Stapling Into Hard Wood

Hard Maple is tough to penetrate with staples. Fortunately, shorter staples will hold well in harder wood. August 6, 2010

We have a customer who makes upholstered furniture from alder. He used some inexpensive hard maple on a new frame project but complained that the staples won't take (after the parts have been cut). I suspect he can recalibrate his gun or use a different one to resolve the issue, but I'm not an authority on manufacturing. Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor M:
I got my start in the woodworking business building frames for my family's upholstered furniture company, and the standard was always 5/4 soft maple. Poplar was too soft, as I would think alder is, and hard maple is too hard. Lower grades of soft maple can be had for as cheap as it gets. Wormy brown maple in my area is pretty inexpensive, or any unselected #1 common for that matter.

From the original questioner:
In the future, I'll certainly steer customers away from hard maple for frame production. However, I would like to figure a way to use the maple that's already been cut. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

From contributor H:
My wife is an upholsterer. She has stapled into every kind of wood with no problem. Oak, ash, soft and hard maple, walnut, cherry, etc. His staples are probably too long, or his air pressure is too low, but probably a combo of both. Maybe he's using a T-50 hand stapler. If that's the case, he's out of luck.

From contributor P:
I have, in desperation, taken a fill of staples to a disk sander and sharpened the legs to more of a point, en masse. Tedious, for sure, but effective. And I would do that only after contributor H's suggestions were in place.

From contributor G:
We have been making furniture frames from alder for the last 26 years and it is the standard for upholstery frames in our market. We are now re-upholstering a sectional we built 20 years ago and the frame is as good as the day it was built. We glue and staple then dowel all joints.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Adding to contributor H's comments: Alder is much softer than hard maple but is close to soft maple. The density of wood is a good indicator of the ease of stapling. The power of a staple increases proportional to the length. However, the power increases much faster as the wood's density increases. So with hard maple, which is more dense than alder, you will get the same holding power from a staple about half as long.