How to Use Cherry Lumber for Woodworking

Posted by Josh Kou on

How to Use Cherry Lumber for Woodworking

Cherry Lumber is a hardwood that’s perfect for many types of woodworking projects. It's famous for its rich and ruddy tones that deepen as the wood ages. Moderate in weight and softer than maple, it offers superior workability, strength and stability.  It provides high impact resistance.

No longer thought of as the “poor woodworker’s mahogany,” woodworkers now choose cherry for its own merits. It's a popular pick for furniture, cabinetry, small accessories and most other projects.  

High end furniture manufacturers choose cherry for its inherent properties and perceived value.  For a period In recent years, cherry’s market value exceeded that of black walnut, demonstrating that this species holds its own place in market demand. 

Cherry Wood Overview

On this page you'll find a discussion on:

  •   Cherry’s woodworking qualities and characteristics
  •   Why cherry is a good wood for your next woodworking project.
  •   Tips for staining and finishing.
  •   A source for North American Origin cherry lumber to purchase online.

cherry wood shavings

Prunus Serotina: Cherry's Scientific Name

True black cherry, Prunus serotina, has been cherished as a plentiful and useful tree for centuries. As a result, it’s collected many names including cherry, American cherry, capulin, chokecherry, mountain black cherry, New England mahogany and Plum cherry.

All North Castle Hardwoods cherry wood is genuine Prunus serotina.

Cherry Lumber Color and Grain

Fresh cut cherry wood is a beautiful color.  Its distinctive combination of creamy yellow or buff sapwood and reddish brown heartwood will draw eyes and compliments.  Over time, the heartwood oxidizes, especially in sunlight, and deepens to its characteristic reddish brown.

The grain is close, straight and fine, which is part of the reason it planes so well. Waving, curly figures – even slightly rippled – occur in some boards, enhancing the visual appeal of the finished product.

man measuring wood when working with cherry

What is Cherry Wood Good For?

With its lightweight strength, workability and good looks, American cherry wood has been valued for hundreds of years as ideal stock for tabletops -- and that’s just the beginning. Workmen use cherry for these types of projects:

  •   Furniture – Craftsmen consider cherry a top choice for desks, chairs, benches, tables and tabletops. 

Tip: Keep in mind that cherry isn’t a good fit for outdoor furniture because it is susceptible to insects and moisture damage. Consider using white oak for items to be used outdoors or around water in the kitchen.

  •   Cabinetry – Because the machinability of cherry is second to none, woodworkers often choose this beautiful red wood for cabinets, cases, chests, boxes and other pieces requiring joinery, mortise work and planing.
  •   Turned objects – Rated one of the best woods for turning, cherry makes lovely candlesticks, bowls, tobacco pipes, game pieces and salt & pepper shakers. 
  •   This and that – What else is on your list? Domestic cherry is suited to making musical instruments, knickknacks, gunstocks, intarsia creations and any other project requiring advanced machining techniques.


carpentry tools




Cherry wood is strong with renowned durability, but it is not exceptionally hard. In fact, with a Janka hardness rating of 660, it is softer than many popular woodworking hardwood lumber species. (For reference, Hard Maple has a Janka hardness rating of 850.)

Harder isn’t always better.  Cherry’s relative softness contributes to its excellent workability – the highest rated among common North American hardwood species.

The disadvantage to using cherry is that the material is more easily dented and scratched than oak, maple and other denser lumber. If you don’t mind your creations gathering a bit of “character” over the years, don’t hesitate to use cherry for your project.

Cherry weighs about 3.5 lbs per Board Foot (BF). 

Tips for Finishing Cherry Wood

Here are our professional recommendations for getting the best texture and finish on your cherry projects.


Because the wood is softer than most and easily scratched, take care in sanding it. Sand with the grain to avoid leaving cross grain marks.

Hand sanding with a block, rather than machine sanding, will produce the best results on this straight grained wood.

Using Power Tools

Cherry tends to burn when used with power tools.  If you use Carbide bits and tips on your tools, you can reduce the risk of burning.  If you use steel, make sure to keep your blades sharp. Avoid hesitations as you work with a router, saw or drill, as these pauses can produce burns. Work slowly and steadily.

Using Wood Glue

Most wood adhesives are suitable for cherry, but remove squeeze-out promptly to prevent glue from marring your surface. Wiping joints with thinner on a soft cloth is an effective means of removing excess glue. 

Staining and Finishing

This wood takes stains very well.  You’ll find craftsmen using stain tones from dark to red to light – even bleaching the board– to achieve the finish they prefer.

However, a clear finish remains most popular for this species because it best allows the wood to naturally oxidize.  That is, to deepen in reddish bronze and brown color as it takes on the classic cherry hue.  

prunus seretona blossoms

Dimensional Cherry Wood Online from North Castle Hardwoods

North Castle Hardwoods offers black walnut stock in unfinished dimensions of 4/4, 5/4, 6/4 and 8/4. We have dimensional cherry wood in lengths from 12” to 48” and offer shipping all over the United States, as well as local pickup.  Browse our website or call us for custom orders. We’re happy to answer your questions about our lumber when you contact us. 

How We Source Cherry Lumber

Our cherry is select-cut to achieve our goal of offering you premium lumber from healthy hardwood forests.

To ensure the sustainability of these carefully managed forests, North Castle Hardwoods partners with logging companies certified in responsible forest management.

The results of properly managing these renewable resources is that these forests typically show an increase in the volume of healthy standing timber year after year.

Shop for Black Cherry from North Castle Hardwoods

More than 30 years ago, we began supplying premium hardwood to markets overseas that demand the very best.

Feel free to take a few minutes to browse our selection of black cherry and other fine hardwood lumber including black walnut, red and white oak, white ash and maple.

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