Time and the elements aren’t necessarily charitable to all things: that Oldsmobile sitting on cinder blocks in a field, the Persian rug in uneven light beneath a bay window, the sun-worshipper in his golden years. But cherry wood is an exception. The way it improves with age is why furniture made of solid cherry may be the most prized in America.
The hue of all natural wood furniture changes to some degree over time. As a general rule, lighter wood becomes darker and darker wood becomes lighter. If you are fortunate enough to have an antique cherry piece or know someone who does, compare the older piece to one fresh from the workshop. The new piece will likely whisper its reddish tones; it might even look pink to some eyes. The mature piece will be darker, richer and, in most people’s opinion, more elegant. (See the photo above.)
Ensuring that elegance means paying attention when choosing boards from the mill. At Gat Creek we seek out cherry’s signature contrasting grain patterns found in the heartwood. We are careful about avoiding sapwood which is the wood closest to the tree’s bark. “Sapwood tends to be white and stay white as the cherry wood ages,” said Gat Caperton. “That’s how you end up with what we call zebras and tigers. A striped piece of furniture. We don’t want that.”
The thing to remember, Caperton stressed, is that with cherry wood everything ages in synch. “If it looks good when it goes together,” he said, “it will look even better as it ages.”
There are ways to accelerate or slow down the maturation process. Exposure to air (called oxidation) is a factor as is light — both artificial and natural. To look richer and more elegant faster, keep the lights on around your cherry wood piece. However, if you store items on the flat surfaces, it’s a good idea to move the items around periodically so that the entire surface ages evenly.
But remember, even if you do find a light spot beneath an item, simply relocate it and in time the tone will balance itself out as your solid cherry piece continues aging elegantly. And that never gets old.