Specialty Lumber Sales

 

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Birds Eye Maple
From Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Birdseye maple, one of the rarest kinds of wood on the planet, has a distinctive pattern that looks like tiny, swirling eyes disrupting the smooth lines of grain. Birdseye maple isn't a variety or species of maple, but rather a phenomenon that occurs within several kinds of timber due to an unknown cause. Perhaps the valuable anomaly showcases wood's reaction to a fungal or viral infection, genetic mutation, bird pecking, climate change, soil conditions, growth history, or some other mysterious element.

Birdseye maple has a medium density and variable color. The outer rings of the tree create lumber that's usually a creamy, light amber color with darker birdseye patterns. The inner rings, called heartwood, might be deep amber or reddish with dark brown birdseye. Depending on the frequency of the birdseye swirls, each 1/8" to 3/8" wide (1/3-1 cm), the wood may be extremely valuable. Woodworkers prize the timber because it "turns" well on a lathe, meaning it can be shaped into decorative canes, chair legs, or handles. After it's finished, birdseye maple doesn't scratch easily.

Birdseye maple, occurring in Acer saccharum, only refers to the most common species of tree. Millers also find the deformation in red maple, white ash, Cuban mahogany, American beech, black walnut, and yellow birch. These trees that grow in the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States yield the heftiest supply, along with some varieties in the Rocky Mountains. Although there are a few clues in a tree's bark that indicate the lumber might have birdseye, it is usually necessary to fell the tree and cut it apart before you know for sure.

Refined specialty products, such as the dashboard of a Rolls Royce, are made of birdseye maple. Since it is such a rare and unusual lumber type, it's very expensive and in short supply. Its cost in board feet can be hundreds of times that of ordinary hardwood. Boxes and bowls for jewelry, thin veneer, humidors, canes, furniture inlays, handles, and guitars are made from the decorative wood. These beautiful collectors items seem to shimmer and swirl under the curling circles of birdseye.

Being able to cultivate birdseye, or bird's eye, in hardwood would be such a valuable commodity that researchers and arborists vigorously study the mysterious phenomena. So far, they have seemed to discount several theories, namely that pecking birds deform the wood grain and that an infecting fungus makes it twist. However, no one has demonstrated a complete understanding of the combination of climate, soil, tree variety, or insects that reliably produces the valuable maple

I have personally found birdseye maple as small as an inch in diameter in the woods. I could tell because of the dark bark and bumps protruding from the bark.


THE MYSTERY OF FIDDLE BACK MAPLE

Demonstrating a rare depth and dimensionality, Fiddle back Maple is one of the world's most-prized hardwoods. The Fiddle back Maple figuring is occasionally found in other hardwoods, including walnut, koa, ash and, rarely, other domestic and imported hardwoods.

Fiddle back Maple is also known as 'Flame Maple', 'Tiger Maple', 'Curly Maple', or 'Tiger stripe Maple'. Fiddle back Maple exhibits a dramatic change in the individual stripes or lines. As the incident angle of the light is slightly altered, the dark stripe becomes a light stripe, and the light stripe becomes dark. This visual phenomenon is known as 'chatoyancy' in the gemstone world, and its most dramatic form is seen in catseye chrysoberyl.

True Fiddle back figuring is not to be confused with "compression grain" or "stress grain" found where roots merge into the bole and also on the underside of large limbs. Some differentiate between Curly and Fiddle back figuring. For instance, curly cherry and curly birch can exhibit much swirls, waves and curls, though they are far more irregular and large, often appearing as flattened arches stacked one on top of another over the length of the board. Fiddle back Maple (Flame Maple, Tiger Maple) grain is generally considered to be more pronounced with tighter striping, sometimes measured as tight as several stripes per inch. Unlike many forms of curly grain, Fiddle back describes a series of tight, parallel (or nearly parallel) stripes running perpendicular to the length of the board.

In the United States, most use the terms Fiddle back Maple and Curly Maple synonymously. Fiddle back Maple boasts a three-dimensional series of alternately bright and dark stripes that shade into one another as the wood is slightly moved, thus producing an illusion of actual waves. Changes in brightness result from differential light reflection. Relatively high absorption by exposed fiber ends produces dark bands; reflection and diffraction from fiber walls cause bright bands. Because the fiber walls are curved sharply and act as concave or convex reflecting surfaces, any change in angle of view or incident light makes the apparent waves seem to shift. Again, the same light stripe becomes a dark stripe and vice-versa.

The illusion of undulations results from regular and repeated, parallel, wavy lines that produce an interference pattern on the exposed plane. Modern botany and science still cannot adequately account for what exactly causes the visually-stunning figuring in Fiddle back Maple (also known as Flame Maple, Curly Maple, Tiger Maple, Tiger stripe Maple). In conclusion, then, the cause(s) of the rare figuring seen in Fiddle back Maple is yet unknown. The mystery of Fiddle back Maple, in spite of electron microscopes and huge advances in the fields of wood technology, plant genetics, etc., for now remains unrevealed.

While the precise cause of the Mystery of Fiddle back Maple must remain, at present, unknown, the result is well-known, greatly esteemed, and eagerly sought by wood aficionados as Fiddle back Maple- one of the world's most transfixing beautiful exotic hardwoods.

For Prices and pictures of lumber contact

Site Owner
Milton Lowden
243 North Hill Road
Iron River, Michigan
906-265-9599

director@chainsawcarvingmuseum.com