Is cherry furniture made differently than kitchen cabinets?

SamanthapMarch 8, 2005

I have always liked the look of warm cherry in furniture I've seen in the really nice New England/Vermont furniture lines. So that's the color we wanted for kitchen cabinetry. I ordered cherry (custom) and now we're looking at samples of what is being used--it's not warm and reddish like the furniture I've seen--it has cooler tones, almost walnut. We are having it stained, but so far the samples are still cooler than what I've seen in furniture stores. I just borrowed a shelf from a friend's bookcase to have the contractor show to the cabinet maker, but I'm wondering--have I chosen the wrong wood or the wrong finish? Are there different types of Cherry? (Ours is Cherry Select) How do I get the warm tone I want (our counters are white marble and the sink and stove are stainless steel--we have to have warm tones to balance that!) Please help--I don't want to demand the impossible, but I've seen stores that carry cherry furniture and it doesn't look like this!

Here's a picture of what I wanted (the Canterbury hutch)


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Cherry darkens considerably as it ages. We recently installed cherry kitchen cabinets (actual natural cherry hardwood, not a 'cherry' finish) and they were initially quite pale and bland in color.

Over a period of about 8 months, they have darkened considerably and no longer resemble the original cabinets. The were all initially kind of a uniform pale orange-red color. They now range from pale to deep red in places and the contrast in the grain is striking. I love the look of them.

So I suppose that some of the cheery you are referring to is likely aged while the newer wood is less so and has less of that warm tone you are looking for. In time, if the wood has a natural finish, it will develop that warm, deep red look you are looking for. I also think exposure to sunlight quickens the process.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 10:14AM
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Also, realize that wood is a natural product and that Nature is whimsical. Color and grain will vary between trees of the same species. It will also vary within the same tree as well. Cherry solids might well age and change color differently than a cherry veneer (which you'll find used in cherry cabinets -- unless you have so much money to burn that ...).

Stains can be blended to proprietary specifications as can be finishes. So it is highly unlikely that you'll ever find two pieces (especially of cherry) that are "the same".

But you can count on cherry becoming "richer" over time -- even if you keep it packed away in some bat cave :-)


    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 1:01PM
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The biggest difference is that fine furniture makers do not use the sapwood, and the cabinet companies do. It is still cheaper to cut out the sapwood than try and stain and tone it to match the heartwood. The kitchen cabionet folks want to use every board foot of the expensive wood they purchase, so the sapwood is used. It is not considered a grading defect, but it is a defect in the finished product.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 7:52PM
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Cherry is naturally a light redish brown color (the amount redish can vary greatly some looks mostly light brown). When I think of cherry furniture I think of tow very different looks. One is very light, like the second hutch I saw at your link. The second is a deep rich red color. This has been stained or dyedto achieve this color. You might check are a lumber yard/home center at their stain samples.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 3:49PM
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"The second is a deep rich red color. This has been stained or dyedto achieve this color."

Cherry darkens with exposure to light, ulike most woods that bleach out and lighten. Very old cherry wil often be very dark. In many cases the original was water stained, but red in water stain is a very fugitive color that fades in light. The cherry darkens as the stain fades.
Water stain on cherry is a great way to get the darker colors with little fear of the wood getting to dark.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 4:41PM
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Over time it will darken. Many things happen over time. As you said "The kitchen cabionet folks want to use every board foot of the expensive wood they purchase, so the sapwood is used." This is true for some. For these folks to get that deep rich red/wine color what is said "has been stained or dyed to achieve this color." Custom cabinet and furniture makers can do ...almost anything they want. Many respected experts (no sarcasm intended) talk about this "darkening." I am sure they are right. I, however, have not seen it to the extent I would have expected.

BTW Brick I read many of your posts. You are very knowledgeable about a wide variety of things. I am impressed. Please accept this compliment. I am not being sarcastic.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 10:48PM
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Cherry really does darken signifiacntly over time. Some of the newer finishes can slow the process by absorbing the UV that is required to create the reactions for the darkening.
The deep wine red can occur relatively quickly in shellac (often franch polished) finishes, slightly longer under nitrocweullose lacquer, and who knows how long under polyurethane (solvent or water based). In any case, signifiacnt direct sun exposure is required. Most cherry darkens slightly after only a few weeks in the sun without a finish.
I can easily get the color desired, but make no warranty that it is not fugitive under sunlight.
It is possible to stain sapwood to match hardwood, and I do it occasionally when I need large section wood and my normal wide lumber sources cannot meet the need (24 to 30 inch planks). When carefully done you can only tell by stripping the finish.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 9:51PM
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I am looking at natural cherry cabinets to go with a eastern white pine wide plank floor, because I like how it picks up on the knots in the pine. However, I like the natural because it is relatively light and more informal than a stained or darker cherry. Can I expect it to maintain the gradations in tone as it ages that will keep an informal look, or will it really darken that much. I have a small bungalow kitchen and really want to keep things on the light side. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 5:44PM
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Hi, The cherry frames of this cabinet were darkened with a lye/water solution. It s "instant age" for cherry, and it's permanent.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 6:16PM
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Love that cabinet Casey! Are the insets cherry too? Never seen cherry with that grain before...

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:09AM
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