Cherry Lumber
Black Cherry

Botanical Name: Prunus serotina

Family: Rosaceae

Other Common Names: Black cherry, Capulin, Cherry, Chisos wild cherry, Choke cherry, Edwards Plateau cherry, Escarpment cherry, Gila chokecherry, Mountain black cherry, New England mahogany, Plum, Rum cherry, Southwestern chokecherry, Whiskey cherry, Wild black cherry, Appalachian cherry

Uses: Turning, carving, furniture, interiors, cabinetwork, musical instruments, and decorative veneer.

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Black Cherry (Appalachian Cherry)

Distribution: In North America, Black cherry is reported to be distributed in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Illinois, Georgia, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It sometimes occurs in pure stands, and can thrive, with the exception of very wet or very dry soils, on many sites, including soil without much lime and good drainage. As many as five varieties of Black cherry are reported to be known.

General Characteristics: Black cherry is reported to be the largest of all North American cherries, attaining heights of about 100 feet (30 m) in the favorable climate of the Appalachian. The average tree is reported to be about 80 feet (24 m) in height, and produces a tall trunk which is about 24 inches (60 cm) in diameter. Cherry trees are reported to be large enough to harvest after 35 to 40 years, with larger trees growing to full heights in about 100 years. The trees are famous for their wood, but they are also reported to be attractive, flowering species. Cherry trees are reported to be easily attacked by various organisms, including birds that eat the food and harm the bark to mites, slugs and insects such as, fruit flies. They are also susceptible to brown rot, root rot, leaf spot, and blossom blight. The heartwood varies in color from reddish brown to deep red, or light reddish brown, usually with brown flecks and some gum pockets. Some flooring manufacturers are reported to steam Black cherry lumber to bleed the darker heartwood into the sapwood for a more uniform color. Color variations between boards are reported to be rather significant. The narrow sapwood is whitish to reddish brown in color. The wood has also been described as creamy pink. Texture is fine and uniform, and the wood often has narrow brown pith flecks and small gum pockets; The grain is reported to be fine, but material with dark wavy streaks which are described as striking in appearance are frequently found. Quartersawn pieces are reported to be very beautiful. Cherry is reported to have a strong resemblance to true Mahogany, and is often called New England mahogany; Luster has been described as rich and satiny. The wood has no characteristic odor or taste.

Light & Air-Induced Changes: Black cherry is reported to be very sensitive to UV light, and changes to its characteristic reddish-brown, mahogany shade upon exposure. The use of UV light inhibitors in coatings has been suggested to prevent the color change.

Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) 0.54; air-dry density N/A.

Working Properties: The wood exerts moderate blunting effect on cutting edges. Black cherry is reported to saw cleanly. The wood is reported to have excellent planing qualities and works to produce smooth, clean surfaces. Stock with cross grain may be fairly difficult to plane, and requires reduced cutting angles of 20 degrees for best results. The wood can be turned easily, and Black cherry has been described as an important timber for turnery purposes. The timber is reported to bore cleanly to yield holes with smooth surfaces little variation in hole size. Black cherry is reported to respond well to moulding. The wood is reported to have excellent mortising properties. The wood glues very well. Nailing qualities are reported to be good. Screw-holding properties are reported to be good. The wood has good polishing characteristics. The material is reported to take stains and all types of finishes very well. Finished Cherry wood is very handsome because of its rich luster and reddish brown color which turns richer and darker with age. Addition of ultra-violet light inhibitors has been suggested to prevent color change. The timber has good steam bending properties. It has been compared to Beech and Ash in steam bending properties.

Durability: Heartwood is reported to be very resistant to decay, but the sapwood is vulnerable to attack by the furniture beetle. Natural resistance to decay is reported to be of little concern because of the typical uses of the wood.

Preservation: The heartwood is moderately resistant to preservative treatment.

Mechanical Properties

Bending Strength:

Green: 7,900 psi
Dry: 13,250 psi

Modules of Elasticity:

Green: 1,310 @ 1,000 psi Dry: 1,490 @ 1,000 psi

Maximum Crushing Strength:

Green: 3,435 psi
Dry: 7,865 psi

Drying and Shrinkage:

The wood dries fairly quickly. Rapid drying may cause severe warping since the ratio of shrinkage in the tangential to the radial direction can be more than twice. Defects include warp, ring shake, and honeycomb due to wetwood (not common). Shrinkage during drying is common in this species, and warping can be reduced by weighting down stacks. Kiln Schedule T8-B4 is suggested for 4/4 stock and T5-B3 for 8/4. Shrinkage green to ovendry: radial 4%; tangential 7%. Seasoned wood is reported to be dimensionally stable, and retains its shape very well after manufacture.

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