Every woodworker loves “soft” hardwoods. Their strength and durability make them the ideal wood types for furniture and other woodworking projects, Yet, they are highly workable, often with excellent finishing qualities.
As such, maple and cherry wood are darlings in the woodworking sector. Strong, durable, and dependable, these two hardwoods are easy to find, affordable, and make highly-priced items to the benefit of both carpenters and their customers.
In this guide, we compare maple vs cherry wood and discuss how to pick between the two wood types for your next woodworking project.
Maple vs Cherry Wood; Is Cherry Wood Expensive?
Cherry is more expensive than maple. However, it earns its high price with the smooth grain and rich cherry shades. Moreover, cherrywood exhibits more even staining and is carvable into detailed shapes.
Maple vs Cherry Wood: Overview
What do you need to know about each wood type? First, let’s get an overview of each wood type before we compare the two head to head.
What is Maple Wood?
Maple is a bright, light, and classic hardwood native to Asia, Europe, North Africa, and North America. It belongs to the genus Acer, which comprises more than 128 wood species.
There are two main categories of maple wood; hard maples and soft maples. Hard maple wood refers to wood obtained from the species Acer Saccharum, better known as sugar maple.
However, many people consider Acer Nigrum, also known as black maple, hard maple. The number of soft maples is much higher.
However, the most common varieties are striped maple, big leaf maple, silver maple, and red maple. This guide focuses on sugar maple.
Maple heartwood is darker color, typically brownish-red or even dark brown. However, it’s very tiny and rarely used for furniture.
Instead, woodworkers have to make do with the much lighter sapwood, which is generally white with dark stains resulting from mineral streaks. Maple wood has an even and tight grain pattern.
Maple lumber has maple applications. The softer varieties are popular among woodworkers as they make strong, durable furniture.
Meanwhile, hard maple is more common in flooring and making bowling pins. Solid maple wood is also used in bowling alley floors and wooden baseball bats.
What is Cherry Wood?
The cherry tree, Prunus avium, is one of America’s most prized furniture hardwoods. It mainly grows on the east coast, though a few cherry forests can be found in the midwest and down to Mexico.
The biggest cherry tree forests are found in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. Cherry trees grow to 100+ feet and live for 100+ years.
Different types of cherry wood
There are two main types of cherry wood; black cherry and sweet cherry. Black cherry is the most common species in the US. However, it also goes by different names, such as American cherry and whiskey cherry.
Meanwhile, sweet cherry is known as European cherry. Besides black cherry and white cherry, you may come across four other cherry wood varieties.
These are the Brazilian cherry, Caribbean cherry, Patagonian cherry, and Chilean cherry. However, the four aren’t very common in the US.
Natural cherry wood is light pink to light brown when freshly cut. This applies to nearly all cherries, though the color intensity varies from one cherry species to the next and depends on where the tree’s origin.
However, the color “ripens” over time due to direct sunlight exposure, transforming into beautiful, reddish-brown hues. Cherry has a fine to medium texture with straight grain, sometimes with a few wavy lines.
The end grain is semi-ring-porous. Most cherry planks feature two to three radials with distinctive growth rings. It’s a moderately durable, moderately decay-resistant wood. Black cherry also has a distinctive mild smell.
American cherry has many applications. Being a good wood for carving, cherry is commonly used for sculpting, furniture and cabinetry. Many people also use it in panelling and flooring. Finally, its carvability makes it an excellent choice for musical instruments and tobacco pipes.
Maple vs Cherry: Head-to-Head
Now we have a brief overview of maple and cherry wood. So, let’s compare them to appreciate the similarities and differences.
Maple and cherry have completely different colors. Maple wood (typically the sapwood) is creamy white with a pitch fleck and mineral streaks that add reddish tints to the wood.
However, the color darkens with age becoming light brown. Meanwhile, the very little heartwood is brownish-red or dark. It turns mellow with age.
Cherry wood, on the other hand, is pink pinkish when freshly cut but transforms into a luxurious dark reddish-brown color after several months of UV exposure, sometimes with a golden undertone. The color charge is sometimes referred to as “ripening.”
2. Grain pattern
Both cherry and maple wood have straight grains. So, it’s difficult to distinguish the to based on grain patterns. However, you may note a few variations if you look closely.
Cherry wood has a straight, tight grain pattern and a medium to fine texture. However, maple has an even finer texture. Therefore the surfaces of sawn maple lumber are a tad smoother than sawn cherry.
Another common difference is that cherry wood grain is more uniform than maple. Although maple wood grain is also generally straight, figured grain lines are common.
