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How Cherry Wood's Colour Deepens Over Time: A Natural Aging Process

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

How Cherry Wood's Colour Deepens Over Time: A Natural Ageing Process

Cherry wood has long been admired for its rich, warm colour and beautiful grain patterns. But did you know that this wood species undergoes a natural ageing process, leading to a deepening of its colour over time? 

In this article, we will explore the fascinating journey of cherry wood as it matures, explain the reasons behind its colour change and offer tips on showcasing the wood’s beauty. 

So, let's dive into the world of cherry wood and discover the wonders of its natural ageing process.


Understanding Cherry Wood

Cherry wood, also known as Prunus serotina, is native to the eastern parts of North America. Naturally, its popularity in the woodworking industry stems from its unique characteristics and stunning aesthetics. 

When freshly cut, cherry wood showcases a pinkish-brown hue with slight variations in tone. However, as it ages, the wood undergoes a complex transformation, developing a deeper, darker colour that enhances the overall beauty of the wood.


Celebrating Cherry Wood's Rich History

The wood's natural deepening process is truly unique. Furniture and artefacts created hundreds of years ago have significantly deepened in colour, gaining a rich and luxurious tone that we often associate with antiques.

Cherry wood was a favourite among early American and European artisans, a tradition that continues today. From colonial furniture's old-world charm to Shaker style's timeless elegance, the wood has graced many historical periods and styles with its warmth and beauty. 

The natural patina that develops is cherished by antique collectors, often serving as a measure of the age and authenticity of vintage cherry wood pieces. This evolution of colour over time makes each piece a living testament to the passing of years, creating a narrative that connects the past and the present.

In modern applications, understanding and appreciating the wood's colour-deepening process is essential in design decisions. Artisans and homeowners must be aware of the wood’s colour change over time.


The Ageing Process

The ageing process of cherry wood results from both exposure to light and the wood's natural reaction to oxygen. When the wood is exposed to sunlight or artificial light sources, a phenomenon known as photo-oxidation occurs. This process is responsible for the colour change in the wood.

Initially, cherry wood darkens as the light triggers chemical reactions in the wood's pigments. Over a few months or years, depending on the intensity of light exposure, the pigments within the wood slowly change, developing richer, more intense shades. This transformation is often referred to as mellowing or patina.


The Importance of UV Light

UV light plays a significant role in the natural ageing process of cherry wood. The rays from sunlight contain a portion of UV light that causes the wood's lignin, a structural component, to undergo photodegradation. As the lignin breaks down, it releases compounds that interact with the wood's pigments, resulting in a deeper colour.

However, it’s important to note that exposure to excessive or prolonged UV light can cause undesirable consequences. It may lead to the wood’s accelerated fading or uneven colouration. Therefore, it is wise to balance exposing the wood to natural light and protecting it from prolonged exposure to harsh sunlight.


Enhancing Cherry Wood's Ageing

If you want to achieve a rich, deep colour without relying solely on natural ageing, you can employ a few techniques. One popular method is to treat the wood with a finish that contains UV inhibitors. These inhibitors help slow the ageing process by reducing the wood's exposure to UV light, thus maintaining its original colour for longer.

Another approach is to artificially darken the wood using "fuming." Fuming involves exposing the cherry wood to ammonia fumes in an enclosed space for a specified period. This chemical reaction produces a darker colour, giving the wood an instant aged look.

However, exercising caution and proper safety measures is essential when undertaking any artificial ageing process. Always ensure proper ventilation and follow manufacturer instructions carefully to achieve the desired results without compromising your health.


Preserving the Beauty of Cherry Wood

Protecting the beauty of your wood from moisture, extreme temperature fluctuations, and direct sunlight is essential. These factors can lead to warping, cracking, discolouration, or other forms of damage.

Regularly applying a high-quality wood finish or protective coating is recommended to shield the wood surface from potential harm. Finishes like polyurethane, lacquer, or oils provide protection and enhance the wood's beauty by deepening its colour and highlighting its grain.


The Versatility of Cherry Wood

Aside from its unusual ageing process, cherry wood is esteemed for its versatile nature in woodworking. For all sorts of things like high-quality furniture, stylish cabinets, detailed carvings, or attractive veneers, cherry wood always stands out and makes these items look impressive.

The wood's fine, straight grain and smooth texture make it an absolute pleasure to work with. It takes well to both hand and machine tools, carving out precise, intricate shapes and patterns that further highlight its charm.

Further, cherry wood's unique ability to absorb stains and finishes uniformly lends itself well to various projects. It adapts beautifully to multiple finishes, from clear coatings highlighting its natural ageing progression to darker stains offering an instant patina. This means that artisans can tailor the look and feel of their wood projects, striking a balance between preserving its natural charm and meeting their design preferences.

Also worth mentioning is cherry wood's acoustic properties. It's a popular choice for musical instruments, mainly guitars and violins, as the wood's density and stiffness contribute to excellent sound transmission. 

Finally, it's not typically the first choice for heavy-use items like flooring and kitchen countertops due to its relative softness compared to other hardwoods. However, cherry wood can still be used in these contexts but might show wear more quickly. 


Simplifying Your Woodworking Journey with Woodshop Direct's Easy Solutions

Cherry wood's natural ageing process adds depth and richness to the wood's colour over time. 

With an understanding of how light and environmental factors influence this process, you can create stunning pieces that celebrate the beauty of the wood.

So, whether you embrace the wood's natural ageing or artificial ageing techniques, cherry wood is a versatile material with timeless appeal. 

To embark on your own cherry wood project or discover a wide range of quality woods, visit Woodshop Direct. Our extensive selection of sustainably sourced woods and dedicated customer service will make your dream furniture pieces a reality.