Cherry wood is one of the most popular types of wood for flooring, cabinets and furniture. Discover the 6 main types and read all about each type and how they differ from one another.
6 main types of cherry wood (quick overview):
- Black cherry wood
- Sweet cherry tree wood
- Brazilian cherry
- Patagonian cherry
- Caribbean cherry
- Chilean cherry
- Read on for full details on each cherry wood option.
Cherry wood is a popular hardwood choice for residential furniture, especially in central rooms like dining rooms and bedrooms. The High Point Market found that it is one of the most popular domestic woods due to its dramatic grains and warm red tones. American cherry wood also comes in a diverse range of colors and people love it as it turns redder with age. The hardwood is also easy to mold and mainly grows in the Eastern regions of the country. The cherry wood is categorized as a hardwood because it is a part of the dicot tree family.
The cherry has a lot of uses, which makes it a popular wood. The timber from the cherry tree is also highly sought-after since it can be used to make furniture, toys, musical instruments, and much more. The wood from the cherry tree is also used to smoke foods such as meats since it creates a pleasant and distinct flavor for the meat. The bark of the cherry tree is also used as a substitute for chewing gum in many regions. It is even used for aromatic purposes since it has a sweet, soft scent.
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Cherry wood has been a popular wood type for furniture since 400 BC. It was used by the Greeks and Romans for everyday domestic furniture. Cherry wood was known as New England Mahogany in the Early Colonial-era since it has a darkening color. It was used in this era for furniture and cabinets since it is durable and heavy.
The cherry wood was also very important for the Native American community. They would take the inner bark and boil it to make a concoction to treat illnesses like bronchitis, colds, headaches, common cough, and chest pains. Nowadays, a cherry extract is used in many commercial cough syrups based on these ancient practices and modern scientific research.
In modern times, the cherry tree is usually known for its timber. It is the most popular wood for American furniture manufacturers and is part of most residential buildings. The cherry tree is grown in many regions of the country, especially for its wood. States that produce the tallest and most dense trees in the US are New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. It takes relatively less time to mature than other hardwoods, which is why it is the easiest wood to cultivate.
Types of Cherry Wood
Cherry wood is a hardwood that comes from the cherry fruit tree. It is known for the beautiful range of colors that it comes in including dark brown, red, white, and yellow. It is a very durable wood and has a satiny, smooth grain which makes this popular. The lighter colors of the wood are used for furniture while darker wood tones can add elegance to the room in a perfect way.
It comes in two main varieties: black and sweet cherry.
1. Black Cherry Wood
Black Cherry is also popularly known as American Cherry. It’s also referred to as rum cherry, wild cherry chokecherry, and whiskey cherry at different points in time due to how it was popularly used. The scientific name for the black cherry wood is ‘Prunus serotina’. It is mainly manufactured in Eastern North America, an area which produces the largest amount of wood in the whole country.
Tree sizes can range between 50-100 ft and have a trunk diameter of 3-5 ft. They can also live up to 150 to 200 years and create really durable wood. Their Janka Hardiness is one of the best in the market with 950 lb. This means that they can withstand wear and dents really well. However, it is low enough that you will not have trouble sanding, screwing, nailing, or sawing the wood as per your needs.
Color: It has heartwood of a light pinkish brown color when it has been recently cut. With time and exposure to light, the wood darkens to medium reddish brown. The sapwood of the cherry tree has a pale yellowish color.
Furniture: Furniture makers and manufacturers love it because the wood grain is smooth, straight and easy to work. There are also some figured pieces that have a curly grain pattern, which is harder to work with. The cherry wood has a semi-porous to diffuse-porous end grain. There is no specific arrangement between the small to medium pores and the wood has 2-3 radial and solitary multiples.
Deposits: There is also an occasional presence of gum/mineral deposit in the wood. This is not easily visible with the lens and is actually good for the owners. The mineral deposits are often desirable since they give the furniture a unique grain.
Resistant to decay: Black cherry wood has become really popular since it is resistant to decay and is very durable, especially the heartwood. This makes it really great for furniture and domestic use since no one wants to invest in wood that will attain a lot of wear and tear.