So, when working on maple, it’s more likely to run into birdseye, flame, wavy, curvy, and fiddleback grains.
Both maple and cherry are hardwoods. So, they are generally harder than the average softwood. However, both are “soft” hardwood. A soft hardwood is rated less than 1500 lbf on the Janka hardness scale.
Cherry scores 990 lbf on the Janka scale, while maple hardness ranges from 950 (soft maple) to 1450 lbf (hard maple). Remember that the hardness of lumber determines its ease of denting and scratching.
Therefore, these scores tell us that hard maple is more dent and scratch-resistant than cherry wood. Therefore, maple furniture and items can abuse more than cherry items.
4. Strength and density
Wood strength and density often go hand in hand and are both critical when choosing lumber. Strength (typically compressive strength) is the wood’s resistance to breaking under compressive.
Therefore, it determines how much load the piece of wood can withstand before breaking. For example, Cherry is slightly stronger at 856 psi than maple 520 psi.
Meanwhile, density determines the heaviness or lightweight of wood. Interestingly, the harder maple varieties are heavier than the cherry.
Sweet maple weighs 753 kg/cubic foot while cherry 630 kg/cubic foot. However, soft maple is a lot lighter at around 625 kg/ cubic meter.
5. Weather resistance
Neither cherry nor maple wood is extremely weather-resistant. However, cherry is a lot more weather-resistant than maple. This is because Cherry wood doesn’t shrink or warp readily as seasons change.
However, you’ll gradually notice the dimensional distortion. Note that cherry heartwood is much more rot and decay-resistant than sapwood. Also, the Brazilian cherry is the most rot-resistant of all cherry wood species.
Maple is worse. Although strong, maple warps and shrinks quickly. As a result, maple isn’t an ideal wood for outdoor use. It’s also not good for fences or construction.
Fortunately, you can seal maple and cherry to enhance their weather resistance. Sealing gives cherry a beautiful, natural finish. The same applies to maple.
6. Pest and insect resistance
No wood is 100% naturally resistant to pests and insects. So, it often comes down to the degree of resistance to selected pests. Fortunately, cherry lumber is resistant to a wide range of pests.
For instance, it’s one of the few American hardwoods that are naturally resistant to termites. However, it’s susceptible to cherry aphids and Peachtree borers. therefore, you should treat it before use.
Maple is just as susceptible to pest damage. For instance, beetles happily chew on natural maple wood and so do weevils. Worms, caterpillars, and metallic wood borers also love raw maple wood.
Cherry wood and maple wood are not the most durable woods. None can last generations. However, with proper care, you can get 20+ years out of cherry or maple furniture.
However, cherry is slightly more durable than maple. Cherry heartwood is especially very durable. It’s resistant to insects, doesn’t rot readily, and is extremely weather-resistant.
Weatherproofing the lumber further prolongs its lifespan. Meanwhile, the durability of maple depends on the type. Soft maples are the least durable.
They are prone to warping and shrinking and easily dent and scratch because they’re soft. So, keeping the items in top shape for a very long time is difficult. Hard maple is much more durable.
As we noted at the beginning, one of the biggest advantages of cherry wood and maple wood is their workability. The two are some of the most workable hardwoods, whether with hand tools or power tools.
For instance, it’s easy to hold a straight line on either maple or cherry wood. It’s also easy to take a clean saw kerf on either wood.
The ease of workability combined with moderate strength and hardness makes the two kinds of wood excellent choices for furniture and cabinetry.
Remember that both are non-toxic. Therefore, you don’t require elaborate protection from the sawdust. The only downside is that hard maple produces a burning feeling when cutting.
Finally, maple and cherry are not the most costly woods. However, cherry is the pricier wood. Why? Because of the unique darkening element.
Wooden furniture lovers are naturally attracted to dark brown or reddish-brown colors; the darker the better. Cherry wood offers that and more. It starts out as light brown but darkens over time into a luxurious dark reddish-brown.
Cherry prices start from around $11/board foot. The higher the heartwood content, the more expensive the wood planks.
On the other hand, maple prices vary depending on the type of maple. Hard maples, which are more expensive than soft maples, cost $8.55 per board foot.
Cherry and maple have many applications, some of which overlap. For instance, both are popular choices for furniture-making as they’re strong, readily available, affordable, and beautiful.
Both maple and cherry are also good for cabinetry and flooring. Additionally, cherry is ideal for molding, boat interiors, and turnings. It’s also used in musical instruments, such as pianos and violins.
On the other hand, maple is good for crates and pallets, veneer, wood pulp, and small, speciality wood items.
