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Cherry remains a craftsman’s ‘standard’

With cherry sales continuing to hold steady year after year, lumber suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News agree that the species is still one of the most reliable sellers in the hardwood market. But its popularity seems to speak more to the tradition of using it to craft fine furniture because buyers tend to select it more for their individual projects rather than for cabinetry or architectural millwork.

“The cherry market for fine furniture makers is a constant, but it’s not so popular with designers and architects commissioning cabinetry projects,” says Rick Hearne, owner of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, Pa. “So to put that in perspective, cherry is nowhere near as hot as it was five or 10 years ago compared to what we used to sell for completing interiors of churches or stock brokerage firms for the architectural millwork customers, but it is still strong for the one-up furniture makers.”

Cherry (Prunus serotina) is also known as black cherry, grows from Canada south to central Florida and portions of Mexico and Guatemala. Its highest concentration is in Pennsylvania, which supplies about 70 percent of the country’s cherry, although it only represents 3 to 4 percent of the Appalachian forests.

Cherry trees reach heights between 80’ and 100’ with diameters of 2’-3’. The heartwood is pinkish-brown to reddish-brown with a distinctive golden luster. The sapwood is narrow and is a white-to-reddish-brown color. Woodworkers are particularly drawn to the wood’s tight grain, adds Hearne.

“It doesn’t need any sort of filler. It’s a closed grain that will take oil finishes beautifully. It is rich in color and will oxidize darker and darker as it ages.”

“People still like their cherry,” says Mark Wagner of Hill Hardwood Supply in Iowa City, Iowa. “We’ve sold about as much cherry this year as we did last year. People are into dark woods and cherry remains a favorite wood, I would say. It’s popular because of its beauty and workability.”

“The Pennsylvania cherry sells the best and it’s right up there with maple and walnut,” says Merrill Morrison of Alva Hardwoods in LaBelle, Fla. “Sales compared to this time last year are down about 20 percent, but in general it’s pretty popular.

“It’s the standard of American craftsmen, especially with the 50-and-over crowd. It has a lot of positive characteristics, which are machinability, ability to hold screws and durability to hold finish. You can finish it with just about anything. It gets darker, richer and more lustrous. It’s one of the best finishing woods.”

Retail prices for 4/4 FAS cherry were quoted at $5 to $7.30/bf. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue.

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