Maple vs. Cherry Wood: Choosing the Right Type of Wood for Your Project

Two of the most common types of wood used by woodworkers are maple and cherry wood. The two are renowned for their amazing strength, fine beauty, and impressive workmanship.

But when it comes to selecting the best of the two, let us find out more about their characteristics, their strengths, and their disadvantages in this maple vs. cherry wood comparison guide.

Facts About Maple Wood

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Maple is a variety of hardwood trees and shrubs known as maple wood. This genus of trees belongs to the Sapindaceae family with around 132 species. Most maple species are found in Asia and some are from North America and Africa.

These trees have very distinct palmate leaves with winged nuts or fruits. Maple trees can grow from 33 to 148 feet but some shrubs grow only up to 10 meters. Almost all maple trees are deciduous which means that they are huge flowering plants and will shed their leaves during fall.

Of the maple wood varieties, hard maple or sugar maple is the most common. This tree is useful for its maple syrup. Another name for hard maple is rock maple; a strong, stiff, and dense wood that’s available in different forms.

Maple Colors

Maple and cherry wood looks similar. Maple has brown, cream, and tan colors changing from light to dark stripes. These streaks intersect to create different patterns. Maple grains have pitch flecks along the grain which are carved out by insects. There are also some prominent mineral streaks along the grain which creates a lovely, unique appearance. These streaks are called bird’s eyes as they look like swirls with small eyes.

Durable Wood

Maple is hardwood but is a softer variety. This wood is durable however, it may develop dents or nicks faster compared to oak and other hardwoods.

One of the most common uses of maple is for flooring. Many use this wood due to its durability but also because of its classy and stylish nature. There are two classifications of maple wood flooring: soft and hard maple.

Soft maples consist of silver maple, bigleaf maple, boxelder, and red maple. These maples may not be as strong and thus, works great as veneers for furniture, crates, pallets, and decorations. Soft maple is not good for flooring.

On the other hand, hard maple is the best for hardwood flooring because it’s more durable. Two classifications exist for hard maple: black maple and sugar maple. And aside from being a hardwood lumber source, these maples are sources of maple syrup.

Easy to Finish

Maple is easy to stain and paint because of its smooth grain. It is a versatile wood that works for casual and luxurious furniture pieces. Brown maple, the most common maple species may be stained using dark or light stains. But the best choice is a dark stain to make the lovely grains stand out.

You’ll notice mineral streaks along the grain with a greenish hue. This can easily show on a light stain and thus, woodworkers prefer to use a darker color stain for brown maple. The greenish streaks will appear darker compared to other areas of the grain creating a unique look.

Brown maple is the wood of choice for woodworkers and furniture makers who want to paint over their projects. The sleek grain and even texture allow you to easily paint over it. This wood is also great when you want to create a distressing antique appearance on furniture.

Overall, maple is easy to work with using hand and power tools. It’s easy to shape too and thus, you can create various styles and forms in furniture.  When it comes to price, maple wood is more affordable than cherry and other hardwoods because it comes from a tree that grows quickly.

Pros of Using Maple Wood

  • Comes with a smooth grain making it the best wood to paint or stain on
  • One of the durable hardwoods for furniture and decorative pieces
  • Lovely dark stains that make a unique look in furniture
  • Affordable compared to cherry and other hardwoods
  • Easy to cut and shape to make different intricate designs

Cons of Using Maple Wood

  • Softer compared to other hardwoods
  • Prone to dents and scratches when heavily used
  • Not for making floors
  • Cannot use light stains as dark stains hide green mineral streaks over the grains

Facts About Cherry Wood

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Cherry wood comes with a fine texture and an even appearance. However, its color may vary depending on the age of the wood. Cherry has a reddish-brown color but actually, it has a paler hue when freshly cut.

The wood surface tends to grow darker after cutting until it has achieved a rich brown-red hue over time. This is a natural process that many find interesting in cherry wood. Exposure to direct sunlight speeds up the darkening process and thus, you should place your cherry furniture away from direct sunlight as much as possible.

Cherry has a rich and smooth grain but with small spots and flecks and mineral deposits across the grain. Overall, cherry furniture is one of the most elegant of all wood types.

The most popular of all cherry wood types is black cherry. This wood is not the source of edible cherries called sweet cherry. Black cherry fruit is still edible, but it is mainly utilized for its magnificent hardwood.

Colors of Cherry

Cherry has light-pinkish brown heartwood when it is newly cut. This will eventually darken when exposed to sunlight. The sapwood is pale yellow and usually, commercial hardware may contain some sapwood along its outer edges. 

Durability

Cherry is one of the softer hardwoods but it is also strong lumber. This is the reason why many furniture makers use cherry wood to make cabinets, tables, and chairs. Cherry is classified as moderately durable with heartwood that’s resistant to decay and rotting.

