Cherry: A Sweet Species for Furniture

By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 08/07/2013 10:45AM


click image to zoomCherry, Wood of the MonthFamily Name:
Prunus Serotina of the Family Rosaceae

Common Names
American black cherry, cabinet cherry, rum cherry, whiskey cherry, wild cherry, Pennsylvania cherry, mountain black cherry

Average height is 50 to 100 feet, with average diameters of 1– 2 feet. The average weight is 36 pounds per cubic foot, with a specific gravity of 0.58. Janka hardness rating of 950.

• Cherry dries fairly rapidly with little degrade. Use care to avoid shrinkage during seasoning.
• Cherry works well with both hand and power tools and can be glued without problems. For finishing, cherry does well with a variety of treatments.
• The sapwood is vulnerable to attack by the common furniture beetle and the heartwood is moderately resistant to preservative treatment.
Harden Furniture President Greg Harden knows cherry. His company uses solid cherry for approximately 90 percent of its products, including a table made for the Roosevelt Room in the White House.

There are a number of qualities that make cherry a great furniture wood. “First and foremost is grain and color – dramatic cathedrals, subtle straight grain and a rich reddish tone – I guess there is a reason why people think of a certain color when the word cherry is mentioned,” said Harden. “Consumers associate cherry with high quality and color is a big part of that.

“It also is a great wood for some of our more casual/rustic collections and the natural defects such as pitch pockets and pin knots are not too overwhelming – just enough defect that the lumber is still stable,” he added.

In addition to furniture, cherry also is used for: architectural millwork, cabinetry, flooring, musical instruments, boat interiors and more.

The wood’s quality is highly dependent on where it is harvested; certain soils yield more gum and less quality lumber while slower growing climates tend to yield better lumber as the grain is tighter. Also, said Harden, “As cherry ages it turns a little darker red – a good quality as it gives finishes more depth and stronger color. We always talk about the color being in the wood and not on top of it (i.e., when using stains and glazes).”

Harden FurnitureFrom Harden Furniture, this cherry dining table is part of its Live Edge Custom Table Program. Cherry also is prized as veneer. “We use figured cherry veneer on some products and the natural figuring gives it a beautiful three dimensional appearance,” he added.

Hearne Hardwoods Owner Rick Hearne also speaks highly of the species. “Cherry is a magnificent wood. In the UK and Europe, cherry is considered an exotic wood. Here, we almost take it for granted,” he said.

“Cherry is a benchmark for reproduction furniture and has a long storied tradition, but cherry is a wood that would be at home in any fine hardwood application,” Hearne said.

Black cherry is widely reported to be the largest of the native cherries and the only native cherry to be considered commercially valuable. Found throughout the United States, cherry’s prime growing areas are considered by many to be Pennsylvania and New York. Its range also includes parts of Canada.

Harden FurnitureHarden Furniture “Pennsylvania is known for its black cherry,” said Hearne. “The color of Pennsylvania cherry, as it is sometimes called, is prized for its rich color, a salmon pink to reddish color with very few defects. In other states, like North Carolina and Kentucky, cherry’s color tends more to an orange color. Cherry’s color deepens over time."

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About the Author

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.

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