If you are looking to build something out of wood, whether a fence, deck, outdoor chair, or indoor desk, real wood is always a great option. With that being said, there are of course dozens of different types of wood that you could use.
Two of the most popular types of wood include maple and pine, which is what we are here to compare today. We’re going to take a look at these on a side-by-side basis and examine them according to a variety of factors. Let’s figure out which of these materials is the better choice for your next woodworking project.
What Is Maple?
First, we have maple, of which there are many different varieties. However, one of the most common types used for construction is known as sugar maple, otherwise known as hard maple. This is one of the hardest and most durable kinds out there, so it makes sense to focus on this variety.
The maple tree can be found throughout the United States and Canada, with over ten different varieties, as well as other varieties being found in Asia. This is a deciduous hardwood tree that is generally found in the northern hemisphere. This means that it is a flowering tree that loses its leaves during the colder months.
In terms of appearance, maple wood usually has a very straight grain, although some specimens might have some variations, such as ripples, waves, or curls. This wood usually has a very fine texture. The sapwood of maple is cream-colored, with the heartwood being reddish-brown. Most people would say that maple is a very nice-looking type of wood.
In terms of its physical properties, maple is quite hard, dense, and durable overall. In fact, it is one of the harder types of hardwood that can be found in North America. At the same time, it is also fairly resistant to pests and moisture, which means that it does make a good choice for both indoor and outdoor use. Because this material is so durable, it makes for a good option for furniture, walls, instruments, floors, and much more.
What Is Pine?
We then have pine, and here we’re talking about the eastern white pine tree. This is one of the most commonly occurring and commonly used types in North America, so this is what we will focus on.
The eastern white pine is a coniferous softwood tree, which means that it keeps its needles all year long. This tree grows all throughout eastern North America. It can reach heights of up to 100,’ with the trunk growing up to 4’ in diameter.
This type of wood has a generally straight grain with a medium and even texture, although it can have many knots and resin canals. The sapwood of pine is a very pale yellow color, whereas the heartwood is a light brown.
This is one of the softer types of wood that can be found in North America, and because of this reason, it’s not overly durable. It’s definitely not the hardest or strongest type of wood out there, nor is it the most resistant to pests or moisture. Yes, if it is properly sealed, it can be used outdoors, although it’s not a great idea.
Because of its overall lack of durability and water resistance, pine is best used for indoor projects. It is often used for very basic construction purposes, such as carving, crates, boxes, interior millwork, and for basic construction lumber.
Maple vs. Pine: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both maple and pine are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
One of the biggest differences between these two types of wood is that maple is much harder than pine.
Pine comes in at just 380 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. Maple on the other hand comes in at 1,450 lbf. This means that maple is almost four times harder than pine. This wood is far more resistant to physical damage, particularly when it comes to denting and scratching. It does therefore tend to make for the better option for things like furniture.
Not only is maple much harder than pine, but it’s also much heavier. Maple comes in at a weight of 44 lbs per cubic foot. Eastern white pine, however, is much lighter, coming in at just 25 lbs per cubic foot. As you can see, maple is almost twice as heavy or dense as pine. Yes, this does also lead to increased durability, but it does also make it a lot heavier and therefore harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
When it comes to eastern white pine, it is not rated as being resistant to moisture and pests. It is definitely not the best option to use for outdoor purposes and is generally used only for indoor purposes. If it is to be used outdoors, it does first need to be sealed, although that is not recommended.
Sugar or hard maple on the other hand is actually quite resistant to both pests and moisture. Maple does a really good job at preventing moisture and pests from penetrating the outer surface, therefore making for a fairly ideal choice for outdoor purposes.
If we are going to compare maple with pine, in terms of its overall durability, maple is always the much harder and stronger of the two. When it comes to the modulus of elasticity, the modulus of rupture, and the compressive strength, maple is much higher rated than pine.
That means that maple can handle a lot more weight parallel and perpendicular to the grain before it breaks than pine. At the same time, maple can also handle more weight being placed in the middle of it before it starts to sag. It’s just the much stronger and more structurally sound of these two types of wood.
We wrote in detail about maple’s strength here.
One thing that can be said is that pine is generally easier to work with than maple, especially when it comes to the physical aspect, as it’s just much lighter. It’s not as heavy to lift, and it won’t dull your saw blades as quickly. The only downside is that pine often has many knots in it that can be hard to cut through, plus it has a lot of sap.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Pine has a straight grain with a medium texture, combined with a lot of knots, as well as light brown heartwood and pale yellow sapwood. Sugar maple does also have a straight grain, although it may have some waves. It also has a much finer texture than pine. With maple, the sapwood is what is usually used for construction, and this is merely white or cream colored. Most people would say that maple is the much better-looking of the two.
Depending on the supplier, maple is going to cost you anywhere between $13 and $15 per board foot. Eastern white pine usually won’t cost you more than $8 per board foot.
When to Use Maple?
If you are planning on building something that needs to be extremely hard and durable, can handle a lot of weight, is structurally sound, is resistant to pests and moisture, and looks nice too, then maple is a fine choice. Just beware that you will pay a pretty penny for maple, especially for high-quality pieces.
When to Use Pine?
If what you are going for more than anything else is cost-effectiveness and you are working on a tight budget, then pine is a fine option to use. If you need a type of wood for basic woodworking purposes, nothing that needs to be overly moisture resistant or structurally sound for many years, then pine does make for a good option. Just don’t use it outdoors.
Alternatives to Maple and Pine
If you’re not a fan of either maple or pine, and you want a type of wood that is both durable and ideal for outdoor use, you might want to try going for something like white oak or hickory, with ebony and ironwood also making for good options.
Now that you know what the major differences between pine and maple are, you can make an informed decision between the two as to which one to use for your next woodworking project.