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Thread: Is soft maple soft?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Sterling Heights Michigan

    Is soft maple soft?

    Ok looking at different types of maple for the kitchen cabinets.
    Wow are there are quite a few.
    Is soft maple really soft?
    What maple do you suggest?
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    No, soft maple is not "soft"'s more of a designation of certain types of maple. It's "softer" than hard maple, but that would sometimes be splitting hairs. Much of the highly figured maple is also soft maple.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Quote Originally Posted by Greg McCallister View Post
    ...Is soft maple really soft?
    ...'s still pretty hard, just not as hard as "hard" maple, which is one of the tougher domestic woods you're likely to encounter. Soft maple is plenty strong enough for cabinets. Go for whatever one looks best to you or that you can get the best deal on.
    Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Hoschton, GA
    Greg, search the forum for "soft maple" and you'll find a few threads that talk about the differences. I usually search using google. Type "soft maple" in the google search box.

    I just recently had the same question and found those threads very useful. In particular, one post pointed me to the Janka Hardness scale which provides relative hardness comparisons amongst various types of wood. It was very enlighting to this newbie. Google "Janka Hardness Scale" and you'll find several useful charts and tables.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    Soft maple is an idea wood for painted cabinetry. It is quite a bit harder than poplar, not that much more expensive, and takes paint very well.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Fort Pierce, Florida
    If you are familiar with the Janka hardness scale, heres a few figures for comparison:
    Hard maple 1450
    Soft Maple 950
    Cherry 950
    Southern Yellow Pine 870

    So it's considerably softer than hard or sugar maple, about the same as cherry, but harder than the hardest pine (SYP).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Yellow Poplar is around 540 IIRC.
    Mesquite is around 2200!!
    Wood: a fickle medium....

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Stephenville, TX
    Greg, what's hard and what's soft? Roger mentioned the Janka Hardness scale. It's probably the best thing to use as a comparison. Here's a link for one:

    It gives an explanation of how the hardnesses are derived and lists a lot of wood species, and probably most of the commonly used ones. I don't think hard and soft maples are common names but loosely used categories. Also be aware that wood is a natural product and sometimes Mother Nature doesn't use a lot of quality control.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Greg [LEFT
    looking at different types of maple for the kitchen cabinets.
    Wow are there are quite a few.
    Is soft maple really soft?
    What maple do you suggest?
    I was going to say "about the same as cherry" until I read through all of the posts. I just got done using some for my drawer interiors (face is walnut) and it is wonderful to work with (the proverbial, not too soft, not too hard), closed grain, nice to finish/sand. It really is quite nice to work with.

    My dad and I had never used any (typically use poplar for our drawers) until we bought 500 bf of it (4/4 kiln dried) for around $400 last winter. It is so clear and nice, with reasonable dimensions (i.e., nice wide boards) that we barely waste any and have used up a fair bit of it at this point.



  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Padilla View Post
    Yellow Poplar is around 540 IIRC.
    Mesquite is around 2200!!
    Ipe = 3680!! Ouch. How's that saw feel now?
    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” -- George Orwell

    Money is simply the marker used as tools move thru the galaxy to their best-use destination. - Kent Bathurst

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Northfield, Mn
    I've used a paint grade soft maple for drawers a couple of times for people wanting a more rustic look to their drawers. It machines very nicely, sands up well and isn't hell on tools like maple is. I stopped selling maple drawers because it chewed up the dovetail bits so quickly and we spent so much time sanding. I use a birch that has alot of fleck in it now. Much cheaper than maple or clear birch, but a bit more than soft maple.

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