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What is Cherry Wood?

By James Johnson March 18, 2019

The American Black Cherry wood tree, technically known as Prunus serotina is a pioneer, long-lived fruit tree species. It’s commonly found in Pennsylvania and in other northeastern parts of the United States.

The tree bears fruits, but unlike other fruit trees, it grows tall and straight enough to be harvested and cut into lumber. It can reach heights of 100 feet with a 24” trunk.

The trees can live for a century but are usually felled after 50 to 90 years because of it’s trunk’s susceptibility to rotting. There are trees known to be up to 258 years old.

While it’s listed as American black cherry, cherry wood has many common monikers, like wild cherry, rum cherry, and mountain black cherry.

cherry wood


1. Cherry tree is a colorful, smooth textured and straight-grained hardwood with various applications.

2. The specialty of cherry wood is its beautiful color and finish. It varies from rich red to darkish brown and tends to darken on exposure to light. The color change should be kept in mind while starting a project. Some accents may not effectively complement fresh cut cherry after a few months.


cherry wood color

3. Cherry wood isn’t affected by seasonal movement because of its minute, diffused pores and straight grain. It’s what makes the wood easily cut, sanded and turned on a lathe.

4. It, however, may also contain brown pith flecks and small gum pockets that affect its looks. Woodworkers should also keep this in mind while working with it.

5. Cherry lumbar is, one of the easier hardwoods to work with.

6. It can be easily nailed, screwed and glued together and while it has a rather large shrinkage, its dimensions remain stable once kiln-dried.

7. Cherry wood ranks 950 on the Janka scale proving it’s safe to use for flooring. The Janka scale measures a wood’s resistance to denting and wear.

8. Cherry wood costs about $3 to $10 per board foot.


cherry wood


Moisture content and meter:

1. All woods contain moisture in its walls and the nuclei of wood cells. This is why depending on the environmental relative humidity (RH) woods continuously absorbs and releases moisture into the air.

2. Depending on the end product, lumber mills dry the wood to target moisture content (MC). The wood is considered to be at its equilibrium moisture content (EMC) when its MC balances with the environment’s RH.

3. Cherry wood still interacts with the environment upon reaching its EMC and leaving the mill. This is why the wood’s MC should be measured and managed for optimized wood strength and performance.

4. Hobbyists, consumers and builders use moisture meters to measure the wood’s MC. Pinless meters are best for accurately measuring and assessing cherry wood’s MC without leaving any marks or holes on it. Mahogany vs. cherry wood

5. With both kinds of wood having a reddish tint, many people wonder which wood to use between the two for their flooring and woodworking needs. The choice is better made once you know the similarities, and differences between the two.


1. Grains
Both have a reddish tint and look similar at first sight. A closer examination shows that mahogany has close, straight grain lines while cherry has wandering, spaced lines. They also contain pitch pockets which add short black streaks to the wood.

2. Cost
Cherry is much cheaper than mahogany. While mahogany is imported from Africa and Latin America, cherry is a domestic hardwood. Besides, mahogany is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List while cherry is available widely.

3. Varieties
Mahogany comes in various varieties like African mahogany and Philippine mahogany with different colors, quality, density, and affordability. So you may or may not get genuine mahogany.

Black cherry may have various names but it’s the largest of native cherries and the only one commercially harvested for lumber.

4. Working properties
Both kinds of wood share similar resistance to bugs, decay, and density. Cherry ranks 950 on the Janka scale and Mahogany at a slightly lower 900. Both kinds of wood are easy to work with.

But mahogany tends to splinter if its grain patterns turn. While mahogany evenly stains even without a sealer, cherry blotches without sealers.

5. Color and grain
Both kinds of wood are reddish but mahogany tends to lean towards orange tints with brownish streaks. Cherry, on the contrary, leans to purplish-brown tints with delicate patterns.

Mahogany is coarse-grained and cherry, subtle grained. It is also photo-reactive and darkens even with a few days exposure to sunlight. Mahogany naturally darkens over extended periods of time, and not as much as cherry.


14 Cherry wood woodworking tips

1. lt is the heartwood’s inconsistency that gives cherry wood its distinguishing characteristics.

