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Thread: Cherry vs Alder

  1. #1

    Cherry vs Alder

    I am still new to this woordworking game, so please excuse the ignorant question. I use a lot of small offcuts in my projects, and have I received a pile of stuff from another woodworker - only problem is I cannot tell the cherry from the alder. (Oak, maple and walnut are easy by comparison)

    Does anyone know of any obvious ways to tell the difference between a piece of cherry versus a piece of alder? I know one is softer than the other, but I am loathe to dent the wood just to tell - I will have a lot of dented wood afterwards!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Weight is one, Cherry would be a lot heavier. Alder feels very light.

    Another would be to put it in the sun and have one end covered. After only a few hours in the sun the Cherry would have darken enought to see the difference between the covered, and uncovered end.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    I assume you mean Red Alder, I am not familiar with it but my wood book says that there is little or no difference between sapwood and heartwood color. In contrast cherry will have creamy white sapwood. Cherry also has small ray fleck figure when quartersawn and will often show black pitch pockets which is very unique.

    Cherry is about as hard as black walnut whereas the alder is much softer (590 alder vs 960 cherry and 1010 walnut) I think I would run a fingernail or drag a nail over the wood versus the walnut and see if it is considerably easier to dent.

    Good luck, personally I hope you have scored some cherry, it is not necessarily the easiest wood to work (although it is not too bad either) but it finishes with such character and it hides injury better than probably anything I have ever seen.

  4. #4
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    Don't laugh.... burn a piece with a hot branding iron.

    I occasionally use cherry in pyrography work..... what an incredible smell. (Sometimes I get some pyrography work done when I don't have my table saw set up right.... but that's another issue.....)

    As you work with wood more and more, different characteristics will alert you to species. Working in a large cabinet shop, we always knew when someone tried to sneak some white oak in with the red as it ran thru the planer.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm Wheeler View Post
    Does anyone know of any obvious ways to tell the difference between a piece of cherry versus a piece of alder? I know one is softer than the other, but I am loathe to dent the wood just to tell - I will have a lot of dented wood afterwards!
    I know you don't want to dent the wood, but if you run your thumbnail over an area of the face or edge grain. The alder will be easier to leave an impression in. The depth of the impression will be pretty small and will likely be removed when you scrape or sand the piece later anyway.

    Find some scraps that you're willing to make some cuts on. Locate one that's easy to leave an impression in (should be alder), and one that's not so easy (should be cherry). Try cutting off a piece of each and notice the smells. The alder will probably have a stronger aroma than the cherry. If they both smell the same, then you've either got two pieces of cherry or two pieces of alder.

    If you were able to detect a difference in smells, then you should now be able to visually differentiate the two.

    If none of that helps, then you might try looking at these URLs:
    http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/person...pics/alder.htm
    http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/person...ics/cherry.htm

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    For me, i look for the telltale rays in alder ... they're similar in concept to the ones in white oak but they don't have any value no matter how ya cut 'em because they're skinny tubes instead of wide visible things. Alder's also more like cherry with a blur filter on - the grain isn't nearly as well defined. But the rays are really what tell me it's alder over cherry.
    Jason Beam
    Sacramento, CA

  7. #7
    So much of the cherry these days is so pale that it is hard to tell the difference. I go through a lot of each. After a while you can just tell - your mind will subconsciously factor in lots of subtle differences. To start out though: Cherry smells like cherry (make a light end trim to expose fresh wood).
    JR

  8. #8
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    and the finish

    I happen to have a LOT of alder....

    Was wondering for the cherry effect, what is everyone's favorite finish to do the job? Something maybe for some side/coffee tables that can take a little punishment as well as the general look/feel.

    Thanks!

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