Have you ever been looking at a beautifully brindled piece of furniture made of wood, or even at a wooden instrument such as a guitar or a muzzleloading firearm with a wood stock, and stood in awe and reverie at the visual allure of the wood’s beauty? Have you ever seen such a fixture in wood, one that had a very odd, almost brindled nature, and wondered to yourself just what on Earth it was that made the wood look like that, what type of wood it was, and where you could get it for yourself?
Enthusiasts of any of the above categories will recognize from the description - or from the picture at the top of this article, that the “wood” in question is known as tiger maple, from which tiger maple furniture is made. However, as you might also have gleaned from the rest of the first paragraph, tiger maple has been used to great effect in many other areas of construction and decoration as well.
It also isn’t known solely as tiger maple. In fact, depending on how you use it and where you’re from, you may have also heard tiger maple called curly maple, ripple maple, flame maple, and occasionally even as bird’s eye maple, although sometimes bird’s eye is a term reserved for a different character of wood grain.
What these names all have in common is that they refer to the same basic aberration of the grain of maple wood that gives them this particular character that looks something like streaks of flame or of a tiger’s stripes. That’s the reason for the name. This pattern of wood can immediately be recognized by it’s “brindle” like appearance and alternating stripes of dark and light grain.
It was commonly used in the early periods of American history in the construction of tools, furniture, and firearms, and for these reasons, some consider it a hallmark of American design and Americana. That, coupled with its uncommon beauty and striking nature makes it very popular among designers and collectors.
Tiger maple is not common, even among maple wood. It forms as the result of uncommon and inconsistent stressors to the wood fibers as the tree grows. When the fibers twist and compress upon themselves, they occasionally produce the distorted grain pattern that is recognizable in tiger maple furniture.
Lucky for woodworkers and other people who covet this particular patterning of grain, tiger maple wood is easy to work with many machine and hand tools and responds well to both gluing and finishing. In fact, depending upon the finish, the wood may appear even more vibrant and beautiful.
If you’ve ever handled a piece of tiger maple or investigated it closely, you may be familiar with the fact that depending upon how it is finished and how the light strikes it and interacts with it, it may appear to glow or present three-dimensional qualities in the grain. While this feature is not exclusive to tiger maple, it is known as chatoyance and it is a highly coveted quality in wood.
Something interesting about tiger maple furniture - and tiger maple in general - is the fact that the pattern of stripes or flames, as they were, runs parallel to the grain of the wood. That is to say, if you look closely along the grain of the wood, the stripe pattern will lay at intervals across your line of sight. It is important to note this because otherwise, it might appear that the method of construction of some tiger maple would have weakened the structure, but this would not be the case given the orientation of the grain.
Beautiful and exquisite, tiger maple furniture is some of the might highly sought after in the world, and luckily, a lot of it is produced right here in the United States. If you’re looking for a homegrown, grassroots look, tiger maple may well be it. Take a look through our collection of furniture that is ready to ship, including highlights from Hubbardton Forge, Copeland Furniture, Treharn Furniture, and many others, and you may find a gem waiting for you.
Alternatively, you can investigate our collection of Made-To-Order Furniture where you can create a new design for your home. However, we might suggest the best possible alternative which is simply to call us up at 330-657-2095 and let us know exactly what you want to find so that we can help to craft it for you.
Even better, if you happen to be in our neck of the woods, carve out some time to come see us in our showroom in Peninsula, Ohio. We may be a little bit off the path, but if you’re looking to find a collection of furniture that is entirely benchmade, right here in the United States, you just aren’t going to do any better elsewhere.
Reach out to us at the number above and let us know what you hope to find - we just may be able to secure it or create it for you!