Wood Furniture: Differences Between Maple and Brown Maple

When it comes to wood furniture there is little doubt that real, hardwood furniture is one of the most sought-after types. Despite the furniture industry’s turn to mass-manufactured, cheap furniture consisting of particle board and other weak materials, there is still a huge audience of people wanting to invest in real hardwood furniture that will last for generations.

Aside from durability and strength, many love real wood furniture because of the look, which varies based on the wood species used. Within the world of hardwood for furniture making, maple remains a very common choice.



#Maple and Furniture Making

Maple is a type of hardwood that has been used extensively in woodwork of all types. It is especially popular in Amish made wood furniture design, but is ideal for any project where a fine grain and clean finish is desired. Maple naturally has a very fine grain that is fairly consistent. Despite it being one of the denser hardwood species it accept sanding very well, leaving an incredibly smooth finish. Maple is naturally a light-toned, warm wood, although it will easily accept staining or painting, common in Mission furniture.

Despite Maple being such a commonly seen material, many woodworkers are still unsure of the differences between the classic Maple and Brown Maple. While it may seem that these are two different species at first, the opposite is true. All the various types of Maple you see all come from the same Maple tree species (Acer Saccharum). The differences in names is just a way to categorize the individual appearance of the Maple lumber.

# Brown Maple Characteristics

Brown Maple is simply the heartwood of the tree, meaning it comes from the center of the tree. While Maple is a hardwood, there are both Hard Maples and Soft Maples. Brown Maple is considering soft, but only soft in comparison to Hard Maple. Regular Maple is harder than Brown Maple, but Brown Maple is harder than other woods like Cherry and Pine. In reference, regular Maple is harder than Walnut, Oak and some White Oak.

The exact hardness level of Brown Maple has variances, as do all woods, but is often likened to Cherry. For this reason Brown Maple is sometimes used in place of Cherry as it is less expensive  but just as, if not more, dense. With that in mind it also goes without saying that Brown Maple is darker in color than regular Maple.

Regular Maple is made from sapwood, which is lighter in color than heartwood, regardless of the tree species. Brown Maple is still lighter in shade than most other hardwoods, but can range from a creamy beige to a medium brown shade. Since it is already darker in tone than regular Maple, Brown Maple is ideal for uses where the furniture will be stained or painted dark.

# When to Choose Brown Maple

Deciding when to use Brown Maple over regular Maple comes down to two main factors – color requirements and strength requirements.

As mentioned earlier, Mission furniture is quite often a deep shade, sometimes even Onyx, and choosing Brown Maple will help achieve this look more easily. Since Brown Maple is exceptionally smooth like regular Maple it will accept heavier stains or take dark paints wonderfully as well. While you can use Brown Maple with basic finishing, some lumber of this type may have mineral streaking or unattractive grain. If a very consistent, clear look is wanted it would be best to stick with regular Maple, even if you have to stain it darker to get the look you want.

As far as strength goes, regular Maple or Hard Maple are stronger and denser. Brown Maple can really be used for any type of furniture project, but if the primary goal is strength regular Maple may be a better choice. Regular Maple is best for real wood countertops, butcher blocks, tables and other furniture where there will be repeated wear-and-tear and indentations could form. This is one reason why regular Maple is used in flooring while other softer Maples aren’t.

If the look of Brown Maple is desired but strength is a concern, it may be possible to use Brown Maple or Maple Heartwood hardwood plywood as a veneer. Since Brown Maple is slightly less dense it does make it easier to work with. You may choose Brown Maple over other Maples if the furniture project requires intricate detail work or shaping.

Maple is a beautiful wood species for any furniture project and Brown Maple is one of many specific types that can be used. While Brown Maple isn’t as strong, it is still an excellent long-lasting wood that works wonderfully for Mission or similar types of designs. Brown Maple offers an easier way of achieving a deep tone or a less expensive alternative to Cherry.