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Choosing finish for Cherry woodwork?

1651 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  CharlesA
I'll soon be completing a custom Cherry staircase with turned newels and balusters, with a custom Cherry hand rail.

I'm wondering what some of you would use for a finish on this stuff? Thinking a nice natural oil finish with maybe a poly top-coat?

I'm also doing all the door and window trim in Cherry. So ideally something not too elaborate or time consuming.

Waterlox is out because it doesn't apply well on vertical surfaces (learned this the hard way on my cabinets).

Suggestions please?

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You'll probably get as many different answers to this as the number of responses, so here's my take:
Cherry is In my opinion beautiful all by itself, and it gets better with age. I've used cherry on several projects, the first of which I applied TransTint Cherry dye. This darkened the table immediately, simulating an antique appearance, which I locked in with Arn-R-Seal satin wiping varnish. Sorry, no photos of this.
The next two projects simply had the Arm-R-Seal, which is easy to apply, and to fix if a mistake happens. One of these can be viewed at:
I like this natural finish, and it's been getting darker as it sits in the sunlight of the room.
Long story short, I recommend either the Arm-R-Seal, or Minwax's Antique Oil Finish - which I've also used to my satisfaction.
Ben - I've used Arm-R-Seal for my boxes, some with cherry & happy with the results. Just fiiniishing some more that have cherry & will be posting as project in next few days.
Brown Building Stairs Wood House

I've built a lot of stuff out of cherry, I love it. I've landed on two "finishing" approaches. I like just plain cherry, no color added, poly wipe 4-5 coats, that's it. My second and perhaps favorite is to wipe it down with Potassium Dichromate 50% diluted. This ages the cherry almost instantly. Then I wipe in a Liberon Furniture Oil (pricey but great) or the top coat of your choice. I like the Potassium Dichromate be cause it not only instantly ages the wood But it keeps the color as the piece naturally ages. They say it's toxic so I always wear a mask and gloves but it's water based so clean up is a snap. Worth a try. You may never go back to stain. Here's what it looks like.


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Cherry is fantastic. Don't use any color stain and finish it naturally. Above methods are good, I have also use min wax natural stain (no color) on cherry.
I used waterlox on cherry for years on vert surfaces with no issues. I spray just don't go to heavy. I've since switched to waterbase as the dry time between coats is just too much and the VOC's really bad. Now I use general finishes high performance. If oil is a must for you then Arm-r-seal. Nothing imparts the amber hue of waterlox on cherry though (IMO). I now use high performance exclusively unless the client demands an oil finish. It's so much nicer to clean up as well. I also love being able to put 3 coats on in an afternoon.
thanks guys.
do you think one could notice the difference between minwax antique oil and arm-r-seal satin?
the minwax is available locally and i told the customer i'd make up some samples.
don't want to order the arm-r-seal unless it's a different look.
I had a piece of cherry that I had put gloss poly, like 4 coats on and then had a friend of mine who professionally polishes cars to come over and shine it up with his car polishing equipment. very nice and so smooth and shiny.
I can't compare minwax antique oil and arm-r-seal, but I definitely prefer arm-r-seal to standard minwax wipe-on poly. Love Arm-r-seal on cherry, but the color definitely darkens over time-so it is not ideal if someone wants it to look on day 1 like it will on day 365.
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