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Black cherry: perennial favorite gets sweeter.

Cherry has always been an American favorite, making the top 5 list of most popular domestic commercial woods on a regular basis. The Fine Hardwood Veneer Assn./American Walnut Manufacturers Assn.'s biannual monitoring of the woods used at the Spring and Fall Furniture Markets in High Point, N.C., showed cherry to be the first choice of wood species for bedroom and dining room furniture at the recent April Market. For modular wall units, cherry was the most used species after red oak.

"Cherry has been prized as a cabinet wood for 200 years in this country," said James L. Gundy, executive vice president of Manufacturers Inc. of High Point, N.C. "Cherry is extremely popular this year. It is a wood that finishes beautifully with very little grain but gives a silky, smooth finish. Its uses for fine furniture and fine cabinetry has never been more prominent. It was the rage of the Furniture Market," said Gundy.

He added he believes part of cherry's popularity is due to manufacturers looking for new looks and finishes to give a different spin to styles. "Cherry is one of the woods like hard maple and red oak that will give an absolutely gorgeous finish."

Since cherry is not as available as higher yield woods, some manufacturers may resort to substitutes, such as poplar finished to look like cherry. Cherry comprises 2 percent of the total hardwood growth in the United States while poplar amounts to 20 percent of the hardwood yield annually and oak almost 20 percent, Gundy said.

Gundy added that the use of solid cherry and veneers at the Furniture Market was impressive. Kincaid displayed a beautiful solid cherry bedroom set. And the solid cherry dining room set by Thomasville was liked so much by Gundy, he purchased one.

The general opinion of cherry's popularity echoes Gundy's. According to one salesman, substitutes for cherry only work in certain applications because cherry, like walnut, is considered an ever-popular, luxurious furniture wood. "It has been popular since Colonial Williamsburg days and is a fine traditional wood. Four or five years ago, cherry was not used all that much. Today, it is very popular," the salesman said.

Cherry is widely used because it translates well in so many applications. Peruse shelter and decorator magazines and you will see cherry sleigh beds, cherry cabinetry, armories, even cherry countertops.

Cherry trees have three major commercial uses in the United States: fruit, lumber and ornamental value. Prunus serotina is the only native cherry sold for lumber uses. However a related species, Prunus avium, or European cherry, is commercially valued for lumber. It grows in Europe, West Asia and North Africa. Another species, Prunus cerasus, or French cherry, is also used in furniture and cabinetry. The European woods are more costly and limited in availability.

Spreading the seed

Cherry regenerates fairly easily. Turkeys and birds eat the fruit and deposit the seeds. Those that land in prime growing areas will thrive.

Cherry is an angiospermae, meaning the seeds are hidden in fruit seed cases. Cherry is also a deciduous tree -- growing in temperate zones and shedding its leaves each autumn. Cherry is the type of hardwood whose seed cases have two lobes, or dicotyledoneae. "The dicotyledoneae also subdivide into two types," according to the book, Encyclopedia of Wood. Polypetalous species like apple, almond, pear, peach and cherry possess both a calyx and a multi-petalled corolla and produce beautiful flowers and fruits.

American Black cherry has a wide growing range, flourishing in the northern, central, Appalachian and southern regions, with Pennsylvania being the prime growing area; the plentiful stands of cherry come from the Appalachian Mountains in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The trees grow in small quantities, scattered in deciduous forests in the United States and southeastern Canada.

Pennsylvania cherry, growing in the north and western parts of the state, is considered prime cherry for lumber because it is believed to have little of the gum problem that affects others of the species. However, that is not to say cherry from other areas cannot be gum free as well. Fast growth in lower elevations seems to yield cherry that can be affected by gum and therefore have gum pockets, which can be a defect.

Cherry is an attractive wood. Its heartwood varies from a warm light red to red-brown color and features a fine, straight, close grain. Occasional narrow pitch flecks of brown and gum pockets are visible. It has a smooth texture and a distinctive luster. The sapwood varies in color. In older trees it is narrow and off-white.

A hard worker

Cherry works well with hand or power tools. However, it can have a moderate blunting effect on cutting surfaces. Cherry will nail, glue, stain and finish very well.

Cherry is stiff and strong, a moderately heavy and hard wood. Black cherry is moderately durable; the sapwood is liable to be attacked by the common furniture beetle, but it has a natural immunity to the powder post beetle. Its heartwood is durable and resistant to preservatives.

Cherry is a fine furniture and fine cabinetry wood and is also an excellent choice for carving or turnery. It is a popular choice for paneling and other types of architectural woodworking.

Family names

Prunus serotina of the Family Rosaceae

Other names

Black cherry, American cherry, cabinet cherry, rum cherry, whisky cherry, chokecherry, wild black cherry and wild cherry.


36 pounds per cubic foot. Average height is 100 feet; specific gravity 0.58.

Mechanical properties

Good wood bending properties, low stiffness, medium strength and resistance to shock loads. Dries rapidly with little degrade. Care is needed to avoid potential shrinkage during seasoning.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Wood of the Month
Author:Kaiser, Jo-Ann
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:Furniture for all time.
Next Article:Top 25 furniture makers seek growth through exports.

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