Maple Antique Dressers & Vanities (1900-1950) | eBay

Antique birdseye Maple Furniture

Historical Furniture / October 18, 2023

Birdseye Maple occurs primarily in Sugar Maple. The Latin name for Sugar Maple is Acer Suchrum. Sugar Maple is also called Hard Maple and Rock Maple.

As these two last names imply; Maple is a very hard wood.

The properties of any wood define its suitability for various products.

Birdseye Maple is a very hard wood with divergent grain structure caused by the presence of the Birdseyes. If there is also Flash Figure, or Buff, with the Birdseye; the grain can be wildly divergent.

In the days when all furniture was made essentially by hand; Birdseye Maple was used by only the most capable cabinetmakers. These artisans had developed the tools and skills to work and finish Birdseye Maple successfully. Antique furniture made out of Birdseye Maple is rare and beautiful.

The divergent grain that makes Birdseye Maple beautiful also makes it difficult to work. Early woodworking machines ran at low rpms; and had only 2 knives per cutterhead. This often produced Birdseye surfaces that were chipped and torn. It took many hours of hand planing and scraping to get these surfaces to a high sheen. This limited the use of Birdseye maple to projects whose value could justify the extra labor cost. Examples of this are fine furniture and musical instruments.

Hard Maple, without Birdseye, was a significant "industrial" wood throughout the industrial revolution. This continues today. Its hardness and strength made it ideal for many applications.

Plain Maple was used for millions of spools and spindles required by the textile industry in the 1900’s. There were millions of wooden coat hangers made from plain grain Hard Maple during this same time period. Henry Ford used it in his cars; especially the famous Woody station wagon.

Birdseye Maple was not allowed in the textile spools because the fine threads would catch on the torn grain. Birdseye Maple was not used for coat hangers because the torn grain might catch and pull threads on a finished garment. Also; the presence of short grain, from the Birdseye figure, weakened the small pieces in a coat hanger.

Many stories still abound today; of northern sawmills hitting a "run" of Birdseye Maple logs, and chipping all the lumber for lack of a market. The loggers often ran it all into firewood where at least it had some value.

Improved machinery design opened new markets for Birdseye Maple.

Special, angled, cutterheads were developed to reduce chipping. Sandpaper was invented and commercialized. Flooring became the destiny for millions of board feet of Birdseye Maple.

More recent developments include segmented spiral cutterheads and CNC machining centers. These high speed machines, with carbide or diamond tooling, do an incredible job. They handle Birdseye Maple with ease.

Birdseye Maple can now be used in every market; and for any woodworking project.

Today; Birdseye Maple is a common component in private jets, automobiles, musical instruments, architectural panels, kitchen utensils, entertainment centers, picture frames, kitchen cabinets, furniture, jewelry boxes, pool cues, flooring, and store fixtures.