working with cherry

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Forum topic by JimYoung posted 02-23-2014 03:16 PM 1303 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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115 posts in 752 days

02-23-2014 03:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question cherry router milling arts and crafts


I’m relatively new to woodworking and I’ve been tackling projects to increase my knowledge and skill. I’m working my way up to build a desk someday. After completing a few projects with cherry, I think that is what I want to make the desk out of. I like the arts and crafts style and this will be more of a table with lots of mortise and tenon joints, and some pretty hefty pieces.

Most of the local lumber yards stock 4/4 cherry at a reasonable price ($3/bdft), but the legs for the desk will be ~2 3/4” square. I’ve seen others working with QS white oak in these sizes and using a lock joint router bit to mill the edges and create a hollow leg with the QS fleck showing on all four sides. Is this something I could do with cherry? Has anyone done this before? From my past experience, I had some problems with burning cherry with the router.

Also, some of the stretchers will be 1 1/2” to 2” thick, should I look for thicker rough stock or could I get away with laminating two thinner pieces? Would the glue joint be noticeable?

Thanks for your help,

-- -Jim

21 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2016 days

#1 posted 02-23-2014 04:47 PM

Hi Jim—

Good questions, well put. Yes, cherry does tend to burn in cutting. It requires a thoughtful combination of sharp cutter and rate of feed. That said, burns in the router cuts you’re considering would not show.

Lock miters are sexy but in the end, what shows is a miter joint. Band clamps exert even pressure on a square object so that would work. Or, you can glue stop blocks on opposing sides and then use bar clamps.

My rule for glue joints vs. solid stock: Use solid if it makes sense. If you glue up, even intentionally, one out of six will be not so good. Other woods with more pronounced grain patterns (oak, hickory) can hide glue lines better than cherry.

I like the plan. This will be an excellent project.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View 49er's profile


120 posts in 770 days

#2 posted 02-23-2014 04:53 PM

I did a blog on my new lock miter bit. Things have to be right to make a lock miter look right. I used cherry, no problem there.

-- Correlation is not causation but I did loose my Doctor !!!

View a1Jim's profile


114377 posts in 2743 days

#3 posted 02-23-2014 04:55 PM

Lee pretty much covers it all ,the design you show for you desk looks like you could hit your knees on the center stretcher,depending it’s overall width.

-- Custom furniture

View Don W's profile

Don W

17130 posts in 1733 days

#4 posted 02-23-2014 05:09 PM

You can also hide the glue joints with a skin or veneer. If you keep the joint close enough to the corner, it can be made hard to see.

cherry is a good choice, and every Lee said will hold true.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View bbc557ci's profile


555 posts in 1239 days

#5 posted 02-23-2014 05:21 PM

I made my kitchen table with Cherry about 20 years ago and had the same issue. Legs are about 2.25 at the top and taper down to about 1.5. I matched grain & color as best I could, and laminated them. I’m probably the only person that can see the joints…. but it bugs me a little.

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View bondogaposis's profile


3592 posts in 1517 days

#6 posted 02-23-2014 05:26 PM

Lock miter joints make sense for QSWO to show off the grain. I don’t think it would be worth effort on cherry however. It might save you a few dollars but will take way more time over solid stock, remember you have to buy the bit too. In my world I would locate some 12/4 cherry for the legs and save the time.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Bob Areddy's profile

Bob Areddy

192 posts in 2567 days

#7 posted 02-23-2014 05:27 PM

Cherry is one of my favorite woods (along with Maple), eve though there are issues with it. Depending on the tools you have some issues are less than others. For example, when you rip a piece, you’ll have burnout, but if you have a jointer to joint the edge, it doesn’t really matter.

You table top is going to have glue joints, so I don’t see the problem with glue joints for the legs or stretcher. If you want to save $$ but don’t want the joints, just glue up the stretcher, since you’ll have to crawl under the table to see the joint.