Very workable: Cherry wood is also one of the best woods for workability, which is why manufacturers also prefer investing in this wood. It machines really well and the grain is straight and stable. Staining the wood is the only hard part since it can produce blotchy results. Experts recommend using a gel-based stain or a sanding sealer before attempting to stain the wood. Using sapwood is common among manufacturers but it causes a lot of waste which is why heartwood is preferred.
Odor: as a really distinctive, but mild, smell while it is being worked. However, breathing in the sawdust from the cherry can result in health concerns. It causes respiratory effects like wheezing and coughing, which is why it is recommended to have proper protective gear while working with the wood.
Pricing: Since cherry wood is produced via domestic lumber, the prices of the wood are similar to those of walnut. They are cheaper compared to others but are slightly more expensive than maple or oak woods. Since the wood species is really vast, it is an easily sourced wood. It isn’t listed on CITES Appendices or IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which is why the price is cheaper compared to a lot of other species.
In general, you can expect to pay around $7.25 per board foot for 1″ and $8.75 per board foot for 2″.
2. Sweet Cherry Wood
About: This type of wood is also known as European Cherry wood. The scientific name for the wood type is ‘Prunus avium’ and it is mainly found in the regions of Europe and Asia. The tree can reach heights of 32-65 ft and has a trunk diameter that can range for 1-2 ft. This is smaller than the black cherry trees which are found in America. Despite the size, it has superior Janka Hardness which means that it is one of the most durable types of wood in the market. It can withstand a huge amount of wear and tear but isn’t easy to saw, sand, or nail.
Sweet cherry wood has heartwood of a light pink-brown when it is freshly cut. The color deepens with time to a golden brown when it is exposed to light. The sapwood of the sweet cherry is usually 1-2″ wide and is a pale yellow color.
Cherry wood is a reliable and beautiful type of wood. It ages in a perfect way and looks gorgeous as furniture, boats, flooring, and much more!
Texture: The texture of sweet cherry wood is fine to medium with a close grain. The grain is usually slightly wavy or completely straight. The end grain of the wood is semi-ring porous and the small pores have no precise arrangement. It has a 2-3 radial as well as solitary multiple and has distinct growth rings since the early wood pore concentration is high.
Deposits: It sometimes has deposits of minerals and gum which are preferred by a lot of people since they contribute to the uniqueness of the wood. The unique design is important if you want to sell the wood at a higher price.
Sustainability: It is sustainable since it is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or CITES Appendices. Despite this, it isn’t available everywhere to produce. Sweet cherry wood has a high price since it is only available in Europe and a few other specialized orchards. It is also sold only as a veneer or in small sizes, which means that it is an expensive material to obtain. In the region where it grows naturally, the prices are moderate.
Durability: The heartwood of sweet cherry wood is moderately durable to non-durable when it comes to decay resistance. It is adversely impacted when it comes to insect attacks as well. This is why black cherry wood is more popular among furniture manufacturers.
Workability: Manufacturers do use sweet cherry in their work often though. It is easy to work with hand tools and machines, which is why so many use it. However, difficulties often arise when manufacturers attempt to stain the wood. It can produce blotchy results when stained since it has a closed, fine grain. Before staining, it is recommended to use gel stains and sanding sealers. Many manufacturers also use finishes, glues, and turns while staining the wood to prevent it from blotchy.
Odor: Unlike black cherry wood, it has no odor even while the wood is being worked. Black cherry wood can also cause health concerns like respiratory problems but sweet cherry has no such negative effect.
Sweet cherry wood is an Old World counterpart for black cherry, which is commonly found in North America. In contrast to black cherry, sweet cherry has more color contrasts. It is stronger and denser as well when compared to the other wood type. It doesn’t produce larger sizes for lumber though since the tree doesn’t grow to a large size.
3. Brazilian Cherry
Brazilian Cherry wood is also called Jatoba in many regions. Its scientific name is Hymenaea Courbaril and while it is named after cherry wood, it is typically of little relation to domestic Cherry found in the US. The only similarity with black cherry is that its natural color resembles the strained color of domestic cherry.
Brazillian cherry is found in the West Indies, northern South America, Central America, and southern Mexico. The tree grows to the large size of 100-130 ft and can have a trunk diameter of 2-4 ft. It has a high hardness of 2,690 lbs, which means that it is exceptionally hard, strong, and stiff. This is why it is used more as low-cost lumber where high-strength materials are needed by workers.