2. Cherry has to be dried slowly and methodically to prevent cupping and warping.

3. Once properly dried, cherry wood remains quite flat and even, and is easy to work with.

4. Well-cured cherry wood is as strong as maple, and easier worked with than oak.

5. Cherry’s stability and color improves with age.

6. Cherry’s ease of cutting, shaping and sanding without much chipping makes it a favorite furniture for wood.

7. Buy straight socked and uniformly colored boards.

8. AIign similar color boards together to mask the joint’s visibility.

9. Use very sharp saw blades to cut cherry because it easily burns and leaves burn marks.

10. lf sanded with the grain, cherry sands to a perfectly smooth finish. It otherwise scratches rather easily. Hand sanding is always better but you can use a random orbital sander for rough sanding.

11. The finishing is the most trying aspect of cherry wood because it darkens with age and stains unevenly. There’s a huge difference between the sapwood and heartwood color.

12. While applying a stain can be protective, it can mask some of the wood’s characteristics. It’s better to use an all-natural oil finish with tung oil or boiled linseed oil. It retains the wood’s color better despite taking longer to dry between coats.

13. Cherry is flexible enough to easily cut, carve and mold which is why it has so many applications. It also has good bending properties and low stiffness.

14. Cherry has a fine pore structure but the pores grow larger with age.


 cherry furniture



1. Furniture 2. Flooring 3. Boat interiors 4. Musical instruments 5. Carvings 6. Veneers 7. Millwork 8. Doors 9. Molding 10. Turnings


cherry Musical instruments


Frequently asked questions:

Q: What is cherry wood’s color?
A: While all trees darken with time, cherry wood has a distinct process where it starts with a light golden/pink tone and darkens to a rich and reddish-brown color upon exposure to light. Natural cherry wood changes color with time, between trees and even different boards of the same tree.

This darkening process is more apparent in the first six months of exposure to light. It continues for a few years till it reaches cherry wood’s beautiful, reddish brown hue. Exposing the wood to as much natural light as possible accelerates the process.

Q: Why does cherry wood change colors with time?
A: It’s because of a combination of UV light and oxidation. Both induce chemical changes in the wood molecules which affects how light reflects off its surface.

Q: What is cherry wood commonly used for?
A: Highest grade cherry is mainly used for furniture hardwood. It’s mid and lower-tier versions are usually used for kitchen cabinets, wood flooring and for kitchen accessories like spoons and cutting boards.

Q: What is cherry wood’s grain pattern like?
A: Cherry’s smooth and closed grain pattern resembles maple wood. Depending on the tree growth, it’s possible for a single cherry wood board to have contrasting grain patterns. While the lighter grain is nearer to the bark (sapwood) the darker grain is closer to the tree’s center or heartwood.

Q: ls cherry a softwood or hardwood?
A:Cherry wood is a hardwood.

Q: What is cherry wood’s density?
A: With a Janka scale value of 950, it is quite resistant to denting and scratching. This rating is slightly less than walnut, oak, and maple but higher than pine, alder, cedar and even mahogany.

Q: Where does cherry wood come from?
A: It is harvested from the American Black Cherry Tree that grows along the east coast, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and parts of Mexico. The tree produce berries in ten years’ time, which is much different from normal sweet and juicy cherries.

Q: How big are the trees?
A: The height and diameter of American black cherry trees vary based on growing conditions. It can,in ideal growing conditions, reach heights of 100 feet and a width of 4 feet within 15-20 years. They can continue growing to a maximum of 250 years.

Q: How can real cherry furniture be identified?
A: It’s difficult especially in furniture with stained wood finish. Most woods color changes with time, and have similar grain patterns.

Q: Can cherry furniture be used outdoors?
A: No, it’s not advised because any wood furniture deteriorates with time if left outdoors even if it has a coating.

Q: Cherry wood eco-friendly?
A: It is eco-friendly because the tree grows abundantly on the eastern US. Using cherry lumbar instead of imported rainforest woods help preserve the deforestation of some of the other extinct wood species worldwide.

Q: What are the black specs on cherry wood?
A: These small black specks are also called pitch pockets, and naturally develop wherever sap was once stored. It’s a natural and random occurrence that adds character to the furniture.

Q: ls it worth applying a stain or finish to cherry wood?
A: While it is okay to give cherry wood a colored stain, it’s better to use a clear and natural finish because it showcases the wood’s natural characteristics.


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