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Does Cherry go with Oak?

Iamjoe's picture

I recently made built in bookcases and a built in cabinet on a wall in my house, out of red oak, and finished it with Golden Oak stain. I now want to build a murphy bed flanked by more bookshelves on the adjoining wall, and I'd like to use cherry. Will it look right to have these two types of wood so close together? Does my murphy bed cabinetry and the already existing bookcases need to be built in the same style? If I can use cherry, how should I stain it so that it matches with the oak bookcases?

MBerger's picture

(post #126457, reply #1 of 4)

Hi Joe -

Thanks for posting the photos. Your cabinetry looks great.

I'll throw in my two cents and then open the floor to other comments. I think the answer really is in your personal tastes, and given that everyone has their own, there are a lot of right answers to your questions.

On Mixing Woods
Generally speaking, I wouldn't make a single piece of furniture from Cherry and Oak if I had the choice. I'm not saying I never have, because sometimes I've run out of lumber and ended up using whatever I had on hand, but I don't find the colors to be complimentary. I'd apply the same theory to a suite of furniture for a room. If I wanted each piece to relate to one another visually, using the same species wood makes a clear connection. That said, I love cherry and would choose it over red oak any day.

On Style
My above statement is also true for designing around a stylistic theme. It's not required but it is a good way to tie all the pieces in a room together if that's what you're going for. It doesn't have to follow exactly the same design but you can design reoccuring themes or use the same proportions for things like drawers and doors.

On Staining
I don't like staining cherry or oak to look like something it isn't. The grain patterns are too distinct to pass off as something else and they have such wonderful colors already. Mostly, I use stains to bring consistency to a piece made from lumber that varies in tone and color.

Matt Berger
Fine Woodworking

Iamjoe's picture

(post #126457, reply #2 of 4)

Thanks for the info, Matt. I agree with you - I like Cherry better too, and wish I had done the bookcases in cherry. Sounds like I probably should not change midstream now. Thanks again. Joe

Josh Whipkey's picture

(post #126457, reply #3 of 4)

Joe,  For what it's worth, I disagree with Matt.  I think mixing species is a great way to increase the dynamics of a singe piece..., or of a room (suite of furniture, etc.)

I have very little regard for historical accuracy or traditional etiquette when it comes to being creative.  James Krenov would have gone unnoticed if he had obeyed the current trends.  The same can be said for most - if not all - creative people throughout history (Rembrandt, Einstein etc.)  I grew up with a dual love for the visual arts and for woodworking.  My eduction is in fine art (painting and drawing) to the level of a Master's degree.  I am less accomplished in woodworking, but I feel I have earned the right to express myself creatively.  It is true in art, science, medicine - perhaps in every field - that one does not move forward by embracing the status quo.  Krenov, for example, began (in a sense) by reworking what he thought were flaws with the handplanes he was using, and the rest is... history(?)

I don't mean to imply that every woodworker should aspire to make major leaps, and cataclysmic breakthroughs.  I do, however, feel it is important for each one to follow his or her feelings, and to make personal breakthroughs..., off-handed decisions that might lead to a wider understanding of the medium (in this case the entire tradition and history of woodworking!)  There's a great span of taste - not to mention color combinations - between "replica Shaker in cherry", and, say, Hepplewhite.

I built a large cabinet piece a while back - frame and panel sides, doors etc. - out of cherry (frames) and white oak (panels.)   The contrast/visual effect is amazing.  Prior to that piece, which was an off-the-cuff thing, I was sold on the mono-tone simplistic perfection of someone like Thos. Moser or Chris Becksvoort.  I still admire those two makers, but I can't deny my own inner urges to mix species.

I don't mix species to be novel.  I look at the color, grain structure, surface texture etc. much as a painter looks at a palette of paint.  Oak and cherry might not go together in some cases, but in other creative cases oak and cherry were born to be together (they do tend to grow in the same forest!... maybe under varying conditions, but....)

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that every woodworker is a creative voice, and each voice deserves individual recognition. 

Creativity is a struggle for balance.



MBerger's picture

(post #126457, reply #4 of 4)

Thanks for the balanced point of view Josh. I didn't mean to sound so rigid in my response. You made some great points to consider.

One of your comments goes to the crux of what I was trying to say: "don't mix species to be novel... look at the color, grain structure, surface texture etc. much as a painter looks at a palette of paint'