Cherry wood is a hardwood that enjoys wide popularity in homes throughout the United States and in many other places across the globe. The striking grain pattern and warm, reddish-brown hues make for a pleasant-looking wood.
In this post, we look at six different types of cherry wood that we use all over the United States. There are quite a few species that vary according to color, texture, and grain pattern. As a woodworker, you can benefit from knowing the various types of cherry wood and their uses. So, read on to know more.
Uses of Cherry Wood
Cherry comes from the eastern regions of the United States. It owes its popularity due to its good looks and easy workability. As a result, you will see cherry wood used extensively in dining rooms, living rooms, and bedrooms of homes.
You will also find cherry being used to make furniture, musical instruments, and toys. When burnt, the smoke of cherry wood has a distinct aroma making it the preferred choice for smoking meat. We also use it to make chewing gum and aromatics.
Types of Cherry Wood
Now that we have had a look at a few common characteristics of cherry, let’s get into the specifics of the different types of cherry wood. Here are six of the most popular species that you can find:
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Also known as American cherry, black cherry wood is also called whiskey cherry, rum cherry, chokecherry, and wild cherry. This species is native to northern America and along the east coast, which produces the maximum amount of cherry wood in the United States.
The color of the heartwood of black cherry varies from light pinkish-brown to a darker medium reddish-brown. The sapwood is pale yellow. The trees grow to a height of 10 feet, and the trunks to a maximum diameter of 5 feet.
Black cherry is easy to work with due to its smooth and straight wood grain structure. It is also soft with a Janka hardness rating of 950 lbf. It is a very durable wood and resistant to decay. In addition to its good looks, cherry is a preferred choice for making various types of furniture.
We also use black cherry for making cabinets, paneling, carving, and flooring. It is also good for making musical instruments, burial caskets, and tobacco pipes.
A downside of black cherry is that you may sometimes encounter figured pieces of wood. You will find them difficult to work with due to the curly grain pattern. Another drawback is that it tends to become blotchy when you apply a finish, although you can resolve this issue by first applying a gel-based stain.
Black cherry has a distinctive, mild odor which can affect people who suffer from respiratory issues. Therefore, while working on this wood, especially while sanding, it is good to wear respiratory protection.
The price of black cherry wood is similar to that of walnut, but it is cheaper than other hardwoods like oak and maple because it is not on the list of endangered wood species.
Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium)
The other name for sweet cherry wood is European cherry. It grows in a few regions in Asia and across Europe. Sweet cherry trees are smaller than their American cousin, black cherry. Although smaller, the wood is very robust and durable. The trees grow as tall as 65 feet with trunk diameters of up to 2 feet.
Sweet cherry wood offers a wider array of contrasting colors than black cherry, and it is a harder and more resilient wood. Unfortunately, although it is not on the list of endangered wood species, it isn’t easy to procure, which pushes up the price considerably, especially in the U.S.
When the wood is freshly cut, sweet cherry is light pink to light brown, which darkens over time. The wood exhibits a close grain, which may have a straight or wavy pattern. It is moderately resistant to decay but less so for insect attacks.
Sweet cherry is easy to work with a moderate hardness. It has a Janka hardness rating of 1,150 lbf and coupled with its advantages and good looks, it makes good furniture, boats and is used on flooring. Sweet cherry also lacks odor and allergic properties like black cherry.
Sweet cherry wood shares the same downside as black cherry in the way it responds to staining. You may end up with a blotchy stain unless you use a gel-based stain and a sanding sealer.
Brazilian Cherry (Hymenaea courbaril)
Also known as jatoba, Brazilian cherry grows in Central America, southern Mexico, northern South America, and the West Indies. It came to the U.S. about six decades ago. Technically it isn’t cherry, and the tree comes from a part of the legume family.
Brazilian cherry trees grow up to a height of 130 feet and the trunks to a diameter of 4 feet. This variety of cherry wood first gained popularity as a flooring material. However, when it first came to the U.S., it was labeled as an exotic flooring style.
The common factor between Brazilian cherry and genuine cherry wood is the color. Brazilian cherry has a similar reddish-brown color to black cherry or sweet cherry. However, the color darkens over time, just as with genuine cherry wood.
This wood has a high degree of hardness and strength, with a Janka hardness rating of 2,690 lbf. It exhibits high levels of durability as well.
Brazilian cherry is a suitable choice for floors with kids and pets because of its resistance to scratches and spills.
You will find Brazilian cherry easy to clean and maintain, and it doesn’t emit an odor, so there is no possibility of allergy issues like with black cherry. It comes in two forms: solid wood, which is more expensive, and engineered wood, a cheaper form.
On the downside, like all cherry wood, Brazilian cherry also darkens over time. So, if you don’t want it to darken, you will need to take extra precautions to protect it from direct light.
Patagonian Cherry (Guibourtia hymenaeifolia)
The other name for Patagonian cherry is Tiete rosewood, as it comes from the rose family. It is native to South America, and the trees grow to a massive height of 165 feet with huge trunk diameters as much as 6 feet.
Patagonian cherry is orange to pinkish-brown and turns deep red over time. The straight, bland pattern of this wood makes it a preferred choice for interior wooden floors. Patagonian cherry is an extremely strong hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 2,790 lbf.
Its extreme hardness creates a disadvantage for woodworkers when they have to cut and shape it. In addition, Patagonian cherry has a high silica content, which further increases wear and tear on cutting tools and machines.
Despite its difficult workability, the hardness and durability of this wood, coupled with its affordable price and good looks, make it a practical choice for flooring. Patagonia cherry also makes specialty wood items and turned objects.
Caribbean Cherry (Lonchocarpus spp.)
Caribbean cherry grows in the Caribbean region, particularly in Guatemala and Belize. However, it also grows in tropical America. Other names for this variety of cherry are Mayan/Aztec Cherry, Machine, and Black Cabbage Bark.
The trees grow to 100 feet, and the trunks up to 3 feet in diameter. It is a tough, open-pored wood and is extremely hard. The Janka hardness rating of Caribbean cherry is 2,700 lbf.
The color is the saving grace of Caribbean cherry wood, and it can vary from yellow and tan to brown or deep red. The color varies according to the soil where the trees grow and the climate. As with all cherry wood, this wood also darkens with time.
Due to the extreme hardness of Caribbean cherry, it is a difficult wood to work with and not too popular among woodworkers. It can quickly dull the blades of hand and machine tools. We use Caribbean cherry for flooring, decking, furniture, and heavy construction.
Chilean Cherry (Nothofagus dombeyi)
Last on our list is Chilean cherry. As in the case of Patagonian cherry, this variety also does not belong to the cherry family. It belongs to the beech family. We also call this wood Coigue, and it grows in Chile and Argentina.
Chilean cherry ranges from pale pink to light tan, and you can sometimes find grey or cream-colored wood. This wood also exhibits the typical cherry wood darkening over time. In addition, Chilean cherry has a fine lustrous grain pattern.
This wood is surprisingly soft with a Janka hardness rating of 990 lbf, making it an easy wood to work with, unlike the other species of cherry wood featured here. You will find that you can also mold the wood into various shapes and sizes.
However, there is a scarcity of trees which severely limits the availability of Chilean cherry wood. Due to the short supply, this wood is also extremely expensive.
We hope that you found this post on types of cherry wood quite interesting. There are so many different species of cherry wood and, although they don’t all belong to the same family, you can use any of them in your woodworking projects and get good results.
And, just in case you would like to know some more about this fascinating wood, you can take a look at our post: “Cherry Wood FAQs.”
Try using cherry wood in your next woodworking project and see the difference!