-- --Bob

View JimYoung's profile


115 posts in 752 days

#8 posted 02-24-2014 12:19 AM

Hi All,

Thanks for the excellent advice and tips. Lee’s and Bill’s note that glue lines are not hidden as well on cherry as other woods is what I was concerned about. I looked at 49er’s blog, and I may need to upgrade my router table to be able to use a lock miter bit.

One reason for considering the leg construction with lock miters is I like the idea of hollow legs for computer and power cables. So, I would still like to try to come up with a good way to do this. I did see another desk blog where they used laminated legs and an 1/8” veneer to cover the lamination layers. I just completed a project where I re-sawed some cherry, and I was able to plane some leftovers down to 1/8” with no problems. This may be an option.

I’m planning another smaller project with cherry to get more familiar with working with it. So, I’ll have to try a couple of different techniques. I was hoping to start stocking up on cherry, but I may have to keep looking to see if I can get thicker stock.

@a1Jim, I am concerned about the knee room as well, but this is based on an existing design so I thought the designer knows what he is doing. I’ve built a few tables from a free FWW plan by Kevin Rodel. This sketchup drawing is my attempt at his “Taliesin desk” (google it). At the end the coffee table plan, he put in rough sketches of end tables, sofa table, and a dining table. I basically took the dimensions from the dining table and used them to reverse engineer the desk from some photos. I figured he would use similar dimensions. The top is 36”x72” and there is 14.5” from the edge of the desk to the arch. One option would be to only put in one arch, but I think that screws up the look a bit.

Thanks again for the help.

-- -Jim

View JimYoung's profile


115 posts in 752 days

#9 posted 02-24-2014 12:36 AM

Next dumb question, does it make a big difference if cherry is kiln dried or air dried?

And the next, if I found thicker stock, would the milled cherry be stable (twist, split, etc…)?

-- -Jim

View CharlesA's profile


2746 posts in 963 days

#10 posted 02-24-2014 12:53 AM


Curious about that rodel plan. Where did you find it on FFW, mag or online? I’m working on a desk design right now.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View CharlesA's profile


2746 posts in 963 days

#11 posted 02-24-2014 12:58 AM

Jim and Jim, I think I found the original model, the Taliesin Desk is twice as deep as some desks, so one could sit on either side and not hit that stretcher. If one were making it more narrow, you might have to adjust.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View mahdee's profile


3134 posts in 933 days

#12 posted 02-24-2014 01:02 AM

Cherry in the south is a bit different than the ones up north. The ones up north are a bit harder species as I remember us cutting cherry, maple and birch for fire wood in the New England area. The cherry in the south grows pretty fast and although it has a pretty color, it has the tendency to twist and warp a lot unless it is of smaller stocks like, 2X3”. The cherry from the south has it’s own personality it seems.


View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

975 posts in 1696 days

#13 posted 02-24-2014 01:14 AM

My first thought was to use 12/4 poplar (easy to find anywhere) for the legs veneered with shop-sawn veneer. But the hollow legs sounds like a great idea for cable routing. Other than that the tenons on the lower stretchers would block the hollow cavity.

As far as laminating the stretchers from 4/4 stock – you probably wouldn’t notice.

In terms of lumber stability, kiln dried is probably more stable than air dried. Assuming the kiln dry was done well and there is no case hardening. 8/4 stock is just as stable as 4/4 stock.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View CharlesA's profile


2746 posts in 963 days

#14 posted 02-24-2014 01:32 AM

Looks like you have a lot of good options for the legs. One of the great things about cherry is that laminated pieces are much less noticeable than a lot of species. I love working with cherry.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View JimYoung's profile


115 posts in 752 days

#15 posted 02-24-2014 01:46 AM

Hi Charles,

The FWW article was a free online pdf file, i think it was titled “arts and crafts coffee table”. The dining table in the artcle had a 36×72 top, which is the same dimension as the desk on k.r.’s website.

Good point on the through tenons blocking a hollow leg, I hadn’t got that far with three model yet. Doh!

-- -Jim

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