Not all bird’s-eye is maple

Q:

I was cutting some firewood on our property when a friend—a professional logger by trade—commented that a few of the ash trees I felled looked as if they were bird’s-eye ash. He said it was very rare, but exists. Is there such a thing?
—Travis Johnson, Thorndike, Maine

A:

“Bird’s-eye” figure appears most commonly in sugar maples, Travis, but it isn’t limited to that species. Sugar maples that mature under stressful growing conditions seem especially prone to developing a bird’s-eye pattern, but other types of trees can develop it, too. These include other species of maple, birch, and ash. You can’t spot a tree with bird’s-eye figure from the outside, though. Only a trip to the sawmill will confirm your friend’s suspicions. If you want to satisfy both your curiosity and budget, saw and split a section of the trunk, then rough-plane it enough to confirm the figure of the wood. Look closely, though. The samples we obtained from Certainly Wood (716/655-0206 or certainlywood.com), shown above, show that the bird’s-eye patterns in ash are far more subtle than what’s in maple.

Send your woodworking questions to askwood@woodmagazine.com

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