American Black Cherry
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, which makes
it a hobby wood of choice.
American black cherry is widely used for paneling and as a veneer,
burial caskets and other specialty items such as gunstocks, tobacco
pipes, musical instruments, turnery, carvings, etc. It is only moderately
durable for outdoor projects. Cherry wood is my personal favorite,
of all the domestic wood species.
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. Black cherry is characterized by late maturing fruit and
is distinct from the other cherries because it has dark bark with
irregular scales that peel off easily and a light to dark reddish
The fruit of this tree is small and purple coloured with a bitter
taste and is used to flavour jelly and beverages. At one point it
was used to make a very potent liquor. American colonists used the
bark as a drug to treat bronchitis and cherry stalks were used to
make tonics. Its grows predominately in east-central North America,
with smaller shorter trees more common in southern eastern Canada.
Cherry has a pale yellowish sapwood and a darker heartwood. The
wood's colour deepens to its characteristic reddish brown, almost
mahogany-like colour when exposed to the sun. The sapwood never
darkens to the same colour 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
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 colour 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. It has been suggested by some of my customers
that aniline dyes work particularly well on cherry, but I have no
experience in this area. Scratches show up easily on cherry so pay
attention to your sanding preparation.
Wood is uniform in texture and machines well with normal wear on
your tools. Its tight fine grain routes well but does have a tendency
to burn, so stick with carbide bits and don't stop the router on
the wood. Watch the feed direction when jointing, particularly on
boards that show a nice curl. Likewise when thickness planing, keep
your passes to less that a 1/16" and always pay attention to the
feed direction. If tear out occurs, you can always reverse the direction.
Obviously you don't want to be experimenting on the last pass. Cherry
turns beautifully, but you must sand with the grain to eliminate
the cross grain marks.