Walnut vs Cherry Wood: Which Fits Your Style?

Walnut and Cherry wood, renowned for their aesthetic appeal and durability, are among the most sought-after materials in high-end furniture and home decor. These two types of wood have found their way into the hearts of designers and homeowners alike, contributing to their soaring popularity. Yet, when it comes to choosing between them for your next project, the decision might not be as straightforward as it seems.

Walnut wood, known for its rich, dark hues, offers an air of sophistication and timeless elegance. On the other hand, Cherry wood, with its warm, vibrant tones, emanates a classic charm that can breathe life into any space. Both types of wood boast impressive durability, holding up well against the tests of time and ensuring your pieces retain their beauty for years to come.

Walnut and cherry wood next to each other

Both of these species are among my favorites with Cherry being my most beloved one of all. I use both of them regularly on many different types of projects. Both produce an excellent result and give me just what I’m looking for without a need for dark stains and other tricks to make my finished products look a certain way.

This article will discuss the characteristics of these two types of wood. I’ll provide a comprehensive comparison to help you understand their unique features, benefits, and drawbacks. Armed with this knowledge, you should be better equipped to decide which wood – Walnut or Cherry – would best serve your next project’s needs.

Characteristics of Cherry Wood

Cherry wood, as the name suggests, is harvested from cherry trees, lending to its distinct, vibrant characteristics. Common names of these hardwood trees include Black Cherry and American Cherry. Cherry wood possesses several unique characteristics that have contributed significantly to its popularity. In the following sections, I’ll point out a few of these characteristics that have made me a huge fan of this species. It’s not just me though, Cherry wood is a favored choice among professionals and other enthusiasts alike.

Distinct and Captivating Appearance

Characterized by its warm, rich, and reddish-brown color, which tends to darken and enrich over time, Cherry has a classic and timeless look that is hard to beat. It has an incredibly unique hue and grain patterns, which make it stand out – making it the perfect choice for home decor projects.

Grain Pattern

Cherry wood often showcases occasional waves and curls that add a touch of elegance and complexity to its appearance. The grain pattern creates a mesmerizing play of light and shadow, highlighting the wood’s rich reddish-brown hues and enhancing its visual depth.

Check out the sample below and you’ll notice these unique patterns along with the unique dark streaks throughout. These streaks and patterns give Cherry its distinctive look and make for a charming centerpiece in any home.

Cherry wood grain pattern

Durability and Strength

Cherry Wood is renowned for its durability. It is a hardwood with excellent stability, able to withstand changing temperatures and humidity levels. It can be used in furniture, cabinetry and flooring without fear of warping or splitting. Not only does it look great but it will continue to look better as it ages.

Natural Aging Process

Over time, Cherry wood undergoes a transformation that enhances its beauty. As it is exposed to light, the wood darkens and develops a rich patina, deepening the color and adding a sense of timelessness to the furniture or decor. This aging process is often sought after by enthusiasts who appreciate the charm and character that Cherry wood gains as it matures.

I often let new pieces that I build sit in a sunny area in my house for a few weeks in order to speed this process up.

Medium Hardness

It has a medium hardness, which makes it relatively easy to work with and suitable for intricate designs and detailed woodworking projects. Despite its hardness, Cherry wood can be easily stained and polished, allowing for a high-quality finish. With a Janka hardness rating of 950, I consider Cherry to be perfect as it is neither too hard nor soft but just right.

Characteristics of Walnut Wood

Moving on from Cherry, let’s look at the attributes of Walnut wood. As the name implies, Walnut lumber comes from walnut trees. Other names may include Black walnut, American walnut, and Eastern walnut. This hardwood species, distinguished by its deep, dark tones, is another favorite among woodworking enthusiasts for its unique characteristics and versatility. The subsequent section will discuss the characteristics of Walnut, providing insights into its most notable attributes.

Distinctive Dark Brown Color

If you are looking for a dark, elegant wood for your crafting needs, Walnut has you covered! It features a dark color that ranges from dark chocolate brown to deep espresso tones. It can also have light brown areas that make for an interesting color pattern when mixed with darker areas. This rich coloration sets Walnut wood apart and adds a touch of sophistication to any space. The rich color is perfect for furniture, flooring, and nearly anything in between.

Unique Grain patterns and texture

Like Cherry wood, Walnut wood is also known for its distinctive grain patterns, which can range from straight to irregular or wavy, adding depth and interest to its overall appearance. The texture of Walnut wood is generally coarse, but it takes on a smooth finish after it’s sanded and sealed.

Walnut wood grain pattern

This unique combination of varied grain patterns and coarse yet smooth texture lends Walnut wood a robust and rustic charm, making each piece of Walnut furniture or decor truly one-of-a-kind.


Walnut wood is highly respected for its durability and strength. This type of wood possesses a natural resistance to decay and wear, making it an excellent choice for pieces that require longevity, such as dining tables, coffee tables, kitchen cabinets, and flooring. Furthermore, its resilience against scratches and dents contributes to its lasting beauty, ensuring that your Walnut furniture or decor ages gracefully over time.


