Mixing Rock Maple & Soft Maple

      Their colors will blend and match, if you're careful. October 1, 2005

Question
I am making a hundred lin. ft. of baseboard for a stain grade rock maple job. I needed one piece of base to be 16 feet long and neither of my suppliers had that length. My second supplier had some soft maple in 16 footers so I bought a board. This job is getting a yellowish colored stain and lacquer (satin). Has anybody ever mixed these two species and gotten them to look the same?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
I have Merrilatt natural maple in my kitchen and I made a matching towel cabinet with soft maple face frame and raised panel doors, then just used poly over it and nobody has yet to be able to see the difference. This is baseboard and odds are nobody will ever look at the floor to check for a perfect color match.



From contributor M:
I agree with Contributor J. I've mixed hard and soft maple for similar reasons as yours and its worked fine as long as you pay a little attention to the color. There’s enough variation in maple anyway that a little difference looks normal.


From the original questioner:
I had never bought any soft maple before and I was surprised that it looked so similar and is also fairly hard. I understand it is used quite a bit for paint grade?


From contributor T:
That's my standard wood for painted cabinets. It’s fairly easy to machine, close grained, and not stringy like poplar.


From contributor J:
If you have not worked with soft maple, especially with stain, realize that there is a broad spectrum in the color from piece to piece. Also, the density from hard to soft is different and will accept stain accordingly. Make sure you do story boards.


From contributor A:
To the original questioner: I'm surprised that you haven't had the experience of soft maple. We go through piles of it. One board will be absolutely white and the next half brown. We usually skip plane to 15/16" to get a good look at the color. The ugly we use for paint grade doors/face frames. The white stuff goes to dovetailed drawers. Like most people I've tried poplar for paint grade cabinets in the past. In my experience poplar sucks up paint like a sponge. It also doesn't machine well and is not stable enough for cabinet doors.


From the original questioner:
Contributor A - I knew that was coming the minute I posted as to never using it. I had seen a lot of mention of it since I began to visit these forums. I don’t know if it’s because I am on the west coast or what, but I think we all tend to use either what have been exposed to by our mentors or what is requested by cliental, or what we just stumble upon. Soft maple just never came up for me.

I have however worked: sycamore, pacific yew, black locust, claro walnut, western big leaf maple, Oregon white oak, Oregon ash, Oregon elm, Monterey cypress, Manzanita burl, Carpathian elm burl, olive ash burl, big leaf maple burl, and claro walnut burl. After seeing the boards of soft maple in the unit of 16 footers that were in the unit I selected my board from, I think I will try it the next time I do some paint grade work.



From contributor A:
To the original questioner: We cut our lumber in Connecticut. Our soft maple is cheap, but our cedar and redwood is very expensive. That's quite a diverse group of woods. Does primer stick well to Monterey cypress?


From contributor R:
Do any of you from the west coast use the local big leaf maple? The alder mill that I deal with runs it sometimes, and depending on the piece, it can match color with other maples.


From the original questioner:
I have a stack or two of big leaf maple. The kind I really like is the curly and it also puts on a nice fiddle back in select trees.


From contributor T:
To contributor R: I have a small bandmill and cut big leaf whenever I can get logs. It's nice wood. Contributor A - I understand western red alder is big back east.



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