Cherry Lumber Choices Can Be A Challenge
History doesn't record what uses for cherry lumber, if any, George Washington had in mind when he took ax in hand. Having a good upbringing, he no doubt had something productive in mind, but what that may have been we'll never know. We do know that products made from cherry lumber are typically extremely beautiful, whether we're talking about flooring or furniture.
Cherry lumber is highly prized by woodworkers, because of its markings and distinctive colors, but the freshly cut wood is not always easy to cure or to work with. While an amateur woodworker may rely on local orchards or neighbors who are disposing of a cherry tree as the source for lumber, most of what is used in this country comes from overseas. It's not that American cherry trees are inferior, but simply because they are not a reliable source for large quantities of lumber, and the trees we get from outside of the country are tropical cherry trees, and are much larger than most of the trees found here. Any domestic cherry lumber found in the marketplace more often than not comes from Pennsylvania, or Virginia. Even though most of the lumber is not domestic, the highest quality is considered by many to come from the American black cherry tree.
Heartwood And Sapwood - In selecting cherry lumber for a project, the quality of the wood is more often than not the prime consideration, and this usually translates into the percentage of heartwood, which tends to have a deep red, or reddish brown coloring, as opposed to the percentage of sapwood, which has a lighter yellowish or whitish color. Most lumber has some of each type of wood, though most woodworkers would prefer 100% heartwood. Some pieces have heartwood on one side and sapwood on the other. This can create problems, as when cherry wood dries, the sapwood dries much more quickly than the heartwood, and warping results, often making the piece of lumber unfit for its intended purpose.
Pick And Choose And Pay The Price - When a user selects cherry lumber from a retailer, the user often has to go through the wood piece by piece, selecting those pieces that have an acceptable percentage of heartwood. This often means a piece of lumber will have 100% heartwood on one side, and a mix of heartwood and sapwood on the other. Pure heartwood pieces are hard to come by, and many retailers will set such pieces aside for favored customers, and charge them accordingly! A very picky customer might accept less than 1% of the lumber in a given shipment. If all customers were that picky, the supplier would end up with a very large surplus of unsold cherry lumber, so it is not surprising that if you are going to be extremely selective, you will be charged more for what you get.
A Set Of Lumber, Please - Another requirement a wood worker may have, is the demand for a set of cherry lumber. A set simply means that all of the lumber being purchased comes from the same tree. This can be of importance when consistency of pattern and/or the consistency in workability of the wood is important, for example in some items of furniture or custom paneling. Cherry lumber coming from different trees will give a mix of patterns and physical characteristics which may not be acceptable for some projects.
As you can see, whether you are a woodworker, retailer, or supplier, dealing with cherry lumber is not without its difficulties. If you are building a structure using fir lumber, the grade of the wood can be important, depending upon where you are using a specific board. But you are not going to encounter nearly the headaches the user of cherry lumber faces, and faces almost all of the time.