Comparison of Some Maple and Cherry Items
1. Maple vs Cherry Cabinets
Cherry wood is preferred over maple for cabinets. Cherry cabinets can warm up an otherwise lifeless, pallid room. Moreover, it takes darker stains better than maple and therefore suits classic decors better.
It’s the perfect choice for people who prefer the natural look of wood furniture but don’t want to go all-rustic.
2. Maple vs Cherry Flooring
Cherry is a better choice for flowing than maple. Maple is a practical choice too. However, solid maple wood floors are difficult to stain as the wood doesn’t hold stains very well.
Its tight, non-porous grain pattern doesn’t allow stains to seep into the wood properly, often resulting in a blotchy appearance. Cherry wood, on the other hand, stains exceptionally and takes natural finishes equally well.
Learn here how to stain maple floor and furniture like a pro.
3. Cherry vs maple cutting board
Cherry and maple are both good candidates for wooden cutting boards. Both are within the durability (hardness and strength) requirement. Both are also fairly affordable.
However, maple wood is a more preferable choice because it resists dirt better. In addition, the tight, non-porous grain pattern that makes it a not-so-good flooring choice makes maple the perfect choice for a safe, healthy chopping block.
4. Maple vs cherry furniture
Cherry and maple wood furniture are both fashionable, strong, and durable. However, brown maple furniture is more common for a few reasons. First, maple is more affordable than cherry.
Secondly, hard maple wood is much stronger than cherry wood. Sugar maple (1450 Janka) is harder than cherry wood (990 Janka) and thus more durable. That said, though, cherry wood makes more luxurious furniture.
Is cherry a good wood?
The qualities of Cherry make it moderately a good wood. It is not durable as such, but at least its center is rot-resistant and does not decay easily. The wood’s strength is also moderate, resisting shock loads. In terms of flexibility, cherry can be cut, carved, molded, and used in several other applications.
How hard is cherry wood?
Cherry wood can range from being quite soft to quite hard. This means that it’s possible to scratch or dent the surface of cherry furniture if you’re not careful. Put simply, cherrywood is considered to be moderately hard wood. It’s not as soft as some woods like pine or spruce, but it’s also not as hard as others like oak or maple.
Is maple a good wood for furniture?
Yes, maple is a good and popular type of wood for furniture. The tight grain and natural luster make it a favourite for dining tables, desks, and other pieces of furniture. Maple is also very strong and durable, so it can withstand heavy use over time.
Is cherry wood heavy?
Yes, cherry wood is very heavy. This cherry feature is one reason carpenters use it for furniture making. It is hardwood, meaning that it’s denser and heavier than most other types of wood. In fact, it’s so heavy that even a small piece can be quite difficult to lift.
Is maple wood strong?
Maple wood is very strong and dense. It is one of the hardest wood species, making it an excellent choice for furniture and flooring. Plus, maple is very popular for cabinets and cutting boards because it resists warping and shrinking. When it comes to maple, you can rest assured that you’re getting a sturdy, lasting product when it comes to maple.
Is maple more expensive than cherry?
Cherry is more expensive than maple. The smooth grain and rich cherry shades as well as its ability to stain evenly, make cherry pricey. Hard maple is also a wonderful species that is great in displaying light color and has a gorgeous look, but its price doesn’t match cherry’s.
Is cherry a hardwood?
Yes. Cherry is a hardwood. It’s strong and dense and has a fine-grained texture. Cherry wood is often used for furniture, cabinetry, flooring, and musical instruments. However, it can be susceptible to scratches and dents, so it may not be the best. Overall, cherry is a beautiful, durable wood that will last for many years.
Is maple wood expensive?
No, maple is more affordable than other hardwood types like cherry or walnut. Yet, this does not mean the wood species is of poor quality. On the contrary, maple wood is incredibly strong, looks great, and stains nicely. Avid woodworkers gravitate towards maple for its light, creamy color, smooth grain pattern, and impressive durability.
What is cherry wood good for?
Cherry wood is a popular choice for many items because it’s durable and has a beautiful, rich color. It’s often used in toys, caskets, paneling, furniture, and flooring. Cherry is also a favourite choice for kitchen cabinets and other kitchen fixtures.
Maple vs Cherry Wood – Summary
Cherry and maple are popular hardwoods with a wide range of applications. Both are beautiful, hard, and strong enough for regular applications. However, they also differ in several ways.
When to Use Maple: Maple is a great choice for furniture making, cabinetry, and small specialty wood items.
When to Use Cherry: Cherry is ideal for high-end furniture and cabinetry. It’s also a great choice for musical instruments, such as violins and guitars.