“What makes a rock maple table different from a regular maple table?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff began their investigation in the library’s woodworking books. We found a complete list of various woods with photographs and descriptions in The Complete Manual of Woodworking by Albert Jackson, David Dan and Simon Jennings, p. 26. There are two kinds of maple, hard and soft. Other names for hard maple are rock and sugar maple. The characteristics of this type of wood, besides hard, are heavy and straight-grained with fine texture. It is considered to be more difficult to work with than the soft maples. It is commonly used for furniture, musical instruments, flooring and other items.
Extending the search online we discovered some interesting information about rock maple on www.mckinnonfurniture.com. “. . . this species has been a favorite of furniture makers since early Colonial times . . . Hard maple is abrasion resistant and polishes to a smooth natural finish. As maple ages, the tone changes from a white to a golden hue. The aging process of maple is slower than cherry. This wood is extremely hard and is used for bowling alleys, gymnasium floors, flooring and millwork. Because it does not impart a taste or odor, it is the standard for cutting boards and butcher blocks.”
The blog, Lumberjocks.com has a discussion about the differences between these two types of maple. One contributor states that “The Janka hardness index is about 700 for soft maple and about 1400 for hard maple. That does not translate directly into strength. It really only indicates how much pressure is required to push a bee-bee into the wood.—Rich” Others in the discussion consider the soft maple to be a paint grade wood and prefer rock maple for cabinetry and furniture which will be stained or clear coated.
Our patron was curious about the Janka hardness index. TinyTimbers.com/janka.htm has a slightly different hardness index from the blog, rating hard/sugar maple at 1450 and soft/ambrosia maple at 950. The ratings are of “the side hardness measure of the force required to embed a .444 inch steel ball to half its diameter. This is one of the best measures of the ability of wood species to withstand denting and wear.” Because of this she felt that a rock maple table would better be able to withstand the wear and tear of daily use, and was worth the difference in cost.
For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, also visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page.