Silver Maple Board Quality

Sawyers who have cut up Silver Maple share their observations. January 27, 2007

I run a small one man sawmill operation. Recently a customer inquired about the quality of silver maple. He has two large (25") trees in his yard and would like to take them down and use them for making kitchen cabinets for his new house. The trees would render a number of good grade saw logs, especially in the branches. Will the silver maple give us good boards to work with?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor D:
My favorite wood for musical instruments is silver maple. I have to process it myself, as it is not the most commercial of woods, at least here in NW Iowa. Wood shake is a problem in the maple here because of the livestock presence. In addition, there is a lot of heartwood disease. I get less than 25% lumber from the trees I use. A lot of work for such a small amount of wood. The qualities of the wood and control of the grain runout are worth the effort to me.

From contributor J:
Very rarely do you find any wood in branches that is worth making lumber out of. There is usually too much tension in them.

From contributor W:
Mill the logs soon after the trees are felled. I sawed a very nice silver maple log last year that I let set for several (5 or 6) months. The wood had lost the bright appearance associated with maple. It was more of a light grey color through and through.

From contributor T:
I agree with contributor J. If the branch logs or any lumber after third cut have some sort of grain figure to them, I would not think twice about sawing them. Silver maple grows a few nice grain patterns - burl, curly, and fiddle back. Odds are, though, that the branches are plain grain and are full of tension, wind shakes, and other nightmares.

When I cut silver maple, I will grade saw - square the log, then cut boards off the clearest sides of the cant until I hit the ugly gray and knotty heartwood. I'll save the cant as block for around the mill or just burn it.

I have found that silver maple is fairly stable and doesn't check badly. I have had no problems using latex paint for end sealer. Also in my area, I am finding more ambrosia beetle stains. I like to find logs full of them for contemporary furniture makers, but when trying to cut white clear boards, the stains get annoying.

If your customer has two 25" diameter trees, I would have high expectations for nice lumber. The question is, enough for his kitchen? Try to get more of your own silver maple logs to cut for him and jack up the price, probably 50%.

From contributor R:
I had the same question. I have a 48" silver maple trunk just downed. I plan on slabbing it. Not sure what widths yet, as this is my first slabbing project. Once slabbed, how do I keep it from graying?

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor
Dry it promptly and rapidly and you will avoid graying, if the tree was living when cut and then sawn promptly.