Maple vs Walnut Woods Compared

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Wood that will bring immense satisfaction for your woodworking projects is maple and walnut. These two hardwoods are available throughout the United States, and you can use either type of wood for some satisfactory results.

Maple and walnut are two of the most versatile and appealing types of wood that you can find. Although maple is harder than walnut, both are equally sought-after in terms of looks and utility. If you need lighter, more contemporary looks, maple is a good choice. Walnut is a more traditional choice, and additionally, it carves well, too.

Maple vs. Walnut

Maple is an incredibly strong wood that stains well and looks good. Its main attraction is the light, creamy color and smooth, tight, grain that offers a fine finish to furniture and flooring.

Although there are several species of maple, the most popular in the United States is hard maple, which we also call sugar maple or rock maple.

Walnut is similarly pursued due to its good looks and durability. The dark, chocolate-brown shades of this wood are further enhanced by its contrasting wood grain patterns.

Maple: Background

Maple Wood Veneer Grunge Texture Sample

You will find hard maple growing in the northern region of the United States and Canada. Other than its value for lumber, the sap of the maple tree is the main ingredient of maple syrup. And let’s not forget that the maple leaf is the main feature of the Canadian national flag.

Hard maple (Acer saccharum) belongs to a genus that has at least 132 species. It Is a hard and durable wood that has good looks to match. The strength and durability may vary from one species to another, but hard maple is the most strong and durable.

Walnut: Background

Wood texture background

You can find several varieties of walnut trees, only a few grow in the United States. The most prominent species and the one we discuss today is eastern black walnut, (Juglans nigra). We also call it American black or just American walnut.

The nuts of the walnut tree are edible. The wood is sought after by woodworkers for its deep, rich, chocolaty color, and striking patterns. It is quite hard but easy to work with. Walnut can range from quite expensive to highly expensive.

Maple vs. Walnut: Appearance

Pails in trees to collect sap of maple trees to produce maple syrup.

Maple is best known for its light, creamy color with a fine, straight, and smooth grain. You may also get occasional waviness and a few knots which adds to the appeal of the wood if worked well. A unique variation of maple is spalted maple.

Another unique feature of maple is that we used the sapwood rather than the heartwood for woodworking purposes. The sapwood is almost white to off-white, and may sometimes have a reddish or golden hue.

Maple has a variety of grain patterns, amongst which “birdseye” figuring is the rarest. You can also see curly or quilted patterns in this wood and of course, spalted maple opens up many possibilities in how you can make the wood look on finishing.

With walnut, you can mostly expect a dark chocolate brown, although it does come in lighter shades, sometimes. It can sometimes contain gray, purple, or reddish shades. The sapwood of walnut is very pale, almost white.

Bark of a Walnut tree (Juglans sp.), Bavaria, Germany, Europe

The wood has a straight grain with intermittent figurings like curl, crotch, and burl.  The surface of the wood has a moderate, natural luster with a smooth, medium texture. You will rarely see stained walnut because of its naturally-dark color and patterns.

Maple vs. Walnut: Durability

Despite its hardness and fine grain pattern, maple has a low level of durability. Black walnut on the other hand has high durability in terms of resistance to moisture and rot. But it does not stand up to insect attacks.

Maple vs. Walnut: Workability

Maple and walnut share many common properties and they are both equally workable. They respond well to hand and machine tools. However, you may find some sections with irregular grain difficult to work with for both woods.

Both woods take glue and finish quite well, but walnut is most likely to receive a clear finish, to prevent masking the natural beauty of the wood grain. Another issue can arise with maple, which tends to burn while being cut by high-speed blades. Maple also responds well to steam bending.

Maple vs. Walnut: Price

Maple is reasonably priced but hard maple tends to be a bit more expensive than the softer varieties. Specially figured maple like birdseye, curl, or spalted also cost more.

Walnut enjoys wide popularity and is easily available. However, the widths of walnut lumber tend to be narrow. It is one of the costlier types of wood that you can get in the United States. In comparison between maple and walnut, the latter costs more.

Maple vs. Walnut: Sustainability

Neither maple nor walnut is listed in the CITES Appendices. They are also not on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Therefore, we can conclude that both woods are reasonably sustainable, and eco-friendly options.

Maple vs. Walnut: Uses

Maple wood grain (Sapwood and heartwood on the same) maple wood floor
Image Credit: Simon Mer via Creative Commons

We use maple for different types of flooring. Dance floors, bowling alleys, basketball courts, residential flooring, and kitchen counters are a few of the places where you can find hard maple flooring.

This wood also makes veneer, cutting boards, butcher blocks, musical instruments, baseball bats, workbenches and turned objects, and a variety of furniture and cabinetry. It is also used extensively in the paper industry as pulpwood.

Walnut plays a vital role in making furniture, cabinets, small wooden objects, and novelties, cutting boards, gunstocks, interior paneling, flooring, and carvings.

construction of interior design modern kitchen in walnut wood

Maple vs. Walnut: Comparison Table

Parameter Maple Walnut
Botanical name Acer saccharum Juglans nigra 
Color Light, creamy off-white Chocolate to dark brown
Durability Not durable Moderately durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,450 lbf. 1,010 lbf.
Strength Strong wood Strong wood
Maintenance Low maintenance Low maintenance
Price Reasonably-priced Medium to high-priced
Suitability for outdoors Not suitable for outdoors Not suitable for outdoors
Suitability for wood carving Some species only Suitable for carving
Workability Easy to work with Easy to work with
Smell  No odor Faint odor while cutting
Availability Easily available Easily available
Special features if any Maple sap makes syrup No special features


Both maple and walnut and perhaps cherry wood are the most widely used types of wood in the United States today. They come perhaps second only to woods like mahogany and oak. As these woods are native to America, they are a good choice.

In this post, we took a close look at the features of these two kinds of wood. In our discussion of maple vs. walnut, we compared the features and studied their pros and cons. You can use either maple or walnut in any woodworking project and expect spectacular results.