Soft maple has a Janka hardness of 950 which is comparable to teak or
walnut. So, it isn't soft. Hard maple has a Janka hardness of 1450 as
compared to Northern Red Oak at 1290. Either maple is fine for cabinets.
However, soft maple tends to have more brown in it than does hard maple, so
most consider it better for paint grade although it is used as a stain grade
also. I don't know if it is just me, but I seem to get more tearout and
interleaved grain with soft maple.
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