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The Wood We Use

Sugar Maple

In the springtime, before the snow melts, boiling sap is an activity common in the North Country. The maple sugarer moves from tree to tree with an auger, drills a hole and drives in a tap. The trees live for many years and provide uncounted pails of sap, which after enough boiling down become maple syrup. We find these tap holes in some of the lumber we use and marvel at the lovely streaks of color that surround the holes. We find color in the heartwood as well, a trace of minerals that move into the roots and are drawn through to the leaves.

Maple is a shade-tolerant tree. It is able to sprout and grow in the understory, its leaves finding enough sun to permit growth. The sapling grows in girth and height and its lower branches remain useful for a long time. Finally, when the tree's foliage takes its place in the canopy, those limbs begin to die and fall.

In the heartwood, we find signs of the young tree. They are the knots that were once understory branches. Maple wood is hard - one of the densest hardwoods that grow in the Northeast. A freshly milled stack of maple makes a certain hard click as pieces knock together. A sharp tool will move through it with some effort and leave a polished cut. This is a stable wood that is not quick to dry, but with patience will do so nicely and with a minimal amount of distortion or cracking.

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As with any hardwood, the closer to the center of the tree the board came from, the more challenging the drying. We think the rewards justify the extra care. Though maple is relatively light in color, it darkens with age. This darkening process is called oxidation and is one of the primary ingredients of the lovely patina that maple develops with time.

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1611 Harbor Rd.
Shelburne, Vermont 05482
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