Cherry in Timber Frames

      Thoughts on sawing and using Cherry timbers in the kitchen to add interest to a timber-frame home. January 11, 2007

Question
We will be starting a timber frame home this winter. Primary woods will be white and red oak. I am interested in using some cherry timbers in the kitchen/dining area. Does anyone have experience using cherry timbers? Very little is written about the use of cherry timbers, except that they tend to twist and check. Since we will be sawing the timbers, hopefully that can be minimized by log selection and boxing the pith. Would partially kiln drying some of the smaller girths be helpful?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
Cherry has a unique way of checking - it checks in a spiral direction around the log or timber. I don't know anything about how this may effect the timbers' strength, but I would guess not much. But cherry is different than oak in strength, so if you plan on replacing oak with cherry timbers, be sure you have had the engineer sign off on the change before going ahead with it. Kiln drying is not generally an option for timbers. They are still going to check. Usually, the slower the timbers can dry, the better it is for them, but in the environment of a house, it's too fast to minimize the checking. If you look at old barns, many timbers have very minimal checking, since they are basically air dried for 80 years or more. Force dried in a kiln or living space environment causes them to check more. In my opinion, cherry is put to better use as lumber for furniture and cabinets and not timbers. That said, I don't blame you for wanting to do it - it could look pretty cool! I'd like to have the walnut timbers from my sister's barn they gave away 15 years ago, as well.



From contributor J:
A friend of mine actually used (black) cherry in his timber frame house, but in an unusual way. He used entire logs from his property, bark and all, to span one area. The effect, along with a free-standing spiraling stone chimney, is unique and stunning.

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