If you are looking for a new type of wood to use around your home, then cherry is always a good option to consider.
With that being said, you probably have some questions about this wood, including how strong it is, whether it is a hardwood or softwood, and in which areas it excels. Today, we are going to evaluate cherry wood based on five main factors to determine how strong it really is.
Is Cherry a Hardwood or Softwood?
The cherry tree is an angiosperm tree, which means that it does produce flowers, and then loses its leaves during the winter. It is deciduous, and therefore also a type of hardwood.
In terms of its strength and durability, it scores pretty averagely on all fronts, although it is not a very stiff type of wood. It’s going to be stronger than most types of softwood, but about on par or even a little weaker than many types of hardwood.
Cherry Wood Strength: All You Need to Know
When we evaluate the strength of wood, there are five main factors that we take a look at. These include the compressive strength, bending strength, stiffness, hardness, and density of the wood. These come together to determine just how strong a piece of wood really is. There are also two main types of cherry trees that we want to look at today, including black cherry and sweet cherry. Let’s get to it and figure out just how durable this wood is.
Let’s take a look at the compressive strength of the two types of cherry wood:
- Black Cherry – 7,110 lbf per square inch (49 MPa)
- Sweet Cherry – 7,250 lbf per square inch (50 MPa)
As you can see, sweet cherry is the stronger of the two in terms of compressive strength. Both have higher compressive strengths than virtually all types of domestic softwoods that can be found in North America. It also has a higher compressive strength than about half of the domestic hardwoods found in North America. Although, hard maple and mahogany have cherry beat.
The compressive strength of wood is also known as the crushing strength, and this is in reference to how much weight a piece of wood can handle parallel to its grain. For a visual reference, picture your kitchen table with all four legs being completely vertical. How much weight can you pile onto the kitchen table before the legs give out and snap?
Let’s take a look at the bending strength of the two types of cherry wood:
- Black Cherry – 12,300 lbf per square inch (84.8 MPa)
- Sweet Cherry – 14,980 lbf per square inch (103.3 MPa)
As you can see, sweet cherry does have more bending strength than black cherry. On that note, both types generally have higher bending strengths than virtually all types of softwood that can be found in North America. With that being said, the bending strength of cherry is about on par with most types of domestic hardwood, but lower than both mahogany and hard maple.
The bending strength of wood is also known as the modulus of rupture. This refers to how much weight a piece of wood can handle perpendicular to its grain, unlike compressive strength, which is about how much weight a piece of wood can hold parallel to its grain.
For example, picture a board being mounted to a wall so that it is completely horizontal and not supported in any way. How much weight could you then hang on the end of that board before it snaps and crashes down?
Let’s take a look at the stiffness of the two types of cherry wood:
- Black Cherry – 1,490,000 lbf per square inch (10.3 GPa)
- Sweet Cherry – 1,529,000 lbf per square inch (10.55 GPa)
Sweet cherry is the stiffer of the two. What is interesting to note is that cherry wood is not very stiff at all. In fact, there are many types of softwood in North America that are stiffer than this wood. Remember that cherry is a hardwood, so this is a factor that stands out. This wood also isn’t nearly as stiff as most types of hardwood that can be found in North America.
The stiffness of wood may also be referred to as the modulus of elasticity. This is about how much weight a piece of wood can handle in the middle before it begins to sag or bend downwards. For an easy-to-picture scenario, imagine a board being supported on either side, and you then standing on top of it. How much would you have to weigh to make that board bend downwards in the middle?
Let’s take a look at the hardness of the two types of cherry wood:
- Black Cherry – 950 lbf
- Sweet Cherry – 1,150 lbf
Sweet cherry is the harder of the two types of cherry trees. It is harder than virtually all types of softwood that can be found in North America, although generally considered quite soft in comparison to other types of hardwood.
For instance, red oak, hard maple, and mahogany are all harder. Yes, cherry is a hardwood, but it’s actually not all that hard, especially when compared to many types of North American domestic hardwoods.
The hardness of wood simply refers to how hard the outer surface is, or in other words how resilient it is toward physical damage such as denting and scratching. This is generally measured on the Janka hardness scale.
Let’s take a look at the density of the two types of cherry wood:
- Black Cherry – 35 lbs per cubic foot (560 kg per cubic meter)
- Sweet Cherry – 39 lbs per cubic foot (600 kg per cubic meter)
As has been the case with all other points of comparison so far, sweet cherry also scores higher in terms of density. In terms of the comparison to other types of wood found in North America, it is denser than virtually all types of softwood but less dense than most types of hardwood. In other words, this is fairly lightweight for hardwood.
The density of wood simply refers to how heavy it is based on a certain area or size. This is usually measured in pounds per cubic foot or kilograms per cubic meter. Knowing exactly how heavy or dense a piece of wood is does have its importance, especially in relation and ease of usability.
Is Cherry Strong?
When it comes down to it, we would say that cherry has average strength and very low stiffness. The theme here is that cherry is more durable, harder, and denser than virtually all types of softwood that can be found in North America, but generally, the scores are lower in most categories when compared to domestic hardwoods. So, as far as hardwood goes, cherry is not the strongest of the bunch, but much stronger than most types of softwood.
When it comes down to it, cherry is a decent type of wood to use. It is certainly much more resilient to physical damage than all types of softwood.
That said, as far as hardwood goes, it’s definitely not the most impressive, but it does still hold its own. With all that being said, cherry is also an extremely nice-looking type of wood, which is why many people choose it, as it has many aesthetic qualities.