View Full Version : Carving in Tiger Maple

Sam Yerardi
01-08-2008, 11:25 AM
Has anyone seen carving done in tiger maple on old period pieces? I'm going to build a pie crust table out of tiger maple so I've been looking for photos, etc., of period pieces that were carved but I haven't found anything.

Thanks in advance

Calvin Hobbs
01-08-2008, 11:50 AM

It certainly wasn't as common as mahogany or walnut in the carved pieces but I can certainly think of several. If you have Nutting's furniture treasury, look through it for most types of furniture, even though the photos are black and white. The New Fine Points of Furniture show one or two carved chippendale dressing tables out of tiger maple. Also the Dunlap furniture of New Hampshire was many times had elaborate stylized carving in tiger maple.

I have never seen an old piecrust tea table out of maple, but I have seen a reproduction on the sapfm site here: http://www.sapfm.org/gallery/viewpiece.php?id=207

Hope these ideas are helpful, Cal

Sam Yerardi
01-08-2008, 12:02 PM
Thanks! I do have Nuttings Vol 1 & 2; I am planning on getting Sack's book as well. Do you think it looks too busy?

Dave Anderson NH
01-08-2008, 12:21 PM
Generally speaking, period pieces which used tiger maple used the figured material primarily on the carcass and the drawer fronts. Drawer blades, the back, the bottom, and hidden areas used plain unfigured stock. Tiger Maple is difficult to carve and far more importantly, the figure in a carving would distract the eye from the form, shape, and style of the carving. Even the Dunlop pieces of NH used unfigured wood for the carving, in fact often it was not even maple like the rest of the piece. My comment on the Dunlop furniture is from observation and study of actual pieces in the collections of the NH Historical Society, the Currier Museum in Manchester NH, and at Winterthur. As far as I can remember, I've never seen any tiger maple furniture with figured carvings by any maker. That doesn't mean that they don't exist though, just that I've not seen any.

Calvin Hobbs
01-08-2008, 12:30 PM
I agree with Dave, in general tiger maple is very difficult to carve and yes I think it's generally too busy for highly carved surfaces. However, I think it would lend itself nicely to broad shells, shaped knees, etc. but not for tight foliage, vines, acanthus leaves, etc.


Sam Yerardi
01-08-2008, 12:39 PM

Thanks! I sort of felt it would distract as well. I've never carved tiger maple and I would probably be biting off more than I could carve ;).

I have a beam of spalted tiger maple 3" x 14" x 7 1/2'. It's been air drying for over 10 years and I want to try it on a piece.

Dave McGeehan
01-08-2008, 7:16 PM
Sam, I agree that on highly carved pieces tiger maple's stripes might fight for attention with the carving itself. But on simple carvings it can really enhance a piece. As far as the difficulty in carving it, the trick is to simply keep your gouges razor sharp. Here is a pic of two unfinished pinwheels I worked on this morning for a highboy. The maple is very highly striped. Because of my lack of photography skills plus the wood being raw, the pics really don't do the stripes justice. But even though the center of each pinwheel is almost 3/4" deep and the swirls and stripes cause a great deal of carving with, and against, the grain I had no tearout. Again I feel it's due to the sharpness of my tools. In the pic the small wheel has been sanded but the larger still has pencil marks and also the facets from my gouge. The centers will be drilled for a knob and I'll also carve a "fingernail" incise into the flat area of the outer portion of each swirl. Also, IMO, I find tiger maple to be soft compared to cherry, apple (or any of the fruitwoods), walnut, and most of the exotics. It's a nice wood to carve.

lou sansone
01-08-2008, 7:46 PM
Calvin beat me to showing that photo of the pie crust table. what a nice piece of wood. I have built a curly maple dresser that had fluted quarter columns as part of the structure and I did not like the fluting competing with the tiger. I would have been better off using plane maple for the columns, and tiger for the rest of the piece. But I think with shell designs it might be good.


Sam Yerardi
01-09-2008, 7:45 AM
Nice work!

I'm taking your advice. Thanks!

Question for both of you:

The piece of maple I have is a much darker yellow than fresh cut maple. I have cut into once to make some veneer and inside it is still the same shade. I will try to post some pictures of it.

Thanks again guys!

lou sansone
01-09-2008, 4:21 PM
maple will over time oxidize and turn more yellow. many folks help it along with dye. how are you planning of finishing it?


C Scott McDonald
01-09-2008, 7:39 PM
Hey Dave do you have any pictures of the rest of the highboy?


Garry McKinney
04-03-2008, 8:20 AM

Did you try the tiger maple?

This is a portrait piece I did in relief, of Sitting bull. It can give a lot to a carving.


Sam Yerardi
04-03-2008, 8:41 AM

Very nice work! Yes, I have started on the tiger maple. It will be a pie-crust table. I haven't started on any of the carving yet. I'm still working on dimensioning the stock. I got side-tracked when my daughter said she would like to have some end table to match the hope chest I made her. Plus, my wife wants a couple Morris chairs for the living room. I've got 5 projects going on at the same time but I need to get back on the pie-crust table because I would like to show it in the local art show at our museum in July. I'll try to do a photo journal of it.

Garry McKinney
04-03-2008, 8:54 AM
Please do Sam.

I love working harder woods, and the maple is great to work with. The only thing I will tell you to be careful of is letting your gouge float. Because of the hard - soft effect of the wood it is easy to dip your cut between stripes. Keep to your lines it will be great .