Cherry is a popular domestic hardwood, especially in the US market and is commonly used for making beautiful and strong furniture, cabinets, and flooring. If you want to learn about the different types of cherry wood, this article is for you.
From the warm shades of Black Cherry to the graceful patterns of Sweet Cherry, this article dives deep into the exciting world of cherry wood species. Learn all about the different varieties and their unique characteristics, appearances, grain patterns, properties, and applications. Whether you’re a seasoned wood enthusiast or commencing your first woodworking project, this in-depth exploration of cherry wood types is all you need to achieve success.
About Cherry Wood
A popular hardwood in the US and Europe, holds major importance in domestic furniture and woodworking space. Favored for its picturesque grains and warm reddish tones, cherry hardwood is one of the common choices for dining and bedroom interiors.
Different species of cherry wood range from light to dark reddish brown, which deepens to a darker red over time. As a hardwood from the dicot family, it offers versatile applications, from furniture and cabinets to flooring, toys, and musical instruments. Known for its natural durability and faster growth compared to other hardwoods, cherry stands out for its workability.
There are multiple species, of which black and sweet cherry are the most common and popular. If you’re embarking on a woodworking project using cherry wood, make sure that you have a good understanding of the different types of cherry. Here’s a guide to start with.
1. Black Cherry
Also known as American Cherry, with the scientific name ‘Prunus serotina’, is primarily sourced from Eastern North America, a region recognized for its extraordinary wood production. With heights typically ranging from 50-100 ft, these trees can last for 150 to 200 years, producing a very beautiful and durable wood with an impressive Janka Hardness of 950 lbf.
The heartwood of Black Cherry starts as a light pinkish-brown but darkens over time to a medium reddish-brown. The sapwood is a pale yellowish color. With a usually straight grain and a fine, even texture, black cherry timber is one of the best woods in terms of workability and stability. The heartwood is resistant to decay, making it perfect for outdoor applications. With abundant availability in its native region, it is moderately priced, but figured pieces can be expensive.
Furniture makers favor Black Cherry for its fine texture, smooth, straight grain, and attractive appearance, however, figured pieces with curly grain patterns can be challenging to work with. Other common applications include cabinetry, flooring, musical instruments, veneers, interior millwork, toys, and other turned objects.
2. Sweet Cherry
European Cherry wood, scientifically known as ‘Prunus avium,’ is a hardwood native to Europe and Asia. The trees reach average heights of 32-65 ft and have a trunk diameter of 1-2 ft. It’s generally smaller than American Black Cherry, but the wood boasts superior Janka hardness, making it stronger. However, its hardness can make it challenging to work with, saw, sand, and nail.
Freshly cut sweet cherry heartwood exhibits a light pink-brown hue, which turns into a golden brown over time. With a fine to medium texture and slightly wavy or generally straight grain, this wood offers versatility in woodworking, being used for furniture, boats, veneers, cabinetry, musical instruments, and flooring.
The limited availability, most commonly in Europe, and specialized plantations contribute to its high price. It’s only moderately durable and can be susceptible to insect attacks, making it not so suitable for outdoor use. European Cherry lumber is smaller in size due to its smaller trees.
3. Brazilian Cherry
Brazilian Cherry, sourced from the Jatoba tree (Hymenaea Courbaril), is not exactly a cherry but belongs to the legume family. Originally famous for its fruit, the Brazilian cherry later gained popularity as an exotic and durable flooring option, especially in the United States.
Featuring an orange-brown to dark reddish-brown color, similar to black cherry, the it is native to Southern and Central America, particularly Mexico. The trees grow up to 130 feet in height and have a trunk diameter of 4 feet. The wood is known for its exceptional strength and durability. It is favored as a flooring material because of its natural colors and its ability to resist scratches and spills. It is also fairly easy to clean and maintain.
The color becomes darker over time with exposure to light and might need some light exposure management. Brazilian cherry wood comes in solid and engineered options, with the former being more durable, while the latter offers cost-effectiveness and versatility.
4. Patagonian Cherry
Also known as Tiete Rosewood, the Patagonian Cherry belongs to the rose family, scientifically named Guibourtia hymenaeifolia, and is native to South America. With a substantial size, the trees reach 130-165 ft in height and have a trunk diameter of 3-6 ft. The wood possesses an extremely high Janka Hardness rating of 2,790 lbf, making it strong but also challenging to work with.
The heartwood is a pinkish-brown to light orange color and darkens with age. It features a straight grain with a uniform texture, which makes it suitable for basic interior flooring, turned objects, and various other woodworking applications.
Despite its high density, Tiete Rosewood can be worked with for its consistent and straight grain, though its natural silica content may easily dull cutters. The most common use is in flooring. The reasonably priced hardwood is easy to find in its native regions.
5. Caribbean Cherry
Caribbean Cherry, also known as Black Cabbage Bark or Machiche, is commonly found and used in regions of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico with different names such as Mayan/Aztec Cherry. This is an open-pored, dense hardwood with challenging workability due to its extremely high Janka Hardness of 3,100 lbs, which limits its applications mainly to flooring.
The heartwood color ranges from yellow and tan to brown-red and deep red and may slightly change with age and light exposure. It is commonly used in flooring, furniture, decking, and heavy construction, but the price can be moderately high due to limited availability in the market. Due to its hardness, machinery and cutter maintenance can be difficult. Limited availability and challenging workability make its applications limited to specific areas.
6. Chilean Cherry
Chilean Cherry, scientific name Nothofagus dombeyi, belongs to the Beech tree family. It’s not a real cherry, but shares many similarities. Commonly referred to as Coigue, this hardwood is native to Chile and Argentina. Its heartwood color ranges from pale pink to light tan-brown, sometimes with gray or cream tones. The wood darkens over time into a medium pinkish-red. The grain is fine and lustrous.
With a low Janka Hardness of around 990 lbs, this hardwood species is relatively soft, especially when compared to other wood species above. It’s easy to mold into different shapes and takes stains well. Despite its favorable workability, the applications of Chilean cherry are limited due to its low availability owing to a decreasing tree population. Primarily used in residential applications, it can be expensive.
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