Al Breed replies: To smooth figured maple use a sharp scraper. Wetting the wood a bit with a sponge will improve the result. You can do it with a perfectly tuned plane with a small throat, again wetting the wood in advance.
Marty Milkovits replies: Sometimes you can get by with a fresh cutter and very light passes with a planer, scraping with a mechanical body scraper and then a card scraper. However if you have access to a wide belt sander, it is the fastest and most effective way to get the job done.
Bob Oswald replies: Any cutting tool will have a tendency to tear highly figured wood. Light passes with a very sharp planer blade minimize that, but it’s problematic. The only method that works guaranteed is a drum or wide belt sander. My Jet 16-32 drum sander works beautifully surfacing or thinning any kind of wood, no matter the figure. You do have to watch feed speed, cutting depth and wood type for burning however. Light passes run fast through the sander work best.