Natural cherry wood is perhaps the most prized furniture hardwood in America. Easily our most popular seller, cherry is a smooth-grained, reddish-brown hardwood that comes from the American Black Cherry fruit tree.
Cherry is renowned among woodworkers and furniture aficionados for its color and aging process. It starts out a light pink and darkens over time to a rich reddish hue with a lustrous patina.
Below you’ll find answers to the most common questions we receive about cherry wood furniture.
You may be surprised to learn that natural cherry wood changes colors over time and that the color can vary greatly between trees and even among different boards from the same tree. While many types of wood can darken over time, this process can be very distinct when dealing with cherry wood. It starts out a light golden/pink tone and darkens to a rich, reddish-brown color as it is exposed to light.
This darkening or “ripening” process is most apparent within the first six months of light exposure and it may continue for several years before reaching that beautiful, reddish brown hue that cherry wood is known for. You can accelerate the aging process by exposing the wood to as much natural light as possible.
Although there’s some debate about what exactly causes wood to change colors over time, most agree that it’s one or a combination of the following factors: oxidation (exposure to air) and UV light. Both processes cause chemical changes in the molecules of the wood that affects how light reflects off the surface.
Cherry is perhaps the most prized furniture hardwood in America. Most of the highest grade cherry is used for this purpose. However, mid- and lower-tier cherry wood is often found in kitchen cabinets and wood flooring. It’s also common in kitchen accessories like bowls, wood spoons, and cutting boards.
Cherry wood has a smooth, closed grain pattern, much like that of maple wood. As with any natural product, we expect and embrace unique characteristics in the wood grain. A single cherry wood board can have several contrasting grain patterns depending on the growth of the tree.
It is not uncommon to find different grain contrasts in the same piece of solid cherry wood furniture. The lighter grain was closer to the tree’s bark (sapwood) and the darker grain was closer to the tree’s center (heartwood).
When choosing boards for your furniture, our craftsmen typically focus on the darker heartwood, although occasionally there will be some sapwood. Our craftsmen will take the time to select and join boards that have the best available color and grain match.
Because cherry wood is milled from the deciduous prunus serotina, it is indeed considered a hardwood. All of the woods our craftspeople work with at Vermont Woods Studios are classified as hardwoods.
In contrast, wood milled from coniferous trees are considered softwood. Contrary to popular belief, the classification of a wood as a hardwood or softwood has nothing to do with the woods’ density or resistance to scratches and dents.
The resistance of a species of wood to denting and scratching is measured on the Janka scale. The Janka value is a representation of the amount of force necessary to partially embed a small steel ball into the wood’s surface, permanently denting the wood. The Janka value of American black cherry wood is 995, which is slightly less than Walnut, Oak, Maple, and Ash, but higher than Pine, Hemlock, Alder, and even Mahogany and Cedar.
Read more about the Janka Values of North American Hardwoods.
Cherry wood is harvested from the American Black Cherry Tree (prunus serotina). After about ten years of age, the prunus serotina begins producing a small, tart fruit, which is often used in jelly, jams, and more. The fruit produced by the American black cherry tree should not be mistaken for the sweet, juicy cherries you find in your local supermarket. These dime-sized berries grow in clusters on the branches of mature cherry trees and are quickly gobbled up by birds and other animals once ripe.
Although prunus serotina grows all along the east coast, mid-west, and parts of Mexico, the strongest and healthiest trees are usually found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. It’s from sustainably managed forests in these areas that our craftsmen source their lumber.
The American Black Cherry Tree varies in height and diameter based on growing conditions. In the most ideal growing conditions, prunus serotina can grow up to 100 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter. However, most mature cherry trees stand 50-80 ft tall and 2-4 ft in diameter. They may reach full height in as little at 15-20 years and can continue growing for upwards of 250 years.
Distinguishing wood species based on their appearance is tricky, especially if there has been a stained wood finish applied to the furniture. Many woods share similar grain patterns, and the color of wood changes over time. The best way to figure out what type of wood your furniture is made from is to contact the craftsman who made it and ask.
Wood furniture of any kind will deteriorate with the outdoor elements over time, regardless of the wood finish used as a coating. We don’t recommend putting your cherry furniture outside. Alternatively, check out our recycled plastic outdoor furniture, which we guarantee for life (and then some).
Cherry is the 4th most harvested lumber in the US behind Oak, Poplar, and Ash. The American Black Cherry Tree grows abundantly in much of the eastern US, with the most prized cherry wood coming from the Allegheny Plateau. The relative proximity of these cherry forests translates to a smaller carbon footprint due to shorter transportation routes from forest to mill to craftsman. Using American black cherry lumber also acts as an alternative to imported rainforest woods, which helps to preserve some of the most biodiverse wildlife habitats on the planet.
Real cherry wood naturally develops mineral deposits– small black flecks in the grain of the wood where sap was once stored. Mineral deposits (sometimes called pitch pockets) are natural and randomly occurring and add character to cherry wood furniture.
Natural cherry wood is a domestic hardwood harvested mostly from forests in the US where regulations are stronger in protection of the natural resources. In contrast, much of the American furniture industry relies on imported wood, which is often illegally harvested from vulnerable tropical forests. These imported woods are partially responsible for the deforestation of wildlife habitat around the world and the transportation and processing of the wood creates a large ecological footprint. We see cherry as an environmentally responsible alternative to teak, mahogany, and other tropical rainforest woods– and every bit as beautiful, if not more so!
The most common mistake people make when buying cherry furniture online is purchasing a piece of furniture that isn’t made of real cherry wood. “Cherry” is often used as a trade name for various woods that are unrelated to real cherry.
If you’re having a hard time searching for cherry wood furniture, try adding real or natural to your search.
Some of our customers ask us about applying a wood stain to their cherry wood furniture. While we do offer colored stains on many of our products, we try to persuade customers to consider clear, natural finishes for cherry wood. A clear oil or lacquer finish will allow the wood to showcase its natural characteristics. However if you’re looking for stained cherry wood we have many different colors to choose from. You’ll find an option to order samples on every product page.
We can confidently say that Vermont Woods Studios sells the best cherry wood furniture in the world. Our craftsmen source their lumber from the finest cherry trees in the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania. They put decades of expertise into crafting each piece. Our furniture is highly customizable and made to order just for you. Not to mention our team are experts when it comes to crafting and shipping fine wood furniture. Did we mention we have a lifetime guarantee and excellent customer testimonials?
Learn more about our wood types on our wood page, or use the links below to read about specific types: