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Sugar Maple

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Machining methods

Machining methods

Sugar maple isn't dubbed "hard maple" without reason. It dulls cutting edges, yet it chips. And, sugar maple burns more easily from cutting and machining than any other wood. Here's how to overcome this wood's pesky traits:

  • Feed densely figured wood, uch as bird's-eye, very slowly into the planer, and never plane it exactly to thickness. Leave some for sanding. Otherwise, the grain tears out in pocks. For hand-planing, set the iron at a 15-20 angle.
  • Dense, close-grained sugar maple demands a rip-profile blade with no more than 28 teeth. Sawdust won't accumulate, causing friction that heats the blade to burn the wood. If tearout occurs, allow for a 1/32" jointing pass to clean the edge.
  • Crosscut figured wood with help from a backing board.
  • Drill sugar maple at about 250 rpm, and back the bit out to clear chips. A stubby, spurred brad-point bit won't burn the wood as easily as one with long spurs. Burning glazes the wood.
  • Avoid burning by routing only with bits that have ballbearing pilots. With speed control, rout slowly. Use a consistent feed rate.
  • Lubricate screws.
  • Sugar maple doesn't absorb glue immediately, sometimes resulting in joint slippage from excess glue. If this happens, switch to a glue with longer open time (such as a white glue) and put down a lighter coat. Briefly join the pieces, then pull them apart and let the glue set up before reassembling. Note: Solid joinery usually requires a machined joint.
  • Don't oversand sugar maple with extremely fine paper, such as 400- or 600-grit. Excessive sanding burnishs the wood so that it won't readily accept stain. Avoid cross-grain sanding. Better yet, use a cabinet scraper.
  • For even staining on sugar maple, first apply a wood conditioner, or use aniline dyes. Tinting the topcoat works, too.

Continued on page 6:  Carving comments


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