Maple and ash are two of the most popular types of hardwood in the United States. There are several species of maple, broadly divided into hard and soft maple. Likewise, there are numerous types of ash that woodworkers use frequently.
Maple and ash are both hardwoods and possess a tight and even grain. They are light-colored wood, and ash has a more pronounced grain than maple. Both these woods have a high level of shock-absorbance making them a favored choice for baseball bats, and pool cues in addition to a variety of furniture including flooring.
Maple vs. Ash
While maple is fairly hard, with a maximum Janka hardness rating of 1,180 lbf (black maple), ash is yet harder. Some species of ash are extremely hard like blue ash which has a Janka rating of 2,030 lbf, even harder than some species of oak.
Both maple and ash are favored by woodworkers across the United States. They are both easily available and cost-effective for a variety of purposes. The light color of maple and ash makes them the preferred choice for contemporary furniture and flooring.
Hard maple (Acer saccharum) is native to the northern region of the United States, and Canada. But other varieties of maple grow throughout the country in various areas. We use the sap of the maple tree to make maple syrup and The Canadian national flag features a maple leaf.
The genus of hard maple has up to 132 species. It is an attractive-looking and durable wood, which has a fine-grained structure and is extremely strong. A point to note however is that 54 species of maple are in danger of extinction.
Ash belongs to the Fraxinus genus, a part of the family of lilac and olives. It has the unique distinction of being either deciduous or evergreen. It grows all over the world, particularly in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Ash is a hardy tree that survives in varying climates, water levels, and soil conditions.
The commonest form of ash wood in the U.S. is blue ash (Fraxinus quadrangulate). This light-colored, straight-grained wood has a coarse-to-medium texture and is extremely hard. Its high shock resistance makes it best suited for sports goods like hockey sticks, pool cues, and baseball bats.
A notable feature of this wood is its association with the emerald ash borer. This unassuming-looking beetle entered the United States by chance at some time in the 1990s. Hundreds of millions of ash trees perished due to this pest in the last two decades. Efforts are still ongoing to combat the damage created by this beetle.
Maple vs. Ash: Appearance
Maple wood is well-known for its pale, whitish color and tight, even grain. You will not see pores visible in the wood like other woods, and the surface is overall smooth. Maple tends to become yellow over time. Sometimes curl or figuring can also be seen, and spalting is a prized phenomenon in this species.
Spalted maple is a pattern that occurs due to a fungal infection in the wood. Another notable pattern you can get with maple is “birdseye” which is one of the more expensive varieties.
We use the sapwood instead of the heartwood as lumber for woodworking. The various grain patterns you get with maple with curly, quilted, or spalted patterns open up some interesting possibilities for finishing maple wood.
Ash is also as light-colored as maple but may vary slightly in shade depending on the species. Blue ash tends to be a bit darker than white ash. It has a medium to coarse texture and resembles oak.
The grain pattern of ash is more or less straight, but you will find occasional waviness in the wood. The grain is interspersed by dark-brown lines and “arrows” which give the wood a special appeal in pool cue shafts.
Maple vs. Ash: Durability
We consider both kinds of wood non-durable, but between maple and ash, the latter is less durable. It is because of the susceptibility of attack by the emerald ash borer. If used for indoor purposes, maple and ash are equally durable, especially with a suitable finish.
Maple vs. Ash: Price
Maple is one of the most sought-after woods in the United States after perhaps walnut, cherry, oak, and mahogany. It is moderately priced but hard maple is the most expensive. The price tag increases considerably with figured maple wood.
Ash on the other hand is a cheaper option between the two types of wood, maple, and ash. It is also moderately priced and compares with oak in terms of price.
Maple vs. Ash: Sustainability
If you are looking for a sustainable type of wood, maple is one of the best options. These trees grow abundantly in the United States and are harvested sustainably. It is far more sustainable than woods like mahogany. Maple is not listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List or the CITES Appendices.
Ash wood is not an entirely sustainable wood. It does not find itself on the CITES Appendices but has a place on the IUCN Red List. The reason for it being featured on the IUCN Red List is the extensive damage to the species by the emerald ash borer.
Maple vs. Ash: Uses
The most popular use of maple is for making furniture. The wood’s natural resilience makes it a practical choice in moldings. We also use it for butcher blocks and hard maple makes some of the best pool cues and baseball bats in the land.
Maple also is very good for flooring, and you will find basketball courts, bowling alleys, dance floors, and residential flooring made of maple wood. It also makes good kitchen counters and cabinets.
Ash is good for millwork, boxes, turned objects, tool handles, and flooring. But due to its high resistance to shock, it makes excellent baseball bats, pool cue shafts, and hockey sticks.
Maple vs. Ash: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||Acer saccharum||Fraxinus quadrangulata|
|Durability||Only for indoor use||Only for indoor use|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,450 lbf.||1,290 lbf.|
|Strength||Strong wood||Strong wood|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance||Low maintenance|
|Price||Reasonably-priced||Moderate to high price|
|Suitability for outdoors||Not suitable for outdoors||Not suitable for outdoors|
|Suitability for wood carving||Some species only||Yes|
|Workability||Easy to work with||Easy to work with|
|Smell||No odor||Unpleasant smell while working|
|Availability||Easily available||Easily available|
|Special features if any||Maple sap makes syrup||Nothing significant|
Both maple and ash are two of the popular types of wood in use in the United States today. We compare them to other premium woods like mahogany and oak. But unlike maple and ash, there is limited availability of these two kinds of wood, especially mahogany. Maple and ash are both readily available and reasonably priced.
With the information provided here, you should have a better insight into the various aspects of these two versatile and durable types of wood. You can use this information to make a suitable choice for the best wood for your next woodworking project.