Back in October, I utilized my monthly allocation of newsletter space discussing a tree/wood which is generally considered the woodturning king of mid-south native woods, that being the black walnut.  As thousands of others have done before, I heaped praise upon this beautiful world class wood, and listed its many outstanding qualities.  However, I also pointed out that walnut has a dark side in that dust from this wood is extremely irritating to a high percentage of people who work with wood, and for woodturners especially, since we generate so much dust via our obsession with sanding.  I for one, keep my walnut turning to a minimum because of the irritating dust.

Let’s look at another outstanding tree/wood native to the mid-south and which many consider to be as beautiful as black walnut, but which is a joy to turn on the lathe and usually not a problem to sand.  I am referring to wild cherry, or, as less commonly known, black cherry.  

Cherry 1 thumb Cherry 2 thumb


This tree is easy to identify because of its small alternate oval leaves, small black fruit, and bark.  The bark is smooth with horizontal light bands when young; but, with aging, it morphs into a ragged bark splotched with a greenish lichen. With just a little imagination the mature bark reminds one of a speckled king snake, one of our most beautiful reptiles. Growing in the forest, this tree, like many others, reaches for the light and a telephone pole like trunk results -- 60 or more feet of perfect bowl blanks can be visualized.

Cherry 3 thumb


Woodturners interact with wood primarily via their sense of sight, but characteristic wood odors bring in the sense of smell; even taste can be involved as in identifying certain trees/wood (such as sassafras).  Wild cherry is one of those woods that brings another sense into play -- touch.  This wood is smooth and it seems to become smoother with age. In fact, with age, cherry wood becomes both darker and smoother.  The darkening is obviously related to an oxidative process which results in an attractive patina.  Less obvious is how the wood can become smoother with age, but I agree with others who have made the same observation.  Perhaps some oils are involved, either from the wood or from the palms of the wood worker, as my cherry handled tools are glassy smooth after years of use.

Cherry 4 thumb


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Saturday the 20th. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.