Sawing Curly Maple for Figure

      What's the best way to get value from curly maple logs? Sawmillers debate the topic. June 28, 2005

I was recently asked by my neighbor to mill some silver maple, and when I went to look at it I noticed that it was curley and that the entire bole even had ripples. I have paid extensive attention to quarter sawing and vertical grain, but Im not sure how to highlight the curly grain. Does anyone have any suggestions for cutting patterns? Should I use plain-sawn or quarter sawn? There are a couple of crotches, and I will cut them to pursue the crotchwood pattern. What about the clean straight logs? What cutting pattern should I use? Any help would be great.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
You will get the best results by quarter sawing however the log needs to be at least 16" small end to get 6" boards out of it.

From contributor J:
Im not sure that quarter sawing will gain any figure on maples. It will make the lumber more dimensionally stable of course, but it will not add to the amount of figure. Most curly maple that is commercially cut is flat-sawn to get the most yield from the log, as quarter-sawing does waste some.

From contributor L:
I agree that flat sawn is the most common way of processing curly maple. That is the way I saw it, and it is the way I have always seen it sold. I have found that the curl tends to dissipate as you go toward the heart.

From contributor K:
The primary logs are 27 inch in diameter and six feet in length (cut down by the highway workers). The tree was standing dead in a dry climate. There is some spalting and limited checking. The bark has slipped and the wood surface on the exterior of the log undulates like tiny ripples in a puddle. I'll take a sharp hand plane, and after a couple of cuts I'll plane a quarter-sawn and a through-sawn board section, and see where the pattern wants to be.

From contributor B:
You will find butt curl on as many as one out of five maples in my area. This figure is found in the first 1 to 4 feet of the butt log and will run out - this adds no commercial value to the log. A good curl log will have smaller ripples very close together and run up to the first branch and beyond and will be more striking when quarter-sawn.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor J:
It also depends on the type of figure. If you peel the bark and the bumps look like a quilt or pillowy clouds, it's quilted maple. For musical instruments, they like it face sawn 3" thick x 9-10" wide x 28" long. Most places that buy music blocks will have graders to grade the quality of the figure and pay accordingly. If the bumps are more in a line, like ripples in a pond, it is flame figure. They like it quarter sawn, same dimentions.

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