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TIGER AND CURLY MAPLE

Wide Prime Tiger maple board

     Tiger, curly or figured maple is an aberration that occurs in all the species of maple on an irregular and unpredictable basis, and changes a good, utilitarian hardwood into one of our true domestic exotics. The best description I can come up with is that the growth of the wood fibers is distorted to produce various types of figure that are independent of the wood grain itself. I have heard many explanations as to why the lumber distorts to such a beautiful form.  Collectively the maples probably have the greatest variety of figure of any domestic hardwood. You hear names like flame, quilt, blister, birds eye, tiger stripe, curly and fiddleback, to name a few of the more common terms, and they all attempt to describe in a very unscientific and non-standardized way what is happening in a particular piece of wood.

 

     We primarily carry tiger maple that comes from the red maple trees that are native to our locale. Red maple is part of the soft maple family, which is soft only in relation to the harder sugar maple tree, and is similar in density to cherry. It also helps that the percentage of red maple that has figure is higher than any other maple species, as it is difficult to come up with any quantity of figured wood. The term tiger is used to describe the type of figure that has stripes running prominently perpendicular to the grain of the wood, vaguely resembling the coat of a tiger. This is one of the most popular and available types of figure, used in furniture, architectural millwork, toys, musical instruments and the like. The contrast in the figure is very good, and finishing actually helps to bring out and accentuate the figure. The striping can range from as fine as 1/16" to curls as broad as ½"+, but the bulk of our stock has a curl width from 3/16" to 3/8". We also carry some figured hard maple, which tends to have a more broken curl, and bird's eye maple as we can find material with strong figure.   

    

  Prime set of tiger Maple
8/4 12/4 and 16/4 tiger maple        We either saw our own logs or carefully select all the material we bring in to assure that the lumber has merit. We stock this maple in thicknesses from 4/4 to 24/4 and in widths up to 20"+ when possible. Maple has the opposite problem from walnut, cherry etc., in that the white sapwood is the most desirable part of the tree, and the tree has a dark center or heart that can range from almost nothing to as much as ¾ of the diameter of the tree. The curl often dies in the heartwood,
which can range in color from a light grey to green to brown, and most users find the contrast between the two unappealing. This dark heart makes wider boards with at least one white face harder to produce, as just as you get to the part of the log yielding the wider boards you encounter this darker heartwood. We stock our widest boards in 4/4 and 5/4 and typically have matched sets of boards in stock up to 16" wide, with boards in the 20"-24" range when feasible. We have wide matched sets of 5/4 for table tops, and carry rwl stock in all the thicknesses. Our heavy stock is typically sized for turning and leg stock, and we carry 5x5 and 6x6 stock when we can find large enough logs to cut the heavier stock.  

 

 

 

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Irion Lumber Company 980 Calkins Rd. Wellsboro PA 16901 570.724.1895 info@irionlumber.com