May / June 2018 • Issue 3 • PANELS & FURNITURE ASIA 14 NEWS OPINION SOFT MAPLE - THE BEST SUBSTITUTE FOR WALNUT AND CHERRY By James Xu, Chairman and CEO, Shanghai AM IN 2017, Walnut and Cherry experienced the biggest price increase compared to other North American hardwoods. Walnut increased by 40 per cent; Cherry by 30 per cent. The price hike for Walnut and Cherry is partly due to the large volume of log exports to China (including these two species), resulting in green lumber prices rising, thus driving up the export price of KD lumber. The strong demand for these two species in the Chinese market is the root cause. With the development of China’s economy and increased standards of living, the demand for solid wood furniture and home decoration has become a key consideration, especially that for materials with aesthetic and environmental credentials, and durability. Customised interior decoration in solid wood has also become quite popular. Walnut is now mostly used to produce traditional or so-called modern Chinese style furniture; Cherry is mainly used in solid wood customised home decoration and furniture manufacturing. Looking forward to 2018, the demand for Walnut and Cherry in the Chinese market will continue on 2017’s upward trajectory. This may be a big problem for lumber producers and distributors because if prices continue to go up, it will drive up the cost for end-users, who may in turn look for substitutes or give up Walnut and Cherry. Once this happens, lumber producers and distributors will have a dilemma. They may have to dump their Walnut and Cherry inventories if too much of their working capital is tied up for too long—a move that would cause market turbulence. Considering the risks, what North American hardwood species is able to substituteWalnut and Cherry, and increase sales at the same time? Red Maple (Red Leaf Maple) Cherry Walnut Density (with 12% moisture content ) 0.54 0.5 0.55 Average weight (with 12% moisture content) 609Kg/m³ 561Kg/m³ 609Kg/m³ Average volumetric shrinkage (from green lumber to KD lumber with 6% moisture content) 10.50% 9.20% 10.20% Modulus rupture 92.393MPa 84.809Mpa 100.667Mpa Elasticity modulus 11,308MPa 10,274Mpa 11,584Mpa Compressive strength (rift grain) 45.093Mpa 49.023MPa 52.264Mpa Hardness 4225N 4226N 4492N Fig. 2: Can you tell which is Walnut, which is Soft Maple? Fig. 3: Can you tell which is Cherry, which is Soft Maple? Fig. 1: A comparison of Soft Maple, Walnut and Cherry. Source: AHEC American Hardwood Guide.