We all know the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. Well, just to refresh you, here’s how the tale goes. When George Washington was six, his father gave him a hatchet for his birthday. The first thing that young George did was to chop his father’s cherry tree. When confronted by his dad, George owned up, saying that he couldn’t tell a lie. His dad was overwhelmed by his son’s honesty. The rest, as you know, is history!
Other than its unique role in American history, the cherry tree enjoys prominence through its wood. The most commonly-used is black cherry wood, whose scientific name is Prunus serotina. Commonly found all over the Americas; other names of this tree include rum cherry, wild black cherry, and black mountain cherry.
It is a deciduous hardwood with a straight grain and a color that varies from blond to reddish-brown. Another attractive characteristic of this wood is that it darkens as it ages, ending up a deep, reddish-brown. Black cherry has a distinctive, pleasant odor while working it, and also while burning it for firewood. Due to this reason, cherry wood occupies a prominent position as wood for smoking meat.
Cherry Wood: An Overview
One of the reasons that make cherry wood a durable option is its hardness. It is considerably softer than many other types of hardwood like rosewood, ebony, walnut, and mahogany. However, it is still sufficiently hard to make all types of furniture with it. Because cherry wood looks so good, it provides us with a versatile option for indoor furniture.
Cherry Wood Hardness
This wood has a hardness of 950 on the Janka scale, as seen in most wood hardness charts. You can get softer woods like fir, basswood, and certain varieties of mahogany. But it is much softer than most hardwoods, which makes it a preferred option for working on.
Cherry Wood Sustainability
What do we mean by the sustainability of wood? We define sustainable wood as that which is acquired legally with a mind to sustain the environment. By environment, we even include the human population of a particular region, that shouldn’t be adversely affected. Typically, we consider woods that have a relatively shorter lifecycle as being sustainable. Cherry wood falls under the category of being moderately sustainable along with maple, oak, birch, and hickory.
Best Uses For Cherry Wood
Cherry wood enjoys the status of being one of the most popular hardwood for furniture in the United States today. While we use the highest grade of cherry wood for making furniture, the lower grades go into kitchen cabinets, counters, and wooden flooring. You will also find quite a few kitchen accessories like bowls, cutting boards, and wooden spoons made of cherry wood.
Cherry Wood FAQs
Is Cherry Wood Easy To Work With For Beginners?
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has declared cherry wood as one of the easier hardwoods for working with. The reasons are quite obvious, in the sense that this wood takes nails and screws quite well. You will also not face any difficulty while machining or sanding it, and it glues well. All these facts about cherry wood point to the fact that it should be easy for beginners to work with.
Is Cherry Wood Good For Carving?
You will find cherry wood not as easy to work on for carving as softer woods like butternut and white pine. However, many woodworkers consider it as one of the best types of wood for carving. The reddish-brown color of the wood produces pleasing results with any sculpture made out of cherry wood. On drying, it may shrink considerably, but later, exhibits stability. However, be careful while using power tools while carving cherry wood as it tends to burn, but you’ll be safe with hand carving tools.
Is Cherry Wood Good for Cutting Boards?
We consider cherry wood as one of the best types of wood for cutting boards. Appearance-wise, it stands out in the crowd. Hence, a cherry wood cutting board would make an excellent gift to a chef who is a fan of wooden cutting boards. On the downside, being a relatively softer wood, it chips and gets marked easily. But due to this same reason, a cherry wood cutting board will be kind to your sharpened knives.
Is Cherry Wood Good for Making Desks?
Cherry wood enjoys the position among the best types of timber for desks. You will find it hard not to find desks made from American black cherry in most American homes. Its reddish-brown color, durability, and tendency to darken with age, all contribute to the popularity of cherry wood desks.
The closed, straight grain of cherry wood imparts a smoothness to a desktop that not many other types of wood can match. You may be interested to note that the Roosevelt Room in the Whitehouse features a table made from cherry wood.
What Are The Best wood finishes for Cherry wood?
It is good to know about the different types of wood finishes. Like all other woods, cherry wood to responds well to certain types of finishes. You can make cherry wood look great with the right finish. We also deal with tips for finishing cherry wood in another of our posts. So, please do have a look at that one as well.
Here are the different cherry wood finishes you can apply:
Wipe-On Drying Oil Finish
Using boiled linseed oil and tung oil will enable the oil to penetrate the tiniest pores of the wood. The amber color of these oils imparts a mottled-cherry effect. You will find it simple to apply these wipe-on finishes, but you may find it a bit messy. However, the dust-free properties of these oils eliminate the possibility of drips, sags, and brush marks. Since these oils contain varnish as well, they are film-forming finishes. So, they become film-forming varnishes, easy to apply, and quick to dry.
Safety Tip: Ensure you have enough ventilation, wear a respirator and gloves. Also, since drying linseed oil can generate enough heat to combust spontaneously, leave them in the open air until dry.