With a rating of 1010 on the Janka scale for hardness, Walnut is considered a hardwood but it too is in the sweet spot. On one hand, it is hard enough to withstand wear and tear, yet not too hard that it is difficult to work with. It’s one of my favorite woods to work with because you don’t have to worry so much about dings and dents in the wood as you are working with it. It can take some abuse and still maintain its perfect look.

Ease of Use

There is a reason that Walnut is appreciated so much by woodworkers. It’s a joy for craftsmen, as it cuts cleanly, without any perceivable resistance or tear-out. It maintains this fuss-free nature when it comes to sanding as well. The coarse texture of Walnut wood smoothes out beautifully under the sandpaper, making the sanding process a breeze.

Furthermore, Walnut’s ability to readily accept a range of finishes ensures that the end result is always visually appealing. Whether you’re creating custom-made furniture or intricate wood carvings, working with Walnut invariably leads to a high-quality, stunning end product. The wood’s cooperative nature, combined with the spectacular results it yields, makes it a preferred choice among woodworkers.

High Lustrous Finish

I have always been impressed with the finish that I get when using natural finishing oils on Walnut. Upon the application of these oils, the wood’s coarse surface transforms into an astonishingly smooth and lustrous finish. The oils seep into the grain, accentuating Walnut’s rich, dark coloration, and the subtle yet intriguing grain patterns.

Even with the simplest of finishing products, Walnut wood manages to achieve an elegant and high-gloss finish that adds a layer of sophistication to any crafted piece.

Comparing Cherry Wood and Walnut Wood

While both of these hardwoods are among the most popular wood species, they each have their own specific uses where they excel. There’s the obvious difference of Walnut being a much darker option than Cherry. This rich coloration and coarse yet smooth texture, add a rustic charm. For those who want a dark piece, there is no better choice than Walnut.

On the other hand, Cherry wood is known for its warm, reddish-brown color that deepens over time, offering a timeless appeal. I love the way Cherry ages and looks better and better over time. Direct sunlight can really do a number on this wood. As you can see in the picture below, this cherry lumber has been sitting in my garage for only a few weeks and has already developed a distinct line where another cut of lumber was stacked against it and the sunlight has darkened the exposed area.

Cherry lumber affected by light

Walnut is not affected in this way and will actually lighten slightly over time rather than darken.

Both are close in hardness on the Janka scale so if you are looking for a hardwood that will stand the test of time, either are great options. They are both easy to work with without having a blunting effect on your tools.

The choice between Walnut and Cherry wood largely rests upon the specific aesthetic and functional requirements of your project. In my workshop, these species of wood provide me with the option to go with a dark-colored piece or a medium-colored piece without the need for stains. I try to avoid stains and use woods that can achieve the look I am going for.

For a lighter option, Hard Maple wood is often a go-to option.

Pricing And Availability

When it comes to pricing, Walnut tends to be more expensive than Cherry. Walnut’s scarcity compared to other wood types contributes to its higher pricing. It’s less readily available than Cherry, which is relatively more abundant. This lessened availability often results in a higher price point for Walnut, as supply struggles to meet demand.

When purchasing walnut, it’s best to source it from a local supplier. However, this isn’t always possible so online retailers are usually a great option.

Cherry wood, while less expensive than Walnut, is still pricier than common species like Pine or Poplar, due to its medium hardness and the warm, rich color it develops over time. Its availability is relatively high compared to Walnut, making it a more affordable option for many woodworkers.

It’s important to note that while Pine and Poplar are cheaper alternatives, they don’t offer the same level of durability, color richness, and grain pattern that you’d find in Walnut or Cherry wood. Therefore, the choice of wood ultimately depends on the specific requirements of your project, paired with your budget considerations.

Despite the initial cost, investing in hardwoods like Walnut or Cherry could translate into substantial long-term value, as pieces made from these woods are likely to last longer and age more gracefully.


The choice between Cherry wood and Walnut wood is subjective and largely depends on the desired outcome of your project. Both of these woods have unique characteristics that make them a treasured choice among woodworkers. Both are durable hardwoods that are great for a variety of projects.

Cherry wood, with its medium hardness, beautiful color that deepens over time, and the ability to take on a high-quality finish, is great for intricate designs and detailed projects. It’s a wood that not only stands the test of time but also gets better with age, much like a good wine. If you’re looking for a wood that can provide a warm and timeless appeal, Cherry wood is a fantastic choice.

On the other hand, Walnut wood is hard and durable, yet easy to work with. Its dark color, distinctive grain patterns, and coarse yet smooth texture make it a delight for craftsmen. Moreover, the high-gloss finish that it can achieve with natural finishing oils adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any crafted piece. If it’s a darker, rustic charm that you’re after, Walnut wood is the way to go.

In essence, both Cherry and Walnut woods offer a bounty of benefits, and the choice between the two should be dictated by the specifics of your project and your personal preference.