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Cherry shows it still has staying power

Cherry (Prunus serotina), also known as black cherry, has been a mainstay hardwood in the woodworking industry for decades. While there haven’t been any significant changes in the marketplace, current sales are slightly volatile because of fluctuating prices of other species and the overseas market, according to lumber suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News.

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Leroy Maste of Keim Lumber in Charm, Ohio, says cherry sales have been stable overall and that it’s mostly sought for molding and millwork projects, as well as some cabinetry and furniture pieces.

“For us, the cherry demand is not what it was maybe eight years ago, but it has been pretty stable. Cherry as a rule has lost some favor amongst consumers because they are starting to go towards lighter colors. It has started to make a comeback, but a lot of that is driven by the overseas market,” Maste says.

“Style preferences have also changed in the last five years or so where cherry is not as popular anymore because of the advancements in finish technology. You could take a soft maple, which is more economical and put the same finish on there and hardly notice the difference.”

Louis Irion of Irion Lumber in Wellsboro, Pa., says he’s definitely seen an uptick in cherry sales.

“There have been issues with the other dark woods. Walnut has gotten very pricy and, of course, the good mahogany isn’t coming in like it used to. With those factors, there aren’t a whole lot of other places to move but cherry. So we’re seeing not only an uptick in sales, but we’re also anticipating the fact that cherry is going to come back so we’re trying to buy logs while they’re still reasonably priced,” Irion says.

He recently had a customer who couldn’t find what they wanted in a large wide-board walnut top and looked at cherry as an alternative because there were three matching boards.

“With cherry, the availability is so much more and the logs are clearer so you’re just able to get a lot nicer product. It’s not only the price of walnut, it’s got so many defects in it it’s hard to get long, clear pieces. They needed a 12’ table and just couldn’t do it in walnut.”

Doug White of Doug White Hardwoods in Marissa, Ill., says cherry sales are on about the same pace as last year.

“My customers use it for all kinds of projects, usually interior furniture. They also use it for wall paneling occasionally,” White says.

“Cherry has a beautiful wood grain and it darkens with age. A lot of people want that patina to come out. It gets prettier as time goes on.”

Averaged prices for FAS 4/4 cherry were quoted at $2.63/bf wholesale and $5.50/bf retail. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue.

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