Furniture grade Cherry wood, produced from the American Black Cherry tree, is a hardwood known for its beautiful grain, warm tones and ultra-smooth, buttery finish. Cherry’s warm brown color features beautiful red overtones and darker markings around knots.
More than any other hardwood, Cherry will darken over time. You can expect unstained Cherry wood to start out a light pink color and age to a darker red to brown color. This color transition is a natural process that is a result of exposure to sunlight. The process starts immediately after the lumber receives its final sanding and finish and can take 6 to 12 months to complete.
The first two color samples below show both freshly milled Cherry wood and aged Cherry wood. Cherry that is stained will also darken over time, but the darker the stain, the less this will be observable.
Furniture grade Cherry wood, produced from the American Black Cherry tree, Prunus Serotina, is a hardwood known for its beautiful grain, warm color tones and long lasting strength. Cherry’s warm brown color features beautiful red overtones and darker streaks around knots. When finished, Cherry wood is known for its ultra-smooth, buttery surface.
Cherry grows primarily in the Appalachian Forest region of the United States. Cherry wood is considered the quintessential American hardwood, being used in cabinetry, flooring and even musical instruments. Vintage Early American, Amish and Shaker furniture were often made from Cherry wood.
Cherry wood grows particularly well in the United States, predominately in central-east and east coast regions. It’s prevalence made it especially useful for the early United States, and was used for everything from flooring to doors.
Cherry is a prized furniture hardwood that is known for it’s deep reddish brown hues and smooth grain pattern. However, these colors only come over time after an aging process takes place. Before this it has a very light pink to tan color, with more distinct darker heartwood patches around the grain and some “checks” or mineral deposits throughout.
Cherry wood takes oil based stain very well, producing a smooth even coloration and distinctive look. While unstained cherry will naturally age to a classic red-brown color, it is also an excellent base for many other stain colors ranging from charcoal to navy blue and even barn red!
Cherry wood is famous for its straight yet widely spaced grain pattern. Cherry wood grain is different that Maple wood, which has a very straight grain and a tighter wood pattern. While both Cherry and Maple are light colored hardwoods, they are actually quite different in both grain pattern and color with Cherry being red and Maple being a clear tan.
Over time, Cherry naturally darkens to form a rich, warm patina. This process is caused by oxidation, which naturally causes the wood to get darker and more ruddy. This process happens when oxygen from the air bonds, or reacts, with the natural chemicals in the wood. This causes a reaction that is similar in some ways to oxidization on metals like copper and silver.
Copper reacts to air by forming a green film over the metal, due to its negative charge bonding with oxygen’s positive charge. An example of this is the statue of liberty, which is actually encased in a sheet of copper. Silver reacts to oxygen by binding to it as well, creating a black film. An example of this is anything made out of silver, like a silver spoon. They need to be polished to get that dark layer off.
In a similar way, Cherry darkens up over time. The difference is that the oxidization sets into the crevice of the grain, making the layer less apparent. You can see the original un-aged color by cutting the wood in half and looking at the center.
Cherry wood is a very hard wood with a straight but widely spaced grain. It has interesting features around knots, but otherwise it is pretty uniform; red with streaks of darker burgundy.
The middle, or the heartwood, of a cherry tree varies from rich red to reddish brown and will darken with age and on exposure to light, which is the oxidation process. In contrast, the sapwood is creamy white. The wood has a straight-grain, a fine, uniform, satiny and smooth texture.
Cherry is easy to machine, nails and glues well, and when sanded and stained, it produces an excellent, smooth finish. It cures quickly compared to other woods and has a moderately high shrinkage if dried naturally. However, it’s size remains consistent if it is properly kiln-dried.
Cherry is dense, but it is not the densest of hardwoods. Denser woods would be White Oak and Red Oak. Cherry is also elastic, meaning it will bend more under pressure before breaking. This also means that it is not very stiff, adding to shock resistance. A downside is that the flexibility means that it is not the strongest wood we offer. The strongest wood prize goes to Oak.
Cherry wood is hard, much harder than a softwood. Unlike Fir or Pine, which are softwoods, a hardwood like Cherry has more resistance to nicks, scratches and impacts. This is why hardwoods are used in floors and doors, because they are so durable.
Hardwood is naturally strong because of two factors: Density and Cell Structure. In general, hardwoods like Cherry have a greater density because of how closely packed the cells are. The tightly packed cells create a tight matrix of woody material, increasing the material per surface area, making the wood very dense and hard.
Furthermore, Cherry is hard because of it’s cell structure. Many softwoods have basic and loose grain, making it easier to disrupt their patterns. Splinters are common in softwoods because their grains are straight and wide, making it easy to shatter. Not so with hardwoods. Hardwoods have tight, complex patterns that not only look good, but are incredibly strong. That means that a hardwood will be significantly stronger than a comparable softwood. So, Cherry would be harder than a softwood.
If you only want a hardwood that is the hardest wood we sell, then Oak would be better. While cherry is hard, it is not as hard as Oak wood, which is renowned for it’s dent and scratch resistance.
We often get asked whether Cherry wood is good for furniture. Cherry wood is great for furniture because of all the qualities mentioned earlier. Furthermore, these qualities are ones that every craftsman likes. It is hard and consistent, keeping any shape that is given to it. It is beautiful, with a peppered grain pattern that creates nice visuals in the wood. And it is elastic, giving it shock resistance. This means that any shape that is given to it, it will keep. It is simply a joy to work with.
And for the customer, the resulting hardwood is perfect; Cherry builds beautiful and durable furniture that lasts for generations. It will last in and out of storage, and will last for a long time with the proper care.
Cherry sits in the middle of the hardness scale among hardwoods. It is softer than Maple and Oak, but harder than Walnut. So if something is going to see extreme heavy use, like a child’s desktop, then Maple or Oak is the best. Cherry is still good, but it is not the best for that use.
Color wise, Cherry is also in the middle of the other hardwoods. Maple is very neutral in color, having a laid back creamy golden tone. Walnut is an extremely rich brown wood, putting every other wood in our catalogue to shame with it’s bold color. Cherry, while red and incredibly mixed, does not quite match Walnut. Oak is interesting because of the varieties in the wood, but in general Cherry takes stains better.
Furthermore, if you are going to use a grey, black or blue stain, Maple or White Oak is better because of it’s neutrality. It will take more extreme stains easier. The color really comes down to personal preference.
On the other hand, Cherry darkens over time more than the other woods. If you want your wood to age over time, then Cherry is the best option.
In the end, the wood choice comes down to personal preference and use-case. Harder-used pieces will want to use Oak or Maple, while more decorative pieces may want to use Cherry or Walnut.