This hardwood is also strong and can resist shock loads. Uses of cherry wood vary. Aside from furniture, it is also common to use this wood for flooring, doors, millwork, boat interiors, turnings, carvings, veneers, joineries, and musical instruments.

Finishing Cherry

Many woodworkers prefer cherry wood due to its uniform grain. This has a fine and smooth texture and thus, it’s easy to cut, shape, and work with. Cherry makes amazing carvings and turning projects. You can use blocks of cherry wood to make decorative items and small specialty pieces.

Cherry wood also polishes well. You can stain cherry in different colors from light to dark choices. You can also leave this wood in its natural state or finish because it’s very beautiful in bare form. To stain cherry wood, practice doing it in hidden areas of the piece. Sometimes, blotching may result so you must be careful. 

Sanding the wood is one way to reduce blotching. Also using a sanding sealer is best before applying a gel-based wood stain. You’ll find sapwood on commercially-available lumber and this can lead to wastage.

Pros of Cherry Wood

  • It will look luxurious as it darkens as the wood ages
  • One of the easiest to cut and shape
  • The color looks very exquisite and thus used in lovely antique furniture
  • Durable wood and can be used as a building material

Cons of Cherry Wood

  • Turns dark when exposed to sunlight
  • Uneven dark tones may result when only one part is exposed to sunlight
  • It is softer compared to other hardwoods.
  • Susceptible to dents and dings when regularly used
  • This is one of the most expensive hardwoods.

Maple vs Cherry for Furniture

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When it comes to selecting the right wood for furniture-making, cherry wood and maple wood are equals. Both possess color-changing characteristics and thus, you may expect the wood to change its color from light to dark when exposed to light. Both kinds of wood also change color as they age.

Care is necessary for anyone who wants to use maple or cherry furniture to prevent color changes. Because these woods can dramatically change color, you need to place these away from a window or a door where there is direct sunlight seeping through.

Also, protect your maple or cherry furniture from direct heat as this may also speed up the color changes in wood. Ensuring that your furniture is in an environment with low humidity is another way to care for your furniture. Placing these in a room with high moisture can reduce the integrity of the wood and may also promote color changes.

Caring for Maple and Cherry Wood Furniture

Although maple and cherry are different types of wood, care and maintenance are generally the same. Here are a few of the best ways to care for these exquisite furniture pieces:

Stain Your Maple and Cherry Wood Furniture

Applying stains will not just enhance the beauty of maple and cherry wood but will also improve its resistance to scratches, dents, dings, and stains. Adding stains will also protect the top from splashes and moisture. Remember, both kinds of wood may be durable and strong but are still susceptible to water rings.

Because maple and cherry woods have a fine texture, applying stains will not be a problem. But if there are irregularities on the wood grain or there are pits and holes present, use a sanding sealer first. This product will cover all the imperfections to create a smooth surface.

After applying the sanding sealer, wait for it to dry. Then, sand the surface to remove the excess. You may now apply a stain on the surface.

Paint Over Your Maple or Cherry Furniture

Paint makes wooden furniture livelier and at the same time, protects the wood from decay, erosion, and other elements. Most cherry and maple furniture are prone to water damage and thus, applying paint is the best way to keep the surface water-tight.

Before applying paint on the maple or cherry wood, wash the furniture surface and clean it well to remove all the grime, dirt, and dust away. After washing your furniture, let the piece dry well under the sun. It can take a day for wood to completely dry.

Once dry, apply primer to block stains and prep the surface for wood paint. When the primer is dry, apply latex paint with a foam brush and let this dry and cure for at least three hours. Afterward, buff the surface clean and free from dust. Apply the second coat of latex paint and let this dry before applying the third coat.

It may take a while to paint your cherry and maple furniture but it’s worth it. Paint creates a very durable surface that keeps dirt, dust, and dings away.

Polishing Cherry and Maple Furniture

Both cherry wood and maple wood are very beautiful and thus used mainly for furniture making. However, these woods are vulnerable to water and moisture. The best way to protect these furniture pieces is to shine on the surface.

Since cherry and maple have colors that darken with age, you must protect these at all costs to keep the wood’s lovely appearance. Not cleaning the surface regularly can lead to the build-up of dirt, dust, grime, and chemicals. Dirt is abrasive and can scratch the surface of wood causing permanent damage.

By polishing the surface, you can prevent further damage and restores the wood’s beauty and shine. To begin, wipe the surface with a lint-free clean cloth. This will remove dust and dirt.

Then, use a damp cloth and wipe the surface. A wet cloth will remove anything that’s clinging to the surface. When done, use a dry cloth to dry the surface well. Use a furniture polish aerosol product to shine the surface. Buff the surface well by wiping this with a dry cloth. Re-apply some furniture polish as needed.

You can never avoid splashes and drips on your hardwood floors and thus, occasional wiping with a mop can help remove these grime. Using water and a mild cleaning solution will help. A natural cleaning solution made of water and white vinegar can also help. This will remove tough stains and will leave your floors free from streaks and marks.

