Domestic Species Focus: Cherry Wood

With roots meandering as far back as the Colonial period of America’s history, the J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber enterprise can trace beginnings back to 1740, even before the American Revolution. Just in time for the urban sprawl of Philadelphia and westward expansion of our fledgling nation, Hugh McIlvain established a new lumber business on the banks of the Schuylkill River, perfectly positioned to accommodate the direction of growth.

Over the years McIlvain lumber would be used to build iconic buildings of our nation: our Capitol Building, the White House, the Supreme Court, and Smithsonian buildings all contain lumber from McIlvain-family-owned lumber companies. Since those early days of the McIlvain lumber dynasty, we’ve considered Cherry a marquee product of ours. In fact, we’re still working with some of the same local mills across the Ohio River Valley that we forged relationships with centuries ago, sourcing premium American Cherry to meet our current customers’ needs.

Cherry Sourcing

Finished Cherry floor

Cherry trees grow across much of the U.S., but we’ve noticed that the Appalachian region, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, produces the Cherry with the greatest degree of consistency in color and quality. As with the imported lumber species that we carry, we carefully source our domestic Cherry lumber from mills with which we have individually worked to ensure that we get consistently high quality lumber for our customers. Our attention to detail includes travel to each individual mill in order to regularly inspect the Cherry we order; we take special care to ensure optimal heartwood-to-sapwood ratios that our customers request. Because of the extensive network of mills with which we work, we’re able to offer you plenty of options when it comes to length, width, and thickness of Cherry boards.

Cherry Characteristics

With its subtle grain and warm coloring, Cherry is an ideal species for interior applications such as furniture, mouldings, doors, and windows. When properly dried, Cherry moves in predictable ways and can be easily worked — two characteristics that make it a treat for woodworkers everywhere. Rough-sawn Cherry is much lighter than many people realize. The rich, reddish brown color which many consider a “Cherry finish” is actually something caused by decades of chemical reactions, combined with dirt and finishing techniques. Even though giving your Cherry a “sun tan” can help its pinkish color to deepen into a brown, dyes and stains are often used to expedite the process. For restoration work, the process of matching antique woodwork can be a daunting one.

While Cherry remains one of our favorite products, today J. Gibson McIlvain carries more than domestic hardwoods; we also carry a variety of exotic hardwood species as well as hardwood plywood, including architectural plywood with Cherry veneers. By ordering all the lumber products you need from a single dealer, you can avoid extra shipping costs, saving you and your customers time and money.

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J. Gibson McIlvain Company

Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company ( is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.

As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.

Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.

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