When you need wood of significant quality for your woodworking projects, two of the best types of wood that you can use are walnut and cherry wood. Both these woods make excellent furniture and hardwood flooring and are widely available across the United States.
Walnut and cherry wood are two kinds of wood that played a prominent role in adorning homes and offices since the early days in the United States. The deep, chocolate-brown walnut and the rich, reddish-brown cherry wood make both of them a good choice for high-end furniture. You will also find both woods easy to work with.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood
Walnut and cherry wood are hardwoods of different types. They both come from angiosperm trees which is the distinguishing feature of hardwoods. With angiosperms, the seeds are enclosed, like the cherry fruit or walnuts in shells.
The flowers of these trees attract insects to pollinate them by carrying pollen between the different trees. It results in angiosperm trees like walnut and cherry being spaced apart. They will typically have other types of trees growing between them.
Walnut and cherry wood differ greatly from each other, yet, each type of wood has its characteristics. Walnut comes from the genus Juglans. The wood has a hard, tight, and dense grain, and you can achieve a high polish to it. The wood grain is straight with occasional irregular patterns.
Cherry trees come from the genus Prunus, which includes a variety of trees and shrubs. The wood is reddish-brown and has a golden luster. When freshly cut, cherry wood is pale but tends to darken to its characteristic reddish-brown over time.
Although there are many different varieties of walnut, you will find only a small number of them growing in the United States. Walnut trees reach heights of up to 100 feet and the walnut tree trunks grow up to diameters of 5 feet.
The most prominent form of walnut in the United States is eastern black walnut, which we also call American black walnut or American walnut.
Walnuts are edible, and the wood has great value for woodworkers. The wood is characterized by its rich, chocolate-brown color with contrasting wood grain patterns of light and dark brown. Walnut is a significantly hard type of wood, but surprisingly easy to work with. The price of this wood can be quite expensive.
Cherry Wood: Background
We also call black cherry American cherry. You will find this type of wood used throughout the United States. Black cherry trees grow primarily in the eastern part of the US. Cherry trees grow up to 100 feet and you will see cherry tree trunks up to 5 feet in diameter.
Cherry has a reddish-brown heartwood and sapwood that is pale, and almost white. Woodworkers find cherry an easy wood to work with and you can apply a finish to cherry using a stain with satisfactory results, although, even applying oil can be quite effective.
Cherry wood takes on darker shades as it ages on prolonged exposure to sunlight. To avoid uneven darkening, you would do well to keep cherry wood furniture away from direct sunlight.
We use cherry wood for making furniture, wall panels, and cabinets among several other applications. Although cherry is a sustainable variety of wood, it tends to get quite expensive, often even more expensive than oak.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Appearance
Walnut comes in various shades of dark brown, compared to the reddish-brown of cherry wood. The sapwood is very pale but the heartwood is a deep, chocolate-brown that many but not all prefer.
Walnut wood is dense with a tight straight wood grain pattern, broken intermittently with a degree of interlocking. The fine, straight grain structure and smooth finish on polishing make walnut an ideal choice for furniture.
The heartwood of cherry is light with a pinkish-brown hue when freshly cut, but the wood darkens to a reddish-brown over time. The color change of cherry wood is caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight.
The dark heartwood and pale sapwood of cherry create a stark contrast. You will commonly see some cherry wood boards containing a bit of sapwood along the edges.
Cherry wood has a straight grain but with some degree of curliness as well. The wood grain has a fine texture and the surface has a moderate, natural luster.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Durability
Both walnut and cherry are moderately durable types of wood and they both are strong, hard, and heavy and look beautiful when finished.
Walnut is a moderately hard variety of wood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,010 lbf. The wood takes on a silver-gray appearance if left outdoors. But you will rarely find walnut used as outdoor furniture.
The natural luster of walnut is revered by woodworkers, and you will not find this wood ever stained using solid colors. Walnut wood has a moderate resistance to decay, but it will not withstand insect attack. It is a long-lasting type of wood.
Cherry wood is also a significantly hard form of wood, but softer than walnut with a Janka hardness rating of 950 lbf. Being a softer wood, you would have to take additional precautions to protect the wood from abrasion and scratches. For example, cherry flooring calls for additional measures in high-traffic areas.
Like walnut, cherry does not fare well outdoors. It does not produce natural, protective oil like some other hardwoods, so, cherry wood is restricted to indoor applications.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Maintenance
You can maintain walnut by cleaning it occasionally with a lint-free cloth. It will not last long outdoors but will have a long life if you protect it from direct sunlight.
Walnut does not resist insects well, so that’s another reason why you need to restrict furniture made of this wood to indoor use. You can apply an insect-resistant polish to walnut wood to prolong its life. Some even sprinkle a bit of salt on the surface of the wood to keep insects at bay.
Cherry wood is characterized by the deep, reddish-brown it takes on if exposed to direct sunlight. But prolonged exposure to the sun can damage the look of the wood, so do not overexpose cherry wood flooring or furniture to the sun, as it can cause irregular darkening of the wood.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Workability and Uses
Walnut wood is an easy wood to work with. Although it is significantly hard, black walnut in particular is a durable and versatile variety of wood. You will find it easy to carve this wood and it is a good candidate for steam bending as well. Walnut takes glue and finish quite well, and also nails and screws.
Like walnut, cherry wood is also an easy wood to work with, but prone to chipping. You need to take care while working on knotty areas, and places where the wood grain interlocks.
You can use nails and screws easily on this wood, and it takes glue quite well. Cherry wood responds well to hand and machine tools. You can also make some fine carvings out of cherry, but be wary of its tendency to chip.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Price
Walnut is one of the slightly less-available varieties of wood in the United States. But it remains a valued variety due to its durability and good looks. These factors tend to push up the price of walnut wood.
Cherry wood lumber is also in high demand in the United States, especially for making cabinets and high-end furniture. We can consider the price of cherry wood to fluctuate between the mid to upper range of the price spectrum.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Sustainability
Neither walnut nor cherry wood appears on the lists of endangered wood species, so we can consider them sustainable types of wood.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Any other characteristics
Walnut is a fine wood, sought after by woodworkers, but it doesn’t have any unique characteristics. Cherry wood on the other hand serves well for meat smoking purposes, in addition to its use for making fine furniture.
Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||Juglans nigra||Prunus serotina|
|Color||Chocolate to dark brown||Coppery to reddish-brown|
|Durability||Moderately durable||Moderately durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,010 lbf.||950 lbf.|
|Strength||Strong wood||Moderately strong|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance||Easy to maintain|
|Price||Medium to high-priced||Expensive|
|Suitability for outdoors||Not suitable for outdoors||Not suitable for outdoors|
|Suitability for wood carving||Suitable for carving||Yes|
|Workability||Easy to work with||Easy to work with|
|Smell||Faint odor while cutting||Mild scent while working|
|Availability||Easily available||Easily available|
|Special features if any||No special features||Excellent for smoking meat|
If you have a woodworking project where you want to use the best of woods but not exorbitantly expensive types, you can use either walnut or cherry wood for satisfactory results.
As you have seen in this post, both of these types of wood have some excellent qualities. Now that you know more about each type, you can use this information to decide on whether to use walnut or cherry wood for your next woodworking project. Either way, your project is bound to be well-received!