Flame maple (tiger maple), also known as flamed maple, curly maple, ripple maple, fiddleback or tiger stripe, is a feature of maple in which the growth of the wood fibers is distorted in an undulating chatoyant pattern, producing wavy lines known as "flames". This effect is often mistakenly said to be part of the grain of the wood; it is more accurately called "figure", as the distortion is perpendicular to the grain direction. Prized for its beautiful appearance, it is used frequently in the manufacturing of musical instruments, such as violins and bassoons, and fine furniture. Another well-known use of the material is its use in guitars, especially the venerated GibsonLes Paul. The Gibson Les Paul "Standard", initially manufactured from 1958 to 1960, sported a flame maple top finished in a cherry-red sunburst on a mahogany body. Today, these instruments are some of the most prized on the vintage guitar market, and as such are unaffordable to most musicians.
During the westward expansion of early settlers and explorers into the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, curly maple was often used for making the stocks used on Kentucky rifles.
Figures on Gibson Les Paul Standard (1958-1960)
According to the Beauty Of The Burst by Yasuhiko Watanabe, the figures seen on the sunburst Les Paul are categorized into 8 types: 6 types of flame maple (Curly, Ribbon curly, Flame, Tiger stripe, Fiddleback, Pin stripe), and 2 other types (Blister and Bird's eye). Note that usually the last two types are not considered as the flame maple variations, along with the quilt maple.