Sprayed-On Film Finish
If you want to avoid cherry wood’s mottled finish, you can use a sprayed-on film finish. Mottling gets minimized because sprayed-on finishes do not contain as much color as drying oils. You can get the best results if you use a fast and convenient method, using an aerosol can. You get aerosols cans of shellac, lacquer, and polyurethane. Avoid using waterborne polyurethane, as it can give a pale and parched appearance to cherry wood.
Pro Tip: Examine your nozzle tip. A round nozzle tip will spray in a cone pattern and a rectangular one in a fan shape. A fan-type one will reduce the occurrence of sags and runs. You can adjust the spray on a fan-type nozzle. Hence, although they cost more, it’s worth paying more for aerosols with rectangular nozzles.
Shellac And Glaze
Here, we continue with what we discussed above, as you get shellac and glaze in aerosol cans. However, if you are going to apply these finishes manually, you need to take care of a few things. Shellac and glaze will add color where required. It will also blend in mismatched boards and cover patches of light-colored sapwood. You can also make the wood look older, as it darkens with each consecutive coat.
Is Cherry Wood Expensive?
Because you can get so many grades of cherry wood, the price tends to fluctuate wildly. Although cherry, along with maple and ash, is among the more abundant hardwoods, it still ends up being rather expensive.
You can attribute the reason for the high price of cherry wood due to its fine grain and good looks that make it highly sought after. However, in comparison, cherry wood cost less than other varieties of hardwood like walnut or mahogany.
Hardwood Substitutes for Cherry
We consider cherry wood as a versatile and moderately-priced hardwood. However, you can get some hardwood fruit tree substitutes for cherry wood. The wood from the cherry tree shares similarities with some other fruit trees such as apricot and plum.
Although they are suitable for hand working like wood carving and turning, other fruit tree wood usually doesn’t yield enough timber to make planks for furniture or flooring. Here are some popular substitutes for cherry wood:
Apricot wood or Prunus armeniaca is a decorative wood and very popular in wood carving. It features a lot of knotting, which looks good if you work it carefully to avoid tearout. The wood is rosy-orangish, punctuated with red streaks. Like cherry wood, apricot wood also darkens with time.
With the botanical name Prunus domestica, plum serves as another fruit tree variation to cherry wood. Although vibrant in color, plum wood splits easily, so you need to work it carefully. Ensure that you seal the ends while cutting it, and you need to dry it slowly. Like apricot, plum wood also makes for beautiful carvings if worked well by a skilled artisan.
This wood is easy to cut and very rewarding to work with if you have the patience. Here again, you will not find substantial sections of apple wood. The reason for this is because apple trees are regularly pruned to keep their height low for easy harvesting of apples.
However, apple wood makes excellent wood carvings and finds use in wooden ornaments and children’s toys. Although rare, you can find larger sections of apple wood, and such pieces make beautiful, robust furniture.
This tropical species from South Asia enjoys popularity in that region. But it does not find its way that much to the Western Hemisphere. One of the reasons is that mango wood only gets cultivated into timber once its fruit-bearing years are over. This is because the size and quality of the heartwood only become timber-worthy when the tree no longer bears fruit. Nonetheless, mango wood serves as a cheap substitute to teak.
Mango wood finds several uses in India for making doors and window frames, cheap furniture, flooring, musical instruments, and plywood production. Mango wood is, however, experiencing a boom today due to the several benefits that it offers.
As mentioned above, the wood resembles teak in appearance and durability. Like several other fruit-tree kinds of wood, mango wood darkens as it ages. It has a golden-brown to yellowish color. It grows faster than teak and is not listed as endangered or vulnerable.
Here’s a hardwood that doesn’t get mentioned much. But, surprisingly, pear wood is extremely versatile. Other than cherry wood, it almost the only other wood that you can get in sections large enough for furniture parts. However, you can use pear wood for paneling and drawer fronts, which serve well to bring out the grain of this wood.
The varieties that we get commercially are common pear (Pyrus communis) and Swiss pear (P. nivalis). Pear wood has a uniform and fine end grain. It takes on a salmon-pinkish color, which gets enhanced with steaming. Because of the light shade of the wood, you can use it as a contrasting background with darker woods and get striking results. However, you need to be careful while working on pear wood, because the slightest defects will show up. But if you exercise caution, you can get spectacular results.
Here, we provided an overview of the different aspects of cherry wood. We also gave you some useful tips on how to finish this wood. If you had any questions about cherry wood, we hope that we have been able to answer them in our cherry wood FAQs section.
To complete the discussion, we took a look at a few other fruit tree alternatives to cherry wood, like apricot, apple, plum, mango, and pear. We endeavor to give you a better insight into cherry wood and all things associated with it.
If you still have any further questions, please feel free to forward them to us, and we will be glad to help. We also recommend our other post, which features tips for finishing cherry wood, for an even more gainful understanding of cherry wood. Happy woodworking!
Featured Image by CG Masters