January 2004


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Cherry wood


In cabinetmaking, cherry is rated one of the favorites because of its beauty and versatility. It has warmth, personality and charm. As a craftwood it cuts, stains and sands beautifully. American black cherry is widely used for paneling and as a veneer, and other specialty items such as gunstocks, tobacco pipes, musical instruments, turnery, carvings, etc. It is only moderately durable for outdoor projects.

The Tree:

Prunus Serotina Family. Black cherry stands alone for its commercial value as a lumber wood. Other cherry trees most often function as decorative trees or fruit bearers.

Wood Description:

Cherry has a pale yellowish sapwood and a darker heartwood. The wood's color deepens to its characteristic reddish brown, almost mahogany-like color when exposed to the sun. The sapwood never darkens to the same color of the heartwood. Cherry often shows a waving curly figure when finished. Heartwood can have dark spots or fine black lines that are actually gum pockets, that pose added challenges in finishing.

The tangential shrinkage can be twice the radial shrinkage making warping a problem if drying is hurried. Once cherry has been dried properly, though, it is a relatively stable wood. It is as strong as maple but only about 2/3rds as hard. Often maple is stained to look like cherry in furniture components that require a more dense wood.

Weight: 35 lbs. Per cubic foot.


The grain pattern welcomes a full range of medium to dark finishes and bleaching treatments. The best way to achieve a uniform deep red color is to let mother nature do her work rather than attempt staining. If you have to replace a board, remember in time, the sunlight will darken all cherry, even if it doesn't look like it matches in the beginning. Scratches show up easily on Cherry so pay attention to your sanding preparation.

Continued Next Month