Whether you want to build chairs, tables, doors, windows, or anything in between, solid wood is always a good option to consider. However, there are many different types of solid wood out there, and this can make choosing a specific one very difficult.
Two types of solid wood that we want to compare today include walnut and cherry. Let’s take a closer look at these materials to see what makes them different, and which one is best used for a variety of purposes.
What Is Walnut?
The walnut tree, specifically the eastern black walnut tree, is native to eastern Canada and the eastern United States. This is a type of tree that can grow as tall as 150’ and reach diameters of 8,’ making them very large.
This is a type of tree that loves to grow in direct sunlight and live in well-drained soil.
Walnut wood usually has a fairly tight and straight grain, although it can at times have some curves or waves. Walnut wood may also have some knots, gaps, and voids, although not a huge amount of them.
As far as the color is concerned, walnut is a very deep coffee-like or chocolate-like color, or in other words, very deep brown.
In fact, in North America, walnut is the only type of wood that grows naturally very dark, and unlike other woods that tend to get darker over time, walnut will get lighter over time.
furthermore, walnut wood is known for being very hard and dense, which means that it is physically resistant to damage such as denting and scratching.
This wood also contains some natural oils, although not a huge amount, which means that although it is ideal for indoor use, it’s not the best option for outdoor use, especially if it has not been treated or sealed.
It is a more popular choice for indoor purposes, especially for things like carvings, gunstocks, furniture, cabinets, wood veneers, coins, and small knickknacks.
Due to these reasons, as well as walnut being a very slow-growing type of tree, it is one of the more expensive types of domestic hardwood that can be found in North America
What Is Cherry?
We then have the cherry tree, also known as cherry wood, and yes these are fruit-bearing trees. The cherry tree can be found all over Canada and the USA, especially in the northeastern parts, mainly in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
Just like walnut, cherry is a deciduous tree, and it is a type of hardwood, one of the harder types of hardwood out there.
As for appearance, cherry wood has a straight and tight grain, usually with a uniform texture, plus it is also quite fine and smooth. Cherry tends to have a very rich reddish-brown color, usually a bit browner than red, and most people agree that it looks extremely nice.
Cherry wood is also extremely hard, yet not too dense or heavy, and it has great bending properties. It has a high-to-moderate overall level of strength, with a great level of durability.
Cherry wood does also contain natural resin and oils, more than most other kinds of wood, which means that it has excellent mold, pest, fungus, decay, and moisture resistance. This wood is therefore one of the better options to use for outdoor purposes.
Cherry features a moderate price, is durable, easy to work with, and looks great too. It is often used for fine furniture, boat interiors, high-end cabinets, millwork and molding, flooring, decorative pieces, and musical instruments.
Walnut vs. Cherry: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both walnut and cherry wood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
One of the differences here is that cherry wood is a bit softer than walnut, as it averages at roughly 950 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas walnut averages at about 1010 lbf.
This means that walnut is just slightly harder and more resilient towards scratching and dents than cherry wood is.
Density and Weight
Walnut is not only harder than cherry wood but also denser and heavier. Cherry comes in at roughly 34 lbs per cubic foot. Walnut, on the other hand, comes in at roughly 43 lbs per cubic foot.
This means that walnut is much heavier, making it more durable, although also harder to work with.
Another difference here is that walnut wood is not quite as flexible as cherry wood. Cherry wood is fairly easily bent into shape, which does make it versatile. This is why cherry wood is often used for both smaller and larger applications where flexibility is called for.
One thing that needs to be said here is that, although walnut can be used for outdoor purposes, especially if it is sealed and treated, it is not the most moisture-resistant wood around.
On the other hand, cherry wood contains a whole lot of natural oils and resins, which does lead to it being extremely moisture and pest-resistant. In fact, as far as North American hardwood trees go, cherry wood is one of the best options to pick for outdoor applications.
If we are talking about overall strength and durability in terms of flexibility and outdoor moisture resistance, cherry is the better option to consider.
However, if we are talking about overall physical durability, structural integrity, and resilience towards physical damage, then walnut is the better option.
Another big benefit that cherry wood has over walnut is that it does tend to be easier to work with. It’s much lighter and also not as hard, and therefore won’t put as much strain on your tools.
At the same time, walnut tends to be somewhat difficult to paint and stain, whereas cherry is much easier.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Walnut wood features a fairly straight and tight grain, with just a few irregularities, it doesn’t contain many knots, gaps, or voids, is fairly smooth, and has a very deep and dark rich brown color.
On the other hand, cherry wood is a bit lighter in color, although not much, and it may have more irregularities, and knots, and it is a bit coarser too. Most people would agree that walnut is the better-looking of these two types of wood.
Walnut is by far the more expensive type of wood here, as it can cost up to $25 per board foot, whereas cherry wood usually won’t cost more than $10 or $11 per board foot.
When to Use Walnut Wood?
If you want to make indoor furniture and other indoor constructions that are extremely hard, durable, and heavy, and you really like that deep dark brown color that walnut has, then it is certainly a good option to consider, especially if you are willing to pay the high price for it. That said, walnut is definitely not the best option for outdoor use.
When to Use Cherry Wood?
If you plan on building something that is going to be outdoors, then cherry wood is definitely the better option to consider, especially due to its high level of moisture resistance, and let’s not forget that it is still quite hard and durable.
Moreover, cherry wood does also look quite nice, not to mention that it’s not the most expensive type of wood around.
Alternatives to Walnut and Cherry Wood
If you plan on building something for outdoor purposes, teak, mahogany, and ipe all make for good options. However, if you are looking for a very strong type of hardwood, then something like oak, maple, or ash all make for good options too.
In a separate article, we wrote in detail about walnut alternatives.
Now that you know what makes walnut wood and cherry wood different from each other, you can make a highly informed choice as to which one to use for your next big woodworking task.