Which is easier for a newbie to work with? I wont get around to it for
some time because my wife wants me to build her a bookshelf first, but
I have a plan for a mantle clock I would like to make for my
grandmother. It calls for cherry but I wondered abotu Walnut. Was not
sure if one was better than another to work with wwith my cheap tools.
I use a lot of walnut, and not that much cherry, but about the only
differences I've noticed in working with it is cherry has a tendency to burn
when cutting, routing, so sharp tools are a must; and walnut is harder to
finish if you have a lot of sapwood.
As far matching existing decor, if you want a darker end product, use
walnut. Keeps Joat's woodworking gods pacified.
Both are good to use. It doesnt matter what the plans say it matters
what you ( or your grandmother) feel looks best. I personally like
Cherry better and when it does burn you can sand, scrape or plane the
burn marks easily.
Let's propitiate JOAT's gods with the idea, too, that walnut lightens
(relatively speaking) over time, while cherry darkens (but you can be
talking lots of years before two similar pieces, one of walnut and one
of cherry, pass each other on the way up or down. For what's it's
worth, I've NEVER seen real cherry, without stain, the color of the
furniture sold as cherry "stained" these days. It just never really
turns black (well, yeah: in a fire).
I've worked a fair amount with both, tend to prefer cherry (mainly
because it used to be cheaper around here than walnut), but agree with
Swingman's analysis. One slight addenda: walnut is more of an
open-pored wood, so finishes best for most purposes with grain filler
before staining (ugh) or coating.
I have a walnut hall table with a cherry "inlay" I did a few years ago,
finished a la Sam Maloof, rubbed oil/poly/wax .. no stain whatsoever.
I planned on watching it to see how long it took for them to swap spectrums.
Thus far the cherry has darkened, almost to the color of the walnut sapwood,
and the walnut hasn't budged as far as I can tell. From the looks of it I
might have to leave the piece in my will to someone who can finish the test.
I would concur with this assessment. Walnut is a pleasure to work with
hand-tools, in particular. At times, I found myself hand-planing boards
just because I could. :) Maybe it's because the shavings looked like
chocolate on the floor?
I've used both extensively. Both are relatively easy to work in my
opinion. Not as hard as Oak or Ash. I give a slight preference to
cherry because the grain is a little tighter on the surface and I
prefer the smell over walnut which is a little strong when it is being
In the last year I've done a walnut cradle, booster seat, hall table,
and end table.
I'm currently working on a cherry china cabinet and side board. In
the past I did a cherry bedroom set complete.
Both look good when finished. i just hate the mess of working with walnut,
but I am speaking more as a turner than doing case work. Even in case
work, walnut is "nasty" the dust and shavings stain the hands and anything
else they come in contact with. Buuuuttttt, the finished product is worth
Personal preference is ash. But each has their own, don't they?
what ever you do don't go the route a friend used recently
He had a bookcase built from Maple stained to look like cherry. For a
book case I'd go with veneer plywood edged with strips of real wood.
The plywood will be far more stable, stonger, and cost a bunch less.
The friend used real maple and had it stained cherry to match the other
wood in the room. A consideration on furniture is how will it look with
the other pieces in the room. Imagine the cherry in a room with oak
furniture. My SWMBO would say no and want oak.
So are you saying it was a mistake to use Maple instead of plywood or a
to try to stain Maple to look like Cherry? I have a friend that worked
in a furniture factory (until it was sent overseas). He said all their
"cherry" was really just maple stained like cherry.
why use maple and stain it cherry? It seems silly to me that if your
going to the trouble why not use cherry.
he also could have gotten the same effect with a good quality veneered
plywood at less cost. In that case he probably could have gotten maple
plywood and stained it cherry.
Both machine well but I would lean a little toward Walnut. That is probably
a personal preference more than anything. It seems like cherry burns a
little easier (or at least it shows it more on the lighter wood). In our
area, SE KS, Walnut is native and a little cheaper.
BTW, two of my first serious woodworking projects were clocks, one mantel
and one long-case schoolhouse clock. Both Walnut.
I'd strongly agree with that, but only up to a point.
Pine, unless you get a particularly good grade, just isn't a nice
timber to work with for fine cabinetry. Softwood is too coarse and
flimsy in small sections and it's actually harder to do good fine work
If your skills are moderate and you have affordable timber, then treat
yourself to cherry or walnut and enjoy yourself - they're both lovely
timbers. If your skills are just begining though, don't risk wasting a
nice board - go with something cheaper. But not quite as lowly as pine.
As to which, then I'd probably favour the cherry.
Parana pine (sustainability issues apart) is a nice well-behaved pine to
I think this is wrong. If you go in with the attitude that this is
just pine, you will not strive hard enough to do a good job. If you
do what it takes and it comes out well, you will chide yourself for
not using the material that you wanted in the first place. My
preference is cherry because I like the way it looks. As others have
mentioned it burns, so use sharp tools and a reasonably fast feed
rate. I have a Maple clock that included less than $5 worth of wood,
so shop around. A picture can be seen at the top of the page:
What is wrong is your attitude. If you go into the project to learn how to
make certain joint, to make the perfect fit, the prototype will have served
its purpose. Great artists have often made sketches and prototypes before
creating the final masterpiece. I have a design in my head of a clock I
want to make. So far, I've made two partial prototypes from pine scraps to
get a real, hands on, 3D model of the finished product. I'll probably make
one more before I get what I want Check the design studios of auto makers.
They use clay before going to a metal model.
Perhaps you have all the woodworking skills you will ever need so you have
no reason to do a test setup. Good for you, but some of us still like to
try things out. Cheaply
Any prototype I've made that came out well was given as a gift and
appreciated by the recipient as much as the person that got the final
design. Last year I made a series of boxes as gifts. Yes I made two
prototypes from pine. One was junk from making adjustments in setups. The
other was as good as the cherry and elm boxes that I made. The pine was
given to a neighbor and she was just as happy as if it was made of solid
gold and filled with cash. I don't see any loss there.
I was getting started 5 or 6 years ago, never having built a cabinet, but
having just laid out some serious cash for a new Shopsmith. (Yes, I've
learned. Money gone.) We wanted an entertainment center for the master
bedroom, and so I built one from baltic birch plywood. Too big. Took it
apart, and rebuilt it smaller, and more accessible for the not terribly
large bedroom. Painted it sage green.
My wife loves it. She shows it off to everyone who comes to visit, even 6
years and who knows how many tables, clocks, boxes and bedframes later. If
she wants one in oak or cherry, she's never let me know. When I suggest
that I do 'the final', she comes up with more important projects for my
time and tools.
Good thing about that prototype. Paint covers a multitude of sins. I'd do
it again, no problem. The learning is the fun part. The prototype kitchen
cabinets are in the bathrooms and in my garage shop. Someday, maybe soon.
Enjoy your work.
I will still disagree with you. I do build prototypes, usually from
cardboard so that others can see what I have in mind. These are full
sized, fully functional pieces. It took me about an hour to build a
cardboard rubber stamp cabinet. Some of the prototypes are used until
the final product is done. I do test a new technique, but always in
the same wood as the finished project because it eliminates another
variable. Part of the reason why my workflow is different is that I
have the gift of being Autistic. My designs are always fully worked
in my brain without drawings, even things like the design and
placement of the gears in the acrylic clock and the workings of some
of the wooden locks. I can build better from a picture of the final
project than from drawings. You work the way that is best for you in
your neurotypical fashion and I will do what is best for me. But I
think it is self defeating attitude to build a project out of inferior
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