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Cherry Wood: An Essential Introduction

by Tom Grimes

Learn more about authentic North American Cherry Wood. Everything you ever wanted to know, including a description of the wood grain, an explanation of the aging process, care and maintenance instructions, how to spot fakes cherry woods, and much more…

Cherry Wood: An Introduction

Solid Cherry Hardwood is without a doubt the most distinguished and celebrated hardwood used in the craftsmanship of heirloom American furniture today. Recognized both for its strength and beauty, heirloom cherry wood furniture promises to grace homes with an unrivaled enduring beauty for decades, if not generations!

https://www.mymodelships.com/product_images/pid_10461-Abordage-MM-14-Genesta-1885-Model-Ship-Half-Hull--80.pngIt is not uncommon for different grain contrasts to be found in the same cut of solid cherry wood. This is because the grain is lighter closer to the tree’s bark (this wood is known as sapwood) and darker closer to the tree’s center (known as heartwood). 

The darker cherry heartwood can vary from rich red to reddish-brown, while the lighter sapwood is typically white with a soft yellow-brown tint. The variation between cherry heartwood and sapwood is demonstrated by the cherry tree cross-section shown here on the left.

When crafting cherry heirloom furniture woodworkers generally try use the heartwood, which has a fine, straight, closed grain with narrow brown pith flecks, small gum pockets, and a smooth, rich texture much like that of maple wood. While heartwood is the preferred choice for woodcrafters, it is immensely difficult to guarantee that there will be no trace of sapwood as sometimes the two are simply inseparable.

Whether sapwood or heartwood, cherry wood will considerably darken with age, developing a rich, deep patina over several years. Because it is essential that customers understand this important natural trait of cherry wood, I’ve devoted the entire next section of this article to the aging process.

Cherry Wood: Aging & Darkening

Cherry wood will red and darken with age, it’s a simple fact. This darkening quality is not as much seen as a disadvantage, however, as an advantage. Most customers value the aging of cherry wood as they would a fine wine – it only gets better with time!

While natural cherry wood starts out as a light-toned wood, when exposed to light it will darken immensely. The sample shown below, for example, sat in a bright lit environment for a week with the left end hidden, and you can see how much it darkened in just that short time.

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This dramatic contrast in color occurring in just over a week naturally made us curious what additional effect a year or two years might have. So as yet another experiment into the aging characteristics of cherry wood, we went back and compared some our older wood samples from 2008 with some of our newer samples from 2011. Indeed, the contrast in light and dark colors was even more pronounced than in the sample shown above. The wood had significantly darkened under the clear, natural finish – it evolved in a sense from the typical white starting tone you’d expect of cherry wood to possess a magnificent red tint that’s simply captivating!

Don’t be fooled though, time isn’t the decider of your cherry wood color tone – light is. The amount of time it takes for cherry wood to darken is principally dependent on the degree of natural and artificial light that it’s exposed to. It can take anywhere from a week or month to a number of years for your cherry wood furniture to reach full color tone maturity. Most customers, however, report that their furniture ideally darkens within 4-6 months.

Customers often ask if the aging process can be sped up. The consensus among our Amish woodworkers is that the best solution is to expose the furniture to as much natural sunlight as possible (we do not advise leaving your cherry furniture outdoors though! – a well-lit sunroom would be ideal). Adding a dark stain is another possibility but our woodworkers continually plead with us to have patience and insist we let the natural process take its course. The result, a natural reddish brown hue that is exceptionally lustrous and supple to the touch, is truly worth waiting for especially since our furniture is designed and constructed to last a lifetime and more! 

Be advised, however, that the aging process of cherry wood may create difficulties when attempting to coordinate newer and older pieces of cherry wood furniture and here’s why … say for example you buy a cherry wood table, and two years later decide you’d like to add six coordinating cherry wood chairs. Due to the natural aging characteristics of the cherry wood used to craft your table, the chairs, which have not been given time to mature into their patina, will likely not match the table. This is not to say the tables and chair cannot complement each other, but simply to say that an exact match may not be attainable if purchases are separated by years.

