|Wood of the Month:
European Cherry is a Rare and Valuable Cabinetry Wood
By Jo-Ann Kaiser
Prunus avium, Cerasus avium of the family Rosaceae.
American black cherry has no shortage of fans around the world, but the cherry from Europe also earns high praise as a fine cabinetry wood. The only major problem with European cherry is that supplies are somewhat limited.
âThe cherry used and sought after by the woodworking industry is not cultivated in the garden, but is the wild-growing tree occurring in forest stands,â write the editors of Veneers, a Fritz Kohl Handbook by Interwood Forest Products Inc., of Shelbyville, KY. The wood has a warm, reddish-orange color often with green streaks. Interwood markets the wood under the trademark Kohl cherry.
European cherry is from Prunus avium, or Cerasus avium as it is also known. In some reference books, it is also identified as Prunus cerasus, which it used to be called. Both European and domestic cherrywood, from Prunus serotina and various other species, are members of the Rose (Rosaceae) family.
Cherrywood grows in the United States and Canada. European cherry is native to Great Britain and Europe, but also grows in the mountains of North Africa and southeast Asia.
The European cherry tree, at average heights of 50 to 60 feet, tends to be shorter than its American counterpart, which reaches heights of 100 feet. Some European cherry trees, however, can grow to heights of 80 or 90 feet, with diameters of nearly 15 feet. At an average weight of 38 lbs per cubic foot, European cherry is slightly heavier than black or cabinet cherry from North America, which has an average weight of 36 lbs per cubic foot.
European cherry is often used in small sections because of its tendency to warp, so experts recommend slowing the drying process. âHeavily twisted logs should be dried separately,â according to the Kohl handbook. Some caution that contact with water will give the wood a slight yellow tint, while others say contact with iron will turn the wood grey.
The wood is moderately hard and heavy, strong, stiff and moderately stable in service. Some compare its strength properties to oak.
An Excellent Turnery Wood
As mentioned, European cherry is a well-admired cabinetwood and is an excellent choice for carving and turnery. Its uses include cabinetmaking and fine furniture, paneling, decorative joinery and architectural woodwork.
European cherry is also used for specialty items and woodenware, caskets, toys, handles, gunstocks, musical instruments and shuttle pins. The wood is cut into decorative veneers.
One of the Roses
In Hugh Johnsonâs Encyclopedia of Trees, the author writes about the various cherry trees that thrive around the world.
The Japanese cherry trees are well known for their flowering beauty, but âJapan has no monopoly of the flowering cherries. Captain Collingwood Ingram, enumerating the species counts 13 for Japan (not counting the countless varieties), 23 for China, six for North America and five for Europe.â
The author states that European cherry trees have long been appreciated for ornament and fruit. The tree is also prized for commercial timber uses. âThis is the tree whose wood makes so much splendid French furniture and whose fruit makes the potent Kirsch (fermented juice) of Switzerland.â
After a good start, cherry trees thrive the world over in a variety of conditions, unless they get cut back too much. Hacking at a tree will cause it to continue producing gum from a bad cut until it dies. Johnson writes, therefore, the motto of the cherry trees is âDonât prunus.â
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