Could this table top be Maple?

5 Jul 2011
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United Kingdom
We got given this Victorian wind out table from older friends of ours that were downsizing. By design it must be around 120-150 years old. I am bringing an old house out of the 1970's and putting it back into the Victorian era and have worked with a lot of timber species along the way so I know my oaks, mahoganys (Merranti etc) Pitch Pine, Douglas Fir etc.

The table frame and legs are clearly oak but the top clearly isnt.

Ive no experience of it but for some reason I think its Maple. You can see the heart wood, sap wood, each leaf is made of a full slice of tree. The sapwood is very creamy, the heartwood has a very subtle green tinge to it, sort of a greeny gray. Ive sanded it back to bare timber in order to danish oil it. It had been badly stained by someone along the years. The dust from sanding is a light brown like the top of a capucino coffee.

Do you think it is Maple? Any other thoughts?

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If it's British-made it's highly unlikely to be maple. Maple isn't a native species, originating in North America, and isn't grown here in any commercial quantity. It is far more likely to be the introduced species, sycamore (sometimes called field maple) - which came with the Romans and is a very common hedge row and coppice tree. It was frequently used for kitchen draining boards, shop counter tops, chopping boards, utensils and all sorts of treen in the Victorian period - as a kid our draining board at home was maple and was scrubbed almost white. Because it is a close relation to the North American maple the timber grain looks very similar
I'd agree. It look like sycamore to me. That slightly more swirly figure in the middle is typical of what I've seen. Nice table too, looks as if it's been made out of two consecutive boards to make a sort of "book match" The boards will most likely have been cut up and rejoined in order to take out the stresses that build up in the drying process. As said it looks as if they have.
I think our draining board was elm when I was a kid. Table was sycamore and scrubbed white. Kitchen larder / cabinet in the corner, and open fire.
Off topic as always. :)
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Field Maple, so it is a sort of Maple you think then. Ive just looked up pics and grain, workability etc and end grain and it all ties in.

Thanks for that. The oak frame then? Probably English oak?

I thought a lot of timber was shipped in to the UK from the States and Canada.

My house is constructed using pitch pine, or some have said Oregon Pine, where I have reworked things the weight of the stuff is unreal. This wasnt a native species to the UK either though?

ps table top is definitly not a jointed board.

Maple and sycamore are different varieties of the same species Acer.
It's difficult for even experts to tell exactly what species timber is without microscopic examination, but it's more likely to be sycamore given it's probable age, and the fact that it's been cut from full width boards. It's in no way inferior IMHO.
Imported timber is usually sawn up to make "packs" of square edges timber for shipping.
Most likely that the legs and frame are English oak.
I thought a lot of timber was shipped in to the UK from the States and Canada
Softwoods in the main until at least the 1930s because we had our own native hardwood species as well as some imports from the Empire and to a lesser extent Europe which were all far cheaper than American hardwoods. Hardwoods from the USA would have also been subject at various times to import duties which were meant to keep them out of the country. The earliest furniture you generally see made in the UK with maple (and then mainly veneer) was 1930s "machine modern" (Art Deco) furniture from the late 1920s/early 1930s. Later than your table from your description

Sycamore was always a locally sourced timber of relatively low value - (hard) maple is a much higher value timber and was really only used for high wear jobs like narrow strip flooring such as gymnasiums, and dance hall floors, as well as butchers blocks until the 1990s when it became popular for kitchens. Never traditionally considered suitable as a furniture timber because of the blunting effect (pre-carbide tooling). Of course if your table top is a later replacement or veneered.....

Are you wishing it to be maple because that sounds posher? :rolleyes:

My house is constructed using pitch pine, or some have said Oregon Pine, where I have reworked things the weight of the stuff is unreal. This wasnt a native species to the UK either though?
That is totally irrelevant to the source of the table top IMHO. The UK imported large section softwood for construction from the 1770s onwards because North American softwoods were first growth and clear felling delivered massive timbers (24 x 20 and larger were common). Different section of the trade. Different purchasing rationale
Absolutely not wanting it to sound posher!

Just have a real amateur interest in timber and love refinishing and reusing proper timber. Don't do MDF etc.

Thanks for everyone's comments.


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