Maple floors are light-colored compared to cherry wood and thus, dirt and dust can be more difficult to find on the cherry floor. You may find yourself sweeping and cleaning your cherry floors more often than maple floors.

Color Changes in Maple and Cherry Wood Floors

A problem with using maple or cherry wood as flooring is the color changes that the wood undergoes. Some users encounter uneven color changes as those areas that are unexposed to sunlight appear lighter than those that are frequently exposed to light. The wood underneath carpets and rugs, under furniture, and those away from windows and doors are lighter.

Maple vs Cherry for Flooring

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Cherry wood is much better for flooring as it is more durable, but still, care is important as it is not as hard as other furniture used for flooring. For maple wood, only hard maple is a good choice for flooring. This wood is stronger and harder than soft maples and thus, can take the regular pressures, scratches, dents, and other issues of hardwood flooring.

Caring for Maple and Cherry Floors

There’s no difference between caring for flooring made of maple and those made from cherry. You simply need to keep the floor surface clean and dirt free often. Remove dust, dirt, and soil by sweeping often or using a vacuum cleaner.

To protect your lovely and expensive hardwood floors from color changes, scratches, and marks, use more rugs and carpets, especially in high-traffic areas. Avoid cleaning your wood with water. As much as possible, clean only by sweeping and vacuuming. Mop with water only occasionally.

Walk with slippers on. Avoid taking outdoor footwear in. If you have pets at home, clip their nails to avoid scratching maple or cherry floors. Have your floors professionally cleaned and updated at least once a year.

You may also stain your hardwood floors to further protect them from scratches, marks, and dents. Use the right stain that will work for a specific kind of wood. Take note that some species of wood like maple are difficult to stain. Be sure to test the stain out first before applying this all over your floors.

The first step is to sand the floor using 16 to 150 grit sandpaper (150 is the finest grit). Use a sanding block for easier and more efficient sanding. Pay attention to the area where there are stubborn marks and grime.

Once you’re done, remove all the dust with a vacuum. There must be no speck of dust on the floor as you apply stain. If you want to pick up all the dust, mop the floor with water and dry it. You may also pop the floor with water-based polyurethane.

This product will keep the stain even and will open up the wood pores. Water popping is best for darker hardwood surfaces like cherry. Once the floors are dry, apply the stain. You may use a buffing machine and a carpet pad to apply the stain.

Be sure to work the stain on the wooden floor in small sections and use a rag to wipe away any excess. The stain will dry around 72 hours especially when the room has low humidity. After a few days, apply the finish. This product must be compatible with the stain you selected.

Maple vs Cherry Cabinets

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We recommend hard maple to make cabinets as this species of maple is one of the hardest and thus, best for flooring and cabinets. High-quality, very strong kitchen cabinets are often made of hard maple to keep their shape and form. Kitchens are places that are constantly warm and thus, may affect the strength and durability of hardwood.

Applying stain on maple kitchen cabinets may help protect the wood from temperature and humidity changes and also from kitchen dirt, dust, grease, and grime. Wiping the surface of maple cabinets will keep them dirt free but use only water or mild soap to clean.

Painting your maple kitchen cabinets is another way to preserve the wood. Like painting furniture, applying paint over kitchen cabinets will keep dirt and dust away. Plus, paint forms a tight water-proof, and moisture-proof surface which is important for kitchen cabinets.

Maple vs Cherry Decorative Items

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You can use maple or cherry wood in making small decorative items for your home or office. Both kinds of wood are easy to cut and shape using hand or power tools and thus, these will do just fine. These woods also respond well to turning and thus, you can make maple or cherry handles, furniture legs, and other items easily.

Both kinds of wood also respond well to finishes, and paints and thus would make excellent decorative or gift items anytime.

Other Wooden Items for both Kinds of Wood

Maple wood is the best kind of wood for making skateboards. This wood is stable, durable, and can withstand constant pressure. Layers of maple wood, sometimes up to 9 layers, are used to make standard skateboard decks. Sometimes, maple wood is combined with other woods and synthetic materials to create a stronger yet lighter board.

Both maple and cherry woods are also useful for making musical instruments. You will find high-end instruments like guitars, violins, banjos, zithers, grand and upright pianos, and claves made of cherry wood. Meanwhile, there are also traditional musical instruments made from durable and beautiful cherry wood.

Maple is also useful in making musical instruments. You’ll find guitar and violin bodies made of maple or maple combined with other hardwoods.

Summary

When it comes to beauty and appearance, maple and cherry woods are the most beautiful hardwoods. Cherry has a darker color and will become much darker as it ages or as it is exposed to sunlight. Both kinds of wood are durable and strong but hard maple is the strongest of all and is best for hardwoods, furniture, cabinets, and other load-bearing uses.

Learning about the different woods, their uses, and how to properly care for them will help you decide what to use for your woodworking, furniture making, or decorative piece making projects.

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