American cherry continues to be a perennial favorite for furniture.

The figures are in and they do not tell a lie — American cherry continues to be a favorite with furniture manufacturers.

Based on a survey last fall of High Point Market exhibitors by the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., American cherry is still the species of choice for residential furniture, particularly bedroom and dining room pieces. Taking the second spot in popularity is American maple, tying with rubberwood, which increased in usage. Next in line is American white oak, which tied with mahogany for popularity.

‘The Best Domestic’

Greg Harden, president and CEO of McConnellsville, NY-based Harden Furniture, features American cherry among the species used in a new furniture line. “Cherry is considered the best domestic cabinet wood due to its warm red tone and dramatic grain cathedrals. It is perhaps the only wood species that consumers ask for by name,” said Harden. “Over the past 20 years or so it has become a much more popular wood for the kitchen cabinet market as well.”

Harden said American cherry can be finished in a wide range of colors and turns more red with age. “Cherry is a hardwood, but is still easy to machine and carve. It is not particularly easy to bend, and is prone to splitting when steam bent, unlike ash that is more flexible,” he said.

Harden added that there is a lot of confusion in the market, as many manufacturers may call their product cherry when, “They are, in reality, just putting a cherry-colored finish on poplar or an Asian wood like birch.”

Dennis Bork, award-winning master furniture maker and owner of Antiquity Period Designs Ltd. in Delafield, WI, said, “I use cherry for about 30 percent of our furniture orders, including flame cherry for projects where we want to have an aged patina and exceptional interest,” he said. “Cherry is easy to hand plane and it scrapes and sands smoothly as compared to some woods like pine.”

Sun Worshipper

Rick Hearne, president of Hearne Hardwoods, Oxford, PA, said Pennsylvania cherry is considered to be one of the finest North American hardwoods, most likely because of its richness of color. “Pennsylvania cherry also has the least amount of pitch pockets. Buyers come from all over the world searching for the color, also called pink salmon. If you go farther North, the cherry is bright pink and farther south, it becomes more orange in tone.”

Hearne said cherry thrives in full sun, so the long-ago practice of clear cutting forests actually helped the supplies of cherry to grow. “Cherry has been a popular fine furniture wood since the early settlers discovered its properties. It is especially prized for its beauty and workability, its fine grain texture and range of figures, which includes curly cherry. When finished, cherry wood is a beautiful salmon pink to red and its color improves with time.”

Hearne said cherry and walnut were the premiere choices for fine furniture made in Boston, Philadelphia and Newport. “The commercial market has been using less cherry and more walnut in the last three to four years, but cherry remains the most popular domestic with fine furniture. Its popularity has driven up prices for the best supplies.”

Sweet Species

American cherry grows in the eastern United States and Canada. Its uses include furniture and cabinetmaking, high-end joinery, musical instruments, flooring and boat interiors. It is a favorite for turnery and carving, and also is used in pattern making and specialty items.

Cherry has a yellowish sapwood, which is more pale than its heartwood. The heartwood typically will deepen in color after exposure, to a rich red to brown-red color, often with a golden luster. It is a member of the Prunus genus, which is comprised of more than 400 different species. The majority of members of the cherry family are deciduous, with a range in the northern temperate regions.

According to the Encyclopedia of Wood, “Cherry is probably the most popular of the fruitwoods, because it is possible to derive larger sizes of timber from it than from the orchard woods of pear, apple or plum. It has been appreciated as a fine cabinet wood in England and America because of its superficial resemblance to mahogany.”

Prunus avium, or European cherry, is from Europe and the mountains of North Africa. Trade names for European cherry include gean, mazzard, fruit cherry, wild cherry, merisier, kers and kirsche. Japanese cherry, Prunus japonica, also goes by the name yama-zukura and kaba-sukura and has many of the same uses as American and European cherry.

Family Name

Prunus serotina of the Family Rosaceae

Common Names

American cherry, American black cherry, cabinet cherry, rum cherry, whisky cherry, wild cherry

Height/Weight

The average height is 60 to 80 feet, but trees can grow to 100 feet. American cherry’s average weight is 36 pounds per cubic foot, with a specific gravity of 0.58.

Properties

Cherry dries fairly rapidly and has a strong tendency to warp and shrink. Experts recommend care in drying to avoid problems with shrinkage.

The wood has medium density. It works well with hand and power tools, with a moderate blunting effect on cutting edges.

The wood nails, glues and stains well, and also finishes well.

The wood has a close grain and a fine, even texture.

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