Cherry used in Amish furniture is actually called Black Cherry. Cherry is a fine hardwood, but is the softest of the woods Amish use (fig 2). It’s Janka hardness is 950.
Many companies use other similar grained woods that are cheaper, then stain the wood to look like cherry. They then try to sell it for a higher price. Amish Craftsmen only use 100% solid cherry and never cut corners trying to “fake it”.
Buyers note: As you get closer to the outside bark area of a cherry tree the wood will quickly turn from a reddish to an off yellow color. Many Amish like to use boards like this because it gives character to the furniture. Properly laid out boards give a natural beauty to the piece, thus showing the Amish woodworkers eye for perfection.
A rapidly growing woodland tree common throughout all of Ohio, is often found in open fields and previously harvested forests. Its beautiful, fine-grained, orange-brown to mahogany-colored heartwood ranks second only to Black Walnut as the ultimate choice for making Amish solid wood furniture. This tree is named for its ripened black cherries as well as its black-gray, flaky mature bark, which looks like black cornflakes pasted on the trunk of the tree.
A native of eastern and midwestern North America, Black Cherry is a pioneer invader tree in open fields or woodlots, and as such can become a “woody weed” as an aggressive sapling. In youth, it displays a symmetrical, often pyramidal growth habit, but it often divides into several upright branches due to storm damage and assumes an irregular shape as it matures.
How do you identify Cherry?
To the untrained eye it can be difficult to tell if the wood is truly cherry. We teach clients to look for a black grain pattern and a “bit of white” mixed into the wood. These “white” areas are actually the outer edge of the tree. Fig 2 has an arrow pointing to a white spot.
Be aware that Cherry “naturally Darkens” in sunlight!
Cherry that is used in Amish furniture was most likely just built. This wood is actually more “pink” and if sprayed with a natural finish, or clear coat of conversion varnish, it will take up to 6 months to “naturally darken to a golden color”.
DO NOT place anything on a piece of cherry furniture, in a permanent manner, for 6 months. This means decorations, placemats, etc. The sun will not darken the area evenly and you will be left with the shape of the item in a lighter color. The wise consumer will place the extra cherry table leafs in the table so they will darken evenly with the rest of the table.