Is this Box Elder or Maple?

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Forum topic by HokieKen posted 05-09-2018 01:06 PM 1235 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14075 posts in 1916 days

05-09-2018 01:06 PM

So I see a post for free wood on Craigslist the other day and from the pics it appears to be Maple:

It was on my way home from work so I swung by that evening to see if there was any pieces I might want. Well, in the end, I ended up grabbing a full truckload. It had some pretty nice spalting and very little “punky” wood. It’s pretty hard, darned heavy wood. So I figure I have some nice spalted Maple. Probably Hard/Rock Maple from how the heartwood resists the chainsaw. So, to me, this is clearly Maple based on my limited experience:

But then I notice a good bit of red on the end grain of this smaller log:

So I remove some of the bark and find that the red extends down into the rest. So I start looking at other pieces and find the red is present in most of them to some extent. One of the larger pieces I had to split in order to get onto my truck shows some along the split faces:

Today happens to be my 10th Anniversary. So I decided last night to turn my wife a vase because the one she really liked broke. I figured that would also allow me a peek deeper inside some of this wood. So I picked a smaller piece and cut a turning blank out of it.

Then I put it on the lathe and turned it round.

And turned it to rough size/shape. I’ll let it dry for a couple of months and repair any cracks before I turn it to finished dimensions. Here it is when I finished last night:

The color of the wood, the weight and the bark all scream MAPLE at me. And, the spalting is consistent with spalted Maple that I’ve seen. On the other hand, I haven’t found any examples of other Maple trees with the red staining that occurs in Box Elder. If there were any leaves on the tree, it would be a simple matter to identify but the couple that cut the tree said it was dead and didn’t have any leaves at all when they cut it.

So, help me out wood brothers! At first this was obviously Maple to me. Then it was obviously Box Elder. So now I just don’t know! Anyone seen the red staining in any other trees besides Box Elder? Anyone experienced enough to be able to look at it and tell? Thanks for any wisdom you can share.

Fridge, this isn’t Alder. But I wish it was! ;-P

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

12 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2263 days

#1 posted 05-09-2018 01:17 PM

Alder. 100%.

What’s funny is I see after posting I have a new notification. And lo and behold. It’s the post i just posted on :) with a disclaimer that my advice isn’t needed :(

Looks a lot like elm.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30552 posts in 3115 days

#2 posted 05-09-2018 03:26 PM

Looks maple to me.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View LesB's profile


2558 posts in 4220 days

#3 posted 05-09-2018 03:41 PM

I vote maple. That is well on it’s way to spaulting.

-- Les B, Oregon

View LiveEdge's profile


600 posts in 2397 days

#4 posted 05-09-2018 04:03 PM

I don’t think that is the flaming that can come with box elder. It’s red, but the pattern is wrong. I vote maple.

View HokieKen's profile


14075 posts in 1916 days

#5 posted 05-09-2018 04:20 PM

Whew! Thanks guys. I was so sure it was Maple until I saw the red stuff. Even then, I couldn’t convince myself it wasn’t but there was some nagging doubt. I also agree that the red stain doesn’t look like what I’ve seen in Box Elder online. I also think this stuff is way too hard to be Box Elder.

Anybody have any ideas on what the red stuff is? I haven’t been able to find any examples of Maple with similar “damage”.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View jdh122's profile (online now)


1164 posts in 3595 days

#6 posted 05-09-2018 04:21 PM

I vote for maple too. The terrible smell of box elder as you work it is an important giveaway (unless the wood has dried).

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View HokieKen's profile


14075 posts in 1916 days

#7 posted 05-09-2018 04:27 PM

Thanks Jeremy. I wasn’t aware that Box Elder had a strong smell. I didn’t notice any odor from this stuff when I was sawing it or turning it.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View UpstateNYdude's profile


947 posts in 2760 days

#8 posted 05-09-2018 05:43 PM

I’m pretty sure Box Elder is a Maple

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View HokieKen's profile


14075 posts in 1916 days

#9 posted 05-09-2018 05:50 PM

I m pretty sure Box Elder is a Maple

- UpstateNYdude

True :-) I suppose I should have asked if it was Box Elder or Sugar Maple.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View jdh122's profile (online now)


1164 posts in 3595 days

#10 posted 05-09-2018 08:54 PM

Around here nobody calls it Box Elder, it goes by the name Manitoba Maple. It’s not native to my area but gets planted quite a lot as an ornamental because it grows quickly.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View WDHLT15's profile


1819 posts in 3253 days

#11 posted 05-10-2018 11:14 AM

I also vote maple.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View pontic's profile


797 posts in 1386 days

#12 posted 05-10-2018 01:26 PM

Box elder is a member of the Maple family. Only the Negris species gets the real flaming. What you have is a few large pieces of sugar Maple that have been doing battle with the Ambrosia beetle. Now you got ambrosia maple sometimes the defensive tannins give a red color to the wood. Turners prize it. It does have an odor box elder smells like popcorn when you work it. Nice stuff.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

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