Color: The heartwood ranges from a dark reddish-brown to a light orange-brown. It may even have contrasting dark gray-brown streaks, which look really unique. Unlike many kinds of wood like black cherry and mahogany, the color of Brazilian cherry only darkens with exposure to light. The sapwood has a light grayish-yellow color.
Texture: The grain of Brazilian cherry wood has a medium to coarse texture and is usually interlocked. It has very few, large pores. The wood occasionally exhibits signs of mineral deposits which gives it a unique look.
Workability: Jotoba is a really difficult wood to work with since it has a really hard Janka Hardness. It can cause tool cutters to become blunt and you cannot plan it without significant tear out. It can steam-bend, glue, stain, finish, and turn well.
Pricing: It is usually available in many different widths and sizes for lumber use. People also use it for flooring since it has a very rich color. Unfinished Brazilian cherry planks for the flooring of 5″ x 1/2″ can cost around $4.75 to $5.00 psf; this not expensive considering the relative price for imported timber. It is commonly used for tool handles, shipbuilding, railroad ties, flooring, furniture, small specialty items, and turned objects.
4. Patagonian Cherry
Patagonian Cherry is more commonly known as Tiete Rosewood since it is actually from the rose family. The scientific name for the tree is Guibourtia hymenaeifolia and is commonly found in South America. The tree can grow to be quite large, ranging from 130-165 ft with a trunk diameter of 3-6 ft. It has a high Janka Hardness of 2,790 lbs, which makes it hard to work with.
Color: Patagonian Cherry is generally pinkish brown to a lighter orange. It tends to redden and darken with age. It usually has a straight and bland patterning in terms of grain. The wood has a very uniform appearance and color, which is why most workers restrict its use to interior flooring, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.
Workability: The wood is actually really dense and hard to work with. Many manufacturers prefer to work with lighter woods since they don’t strain the machines and tools as much. It also has silca content which can dull cutter prematurely. However, its saving grace is the uniform and straight grain that increases workability. It has a mild scent which it is being worked on.
Pricing: It is most commonly used for flooring, which is sold under the trade name of Patagonian Cherry. Tiete Rosewood is also commonly sold for lumber and is relatively inexpensive considering it is an imported hardwood. It costs about $5.00 sq/ft if you want to install it for flooring.
5. Caribbean Cherry
Caribbean Cherry is usually found in Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. Its lumber name is Black Cabbage Bark or Machiche. It is an open-pored dense reddish hardwood that is really hard to work with. This is because it has a really high Janka Hardness of 3,100 lbs. Such a high rating means that it cannot be used practically except as flooring options.
Color: Caribbean cherry wood comes in a wide range of color depending on the climate and soil the tree was grown in. It varies from yellow and tan colors to brown reds to darker deep reds. It can go through a medium degree change in color with age and exposure to light.
Workability: The wood from the Caribbean cherry tree is really hard to work with. It can cause strain on the machines and dull the cutters.
Price/Availability: Caribbean cherry isn’t commonly sold due to its high Janka Hardness rating. It is a really hard wood to work with which is why many workers and manufacturers actively avoid it.
6. Chilean Cherry
The Nothofagus dombeyi is more commonly known as the Chilean Cherry. It is part of the Beech tree family even though it is colloquially known as Chilean Cherry. It has a similar appearance to the North American Cherry, which is why many people mistake it as part of the Cherry family. The common lumber name for it is Coigue and it is native to the region of Chile and Argentina. Harvesting for the lumber of the Chilean Cherry is actually limited since the population of the trees is dropping around the world.
Color: It has very fine, lustrous grains. It has a low, muted range of colors from light tan to pale pinks. Some lower grades of the wood also have grayish or cream-colored streaks. With age, Chilean cherry begins to darken with color. The medium degree of color changes turns the pale pink into a medium pinkish-red color which goes towards clear amber as time passes.
Workability: It has a Janka Hardness of 990 lbs which is actually a really great amount. This means that it is relatively soft and doesn’t cause stress on the machines. It can be modeled into different shapes and stains relatively easily.
Price: It is restricted to rare residential use only since most exports are prohibited due to the limited tree population. This is why it is really hard to find in markets and is one of the more expensive woods.
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