Cherry is one of several popular wood selections here at Modern Bungalow, and many of our customers have questions about how it will age with time, and why to choose it over oak or one of our other featured wood varieties. Here's a little info to help inform what to choose and how to care for your fine wood furniture.
Cherry is a very popular furniture hardwood. It's smooth-grained with a reddish-brown color, and comes from Prunus serotina. Or the American Black Cherry Tree if your Latin is rusty.
While many woods 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.
Heartwood and Sapwood
To dramatically simplify: Sapwood is the outer layer of the tree (excluding the bark), and heartwood is the interior of the tree. All wood starts out as Sapwood, but as a tree grows the sapwood is converted to heartwood. What matters is moisture. This affects the way that cherry wood "ripens" and if you aren't careful you can end up with very different shades of wood, even if they are from the same tree.
It's not a bad thing. But it can create a more rustic look, especially if the wood has a natural stain. This can be very dramatic in Cherry. A good stain will make this a non-issue, while still preserving the grain detail, but it's always good to keep that in mind.
Character Cherry vs. Clean Cherry
Does the wood have knots, creases, folds or dramatic discoloration? Then it's probably character cherry. Character Cherry usually runs a little less expensive, because there is more of it, and the artisans don't have to be as selective when matching woods. It also brings out a little more rustic look with added, well, character.
Clean Cherry brings out a much more uniform look in the furniture, but requires careful selection, and therefore adds to the cost. Neither is better or stronger. It all comes down to your taste.