Birdseye maple, one of the rarest kinds of wood on the planet, has a distinctive pattern that looks like tiny, swirling eyes disrupting the smooth
lines of grain. Birdseye maple isn't a variety or species of maple, but rather a phenomenon that occurs within several kinds of timber due to an
unknown cause. Perhaps the valuable anomaly showcases wood's reaction to a fungal or viral infection, genetic mutation, bird pecking, climate change,
soil conditions, growth history, or some other mysterious element.
Birdseye maple has a medium density and variable color. The outer rings of the tree create lumber that's usually a creamy, light amber color with
darker birdseye patterns. The inner rings, called heartwood, might be deep amber or reddish with dark brown birdseye. Depending on the frequency of
the birdseye swirls, each 1/8" to 3/8" wide (1/3-1 cm), the wood may be extremely valuable. Woodworkers prize the timber because it "turns" well on a
lathe, meaning it can be shaped into decorative canes, chair legs, or handles. After it's finished, birdseye maple doesn't scratch easily.
Birdseye maple, occurring in Acer saccharum, only refers
to the most common species of tree. Millers also find the deformation in
red maple, white ash, Cuban mahogany, American beech, black walnut, and
yellow birch. These trees that grow in the Great Lakes region of Canada
and the United States yield
the heftiest supply, along with some varieties in the Rocky
Mountains. Although there are a few clues in a tree's bark that indicate
the lumber might have birdseye, it is usually necessary to fell the tree
and cut it apart before you know for sure.
Refined specialty products, such as the dashboard of a Rolls Royce, are made of birdseye maple. Since it is such a rare and unusual lumber type,
it's very expensive and in short supply. Its cost in boardfeet can be hundreds of times that of ordinary hardwood. Boxes and bowls for jewelry,
thin veneer, humidors, canes, furniture inlays, handles, and guitars are made from the decorative wood. These beautiful collectors items seem to
shimmer and swirl under the curling circles of birdseye.
see also: Maple, Hard