Figured Maple is one of the most coveted types of wood. They might not be cheap, but their beautiful, unique designs will be a statement piece you can keep in your family for generations. Figure is created by nature, whether it be a fungus, beetle, or harsh environmental factors. These factors make it difficult for humans to replicate and a coveted piece of wood among woodworkers. All figured wood is unique in its own way. We will cover some of the most common types of figured maple: spalted, curly, Birdseye, quilted, and Ambrosia.
Spalted Maple is a very unique form of figure. While we don’t know exactly how figure is formed in wood, we do know how spalting occurs. White rot fungi is how spalting is formed. When a tree is cut down and becomes damp the fungus takes over. If left the fungus will completely decay the tree, but if found at just the right moment you will have beautiful figured wood
The color can vary from brown, white, black, gray and even pink. Spalted Maple appears like someone took a marker and drew irregular lines over the wood. It is rare to find spalted Maple and even rarer to find sturdy spalted Maple wood. It helps to apply epoxy resin to help the integrity of the wood.
Curly Maple is another popular figured wood. It has many other names and designs that fall under the curl category: tiger, flamed, fiddleback, and striped. The pattern appears exactly how it sounds: curly and wavy. The colors are cream colored or white, just like a classic maple tree.
It is somewhat rare, but there are sources who believe that curly maple is genetic. Therefore, if you find one tree with curly figure any other maple trees standing nearby might also have curly figure.
Though Fiddleback Maple may have first gotten its name due to the manufacturing of fiddles, you will find all kinds of curly Maple in furniture, stringed instruments and much more.
Birdseye Maple is similar to Curly Maple in that the coloring is cream or white. However, it has a unique pattern that resembles the eye of a bird. If you find a Maple tree with small, round knots in the tree, then you might have stumbled upon a Birdseye figure.
What causes Birdseye figure? That is still up for debate. Some say it is when the tree begins developing new branches, but something stops the growth. This leaves behind small knots. These are very rare to find, only 1% of Maple trees will have Birdseye figure.
Another rare figure is Quilted Maple. It is the most expensive Maple figure on the market due to its beautiful markings. It has many other names such as bubble wrap, sausage, watered, and angle step. The pattern is wavy and the colors are that of the classic maple: cream or white.
Quilted Maple is found in softwood Maples like the Western Big Leaf Maple and occasionally hardwood maples. In order to get the quilted look the wood must be flat sawn, which also makes for a less durable wood. Therefore, it is not often found in furniture, but musical instruments.
Ambrosia Maple, also known as wormy maple, has the appearance of brown, worm like patterns throughout green and blue areas in the wood. This is caused by the Ambrosia beetle. These beetles prefer the wood of Red and Sugar Maples, but will eat other trees as well. They burrow into the tree looking for a nest. As they walk, a fungus is left behind from their legs. Tree sap carries this fungus throughout the tree. This leaves brown and even green and blue markings throughout the grain.
This might damage the tree, but it is still strong enough to be used in furniture, wood veneers, and flooring. Typically the wood is kiln dried to make certain all beetles and eggs are killed.
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