Cherry hardwood has become known as a luxury wood. With its lustrous appearance, it's often used in formal, traditional-style furnishings. Oak is one of the stronger hardwoods. It's typically grown throughout the eastern United States and was commonly used by early American craftsmen. When selecting wood for your project, consider each wood's properties and appearance, and how easy it is to work with.

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Cherry and oak wood have different characteristics.

Characteristics

Cherry wood is considered a medium-weight wood. It's also medium stiff, strong and hard. Cherry hardwood isn't susceptible to warping and has good bending properties. This wood is moderately shock-resistant. Oak hardwood is very durable, stiff, hard and dense. This wood has medium bending properties, though it does bend well when steamed. It's considered a heavy, watertight wood, is wear- and moisture-resistant, and the heartwood, which comes from the inner part of the tree, resists decay.

Colors

Cherry heartwood is red to deep reddish-brown. The newer growth, referred to as the sapwood, is white to yellowish. The color darkens and becomes richer with time, and will redden significantly when exposed to direct sunlight. Oak heartwood is light tan to brown, and oak sapwood is creamy white to gray.

Grains

Cherry wood has a closed, even grain with a smooth, satinlike texture. The grain of this hardwood may contain random swirls, small knots (referred to as pin knots) and small gum pockets or streaks. Oak wood has a straight, open grain with a medium to coarse texture, and contains distinctive rays or streaks.

Workability

Cherry wood is easy to machine, nail and glue, and is quick to dry. Although cherry stains well, it looks best with a light to natural stain. When properly sanded and stained, cherry wood produces a smooth, luxurious and rich finish. Oak, due to its hardness and denseness, is hard to tool and carve. Oak wood does hold screws and nails well, and drilling pilot holes makes inserting hardware easier. Oak takes stain well, and is slow to dry.

Uses

Cherry wood is often used to make musical instruments, custom cabinets and fine furniture, and is used on boat interiors. Oak, because it's watertight and rot-resistant, is a good choice for railroad ties, barrel staves, boats, fence posts and caskets. Oak is also used to make furniture, tool handles, kitchen cabinets, paneling and flooring.