takes having seen them both milled over and over I think. Regardless, though:

    1) you can make a good neck out of soft maple.
    2) why would you cut up a piece of furniture to make a neck when you can get the lumber in the rough (or S4S) and know what you are getting?

    I say leave the furniture alone (or restore it if it's not in good shape) and spring for the $20 that it would probably cost you to get 3 or 4 feet of maple.
     
  14. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    The only reason I wanted to use the furniture, is because the wood is 200 years old, and have been dried for that long. Of course I'm not thinking one piece neck form teh furniture, more like 5 or 7 piece so I'll use 200 year old rock maple from a maple rope bed, with laminates from Ipe or Hornbeam. Wouldn't that give me much warmer sounds because of the age? that's based on teh assumption that the maple rope bed was made from good quality rock maple.

    This the bed I'm taking about

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=3768552798&ssPageName=STRK:MEWA:IT

    Cheers
     
  15. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    200 year old furniture?! That's uber-antique! I say restore, or leave it as is and get that sucker appraised... FAST!
     
  16. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    "Step away from the bed with the chais saw sir" :rollno: :D
     
  17. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    Let go of my leg:scowl:

    Someone bid on it, so I must pass, I'm lookig to spend not more then $50, so I don't loose much, if it's crap.

    cheers
     
  18. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Warmoth has birdseye maple blanks for $48 and ordinary maple for $18.
     
  19. rubo

    rubo

    Aug 25, 2003
    but not 100 year old - right? :rollno:
     
  20. teej

    teej

    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Highly doubtful. It's the same stuff they use in their production, though. If I had to guess, I'd say it's at least 7 years old. You'll have to ask bwbass. He should know.