In the past, we’ve only experienced this issue once with a bookcase though. If you anticipate buying additional shelves for your cherry wood bookcase, we strongly advise you include them in your initial purchase so that everything can age together.

Authentic Cherry Wood vs. Budget Woods

Cherry can come in a wide array of prices. For the sparse budget, cherry veneer, cherry with particle board lining or cherry with other less expensive wood parts may be acceptable options. Be careful though, because these alternatives will not have the integrity, durability, or the longevity that is embodied within an authentic cherry hardwood.

It’s essential as a buyer that you inspect your cherry wood thoroughly for accurate grain patterns, coloration, and mineral deposits. If anything looks fishy, you’re so called cherry furniture may not be cherry at all. Often faux cherry furniture is made overseas using veneers and woods like poplar or alder that are heavily processed and in reality don’t look much like natural cherry wood at all. (You'll never encounter this on DutchCrafters! Our cherry wood is 100% the real thing through and through!)

To ensure your furniture is authentic cherry wood, make sure the grain is a simple, fine, and closed grain - like maple. Fake "cherry" wood often has little or no grain pattern.  It's made by taking a cheaper wood, bleaching it, texturizing it with chemicals, then staining it with a cherry finish.n

Also look for occasional black flecks and black streaks in the wood. Real cherry has beautiful, natural markings from gum streaking to mineral deposits and pin knots. Fake cherry wood looks entirely uniform in grain due to the chemical processing mentioned above, and it's very unlikely you'll ever find black flecks or streaks in faux cherry woods.

Cherry Wood: Care and Maintenance

Liquids due to spills or condensation should not be left to sit on cherry furniture, whether finished or not. Spills should be wiped up promptly in order to avoid staining and coasters are highly recommended whenever possible, especially in the summertime when condensation is more likely.  

In caring for your cherry furniture, it is fine to clean tables and other cherry furniture with warm, but not extremely hot, water and a gentle, non-abrasive soap. Gently rinse and thoroughly wipe dry leaving no streaks or puddles. You may also periodically apply lemon oil or a good quality furniture polish to revitalize and preserve the beauty of finish.

As every manufacturer of solid cherry hardwood furniture is different, and every finish is different, we recommend you check with the manufacturer for further care and maintenance instruction.

The Benefits of Cherry Wood Furniture on DutchCrafters

Beyond the obvious benefits of strength and beauty, at DutchCrafters, our renowned Amish craftsmen typically use natural solid cherry wood that is grown in sustainably managed North American forests. The ecological benefits resulting from this practice are immense. Not only are you reducing your own carbon footprint by purchasing a product that is not shipped from overseas on massive freight ships; but you’re also minimalizing your contribution to the waste stream by investing in products with authentic lifetime value!

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Check out this authentic Cherry Hardwood Jewelry Chest!

In addition, the adherence of our woodworkers to authentic American hand-craftsmanship reduces energy use and waste. Craftsmen typically use small hand-held tools powered by generators, and give every leftover scrap of wood a practical purpose somewhere – most often on a local Amish farms. What’s more though is that by harvesting premium cherry wood from sustainably managed North American forests, you can feel good that both your natural cherry wood furniture and the forests they came from will be around to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Moreover, cherry wood will save you money. This may be hard to believe because, yes, cherry wood is one of the most expensive hardwoods available, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and this is certainly the case with cherry wood furniture. Although you may pay more in the short term, when you purchase heirloom cherry furniture you’re investing in an unrivaled beauty that will last a lifetime. Not only will you save money by never having to replace your cherry furniture (as you would have to with cheap foreign imports), but moreover you’ll enjoy the furniture you’re living with – and that just may be the greatest benefit of all!



12/10/2016 1:29:01 PM