We grade each Quilted and Flamed maple piece individually according to its color, figure, grain and defects.
In grading color in Western Big-leaf Maple, what we consider color is the red heartwood that would make it a two-tone billet, or stain that sometimes forms in the billet if it’s extremely saturated and doesn’t dry as quickly as the rest of the batch. What is NOT considered “color” is the natural variation in the hue of the wood. Some grow extremely white, while some grow with almost a woody pink hue. Most are towards the middle of each extreme. If you are looking for a pure white set with almost no visible annual rings, you won’t find it in Western Bigleaf Maple. That is a trait of the Eastern maples.
In grading figure, it’s about the intensity and how well it shows. Flame and Quilt both require full figure with good depth filling the entire pattern to be considered five star. Lesser figure is a lower grade descending from five down to two star. This part of grading is the hardest part to learn. It takes time to train the eye to see what’s beneath the rough sawn face. On top of that, it’s a subjective process, but it’s one we’ve learned well.
For grain, we take into account the direction of the wood fibers. Light refracting in the undulating fiber in the wood is what gives it it’s distinctive figure, but a large section that turns up at too steep an angle can give a section of end grain that is hard to stain evenly.
Defects such as pin knots, bird pecks and mineral streaks have certain guidelines they follow. Take these into account and you can successfully predict what direction they will go and where they will end. They are carefully examined and patterned around.
Beautiful pieces can be downgraded because of red heartwood, a pin knot or similar defect in the piece. We pattern around it if we're able. If we can’t, it goes into our 2nd stack and is sold at a heavy discount or resawn. Sometimes after we sell a billet, something pops up inside that showed no indicator on the outside that it was there. If this happens, simply return it. We guarantee all of our products.
Big Leaf Maple
Western Bigleaf Maple has an intensity and depth of flame that is unparalleled in any other maple. Although it’s softer than its eastern cousins, it’s still a hardwood; durable and desirable for many applications, tonewoods being the obvious one here. It’s also the only maple in the world that grows the quilted style of figure. Although Western Bigleaf Maple grows from the center of coastal British Columbia down into the top half of California, quilted maple grows almost exclusively in northwest Washington State. It is truly an exotic wood.