Cherry is one of the most popular North American hardwoods. For generations, woodworkers have chosen cherry as one of their preferred species for quality manufacturing. Cherry, (Prunus serotina), is commonly used in everything from cabinets to fine furniture.
But, as with any hardwood species, not all cherry lumber is the same. Besides the standard differences in grade, thickness, length and color, there are other issues that you will need to understand when ordering cherry lumber. Here are a few tips we like to suggest our customers consider when ordering cherry.
- Know the growing region – Most cherry hardwood is harvested in the eastern part of the United States. Those familiar with the hardwood lumber industry believe that some of the best cherry is sourced from the Alleghany mountain region which spreads throughout Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, and into the Appalachian region. Hardwood suppliers that harvest timber from this area, even if their facility is outside the region can help you receive some of the finest cherry to use.
- Express your preference for heartwood and sapwood - A characteristic of cherry is the distinct difference between its heartwood and sapwood. This is expressed as a ratio in terms such as 90/50 or 90/70. One is not better than the other per say, it just depends on what your application is and how you are going to use the lumber. One thing to note is if your supplier has multiple types of cherry sorts it might be an indication that they are focused on assisting customers with specific requirements which could be a benefit.
- Look for widths that work for you – Cherry is one of those species who’s largest and highest quality logs are sold off to produce veneer. Because of this it is sometimes difficult to find extremely wide average widths. If a certain width sort is important to your manufacturing process we recommend working with your hardwood supplier to develop a program that helps secure the lumber you need when you need it, especially if you are looking loads of cherry that are 10” and wider or even 12” and wider.
- Work with a supplier with access to supply – The competition for cherry lumber can be tight since cherry is typically harvested from a relatively small growing region. We usually suggest to lumber buyers that they develop a comfort level with their hardwood supplier to make sure they are able to regularly provide the lumber they need when they need it. If you find a certain supplier consistently has drastic changes in their cherry inventories investigate further as to how they might serve your needs in the future.
- Ask about any custom grades they might provide – Cherry is one of those species that allows itself to have many different supplier specific custom graded offerings. Grades build around color specifications, length sorts or even something to do with character marks like a rustic grade are commonly found in the market. By asking about these type of offerings you might find you can enhance your manufacturing process, improve your lumber yields and even save yourself some money when ordering lumber!
Do you have any other best practices you can share as it pertains to choosing a hardwood cherry supplier? Let us know!