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Thread: Alder vs Cherry

  1. #1

    Red face Alder vs Cherry

    I'm new to woodworking in general. I have been doing some hand carving in Cherry wood to date. It's a pleasure to work with and gives great results. Downside is, in hindsight I'm not keen on how it darkens in sunlight (surprisingly quickly).

    I'm considering moving to another hardwood. Would Alder be a similar match generally? Especially the visual look and color of it when freshly planed?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Willard,Utah
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    124
    Alder would be very similar to cherry, cheaper and easy to work with.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    8,274
    If you want a wood that is carves beautifully, is light-colored, and less expensive than cherry, go for basswood. It is the carvers' go-to species, and you can get it in big chunks if you want.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    46,315
    Alder is often substituted for cherry in commercial furniture, so it should be suitable for your purposes. Jamie is correct that Basswood is a carving standard, of course.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
    Dark Birch heartwood and maple heartwood both resemble cherry and don't darken much over time....

    In fact - I was sold some dark birch heartwood as cherry once upon a time.... The give aways are:
    It doesn't darken much in light
    No cherry smell
    No sap pockets and knots all over the place...
    Doesn't have the same sort of prominent crossgrain rays like Cherry does quartersawn...

    The main tip I can offer is: Don't mix it in a piece by mistake.... It looks really ugly a couple years later when you have patchwork dark and light all over the place.

    Luckily - in my case - it all went into the same piece and worked out well..

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Marietta, GA
    Posts
    276
    I don't know about birch, but you'll get real tired of carving maple heartwood in a hurry.

  7. #7
    Birch is about like soft maple....

    I think I would much rather carve basswood and then apply a light cherry stain.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Duvall, WA
    Posts
    628
    European or Swiss Pear was a standard material for carving in earlier times. Depending on your location (not noted in your profile), you might be able to find a nearby supplier.

  9. #9
    Alder is nice to work with, but make sure your tools are very sharp. The grain structure is more fragile and it tends to tear if chisels are dull.
    JR

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    santa clarita ca.
    Posts
    155

  11. #11
    Alder works really nicely provided as has been said your Tools are sharp, downside is it dents really easily. European Alder also has very characteristic darker brown streaks in it so depending on where you are it might not look too much like cherry.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Bellingham, Washington
    Posts
    1,125
    I do Northwest Coast style mask carving. The go to wood is freshly cut Alder. Carves quite well. Final detail work is done after the wood dries. I do cut out the back, to form the mask shape, early on to prevent checking as the piece dries.
    Bracken's Pond Woodworks

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Doylestown, PA
    Posts
    5,624
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Buehler View Post
    Alder would be very similar to cherry, cheaper and easy to work with.
    Not necessarily. I priced out both at local places and cherry was cheaper. Of course if I were on the west coast instead of in Pennsylvania I'm sure that wouldn't be the case.

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