Finishing Cherry

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Forum topic by drcodfish posted 12-03-2016 08:56 PM 1196 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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124 posts in 1866 days

12-03-2016 08:56 PM

I am making a desk top box for my granddaughter, she’s six and just wrote me a letter. I’ll make something for holding stationery, pans, pencils etc. I bought a 4/4 Cherry board nice grain, no blemishes, a medium dark color. It is reddish brown and the water test shows it will have a reddish hue. What is the best finish for cherry to bring out the red color? I don’t want it to be bright red but perhaps just a little more red that the wood appears now.

My first time out with cherry so am clueless, and any help would be greatly appreciated.

-- Dr C

16 replies so far

View mrbob's profile


182 posts in 1483 days

#1 posted 12-03-2016 09:02 PM

Do you want a film finish? Water based Poly with some Trans tint liquid dye in the first coat. They have a sraight red and I think a Cherry one but not sure. Look at there color chart.

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124 posts in 1866 days

#2 posted 12-03-2016 09:12 PM

Thanks Bob:

I have used transtint dyes to great effect on Q-sawn oak to get that craftsman style finish. I don’t want to color this wood too much, just bring out or enhance the red tones in the wood. I will finish it off with several coats of something clear and hard, she’s a little girl so I suspect this thing will take a fair amount of abuse.

-- Dr C

View chrisstef's profile


18119 posts in 3920 days

#3 posted 12-03-2016 10:00 PM

The nice part about dyes is that you can sand it back to a tone you’re happy with. Good luck on the finish!

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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Fred Hargis

6558 posts in 3407 days

#4 posted 12-03-2016 10:20 PM

Whatever you do it will change in 6-12 months, and continue to change for a short time. I’d put a coat of garnet shellac on it, that helps with the color, then top coat with whatever you want.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile (online now)


6145 posts in 1503 days

#5 posted 12-03-2016 11:43 PM

For finishing cherry, I like to go with a natural or cherry tint Danish oil. One coat is usually enough, since it’s not the final coat. Let that dry for at least a week or two, then a seal coat mixed half and half with Bullseye clear SealCoat shellac and denatured alcohol to fix the wood fibers and seal off the oil. I keep cotton cloth in a Mason jar to wipe on the shellac. No clean up, and the cloth can be used over and over for years. Also there are no runs to have to rub out.

Give that a day and sand it with 320 or 400 grit sandpaper. Don’t sand through the seal coat, just smooth off the surface. After that, you can put any protective finish you want on there. My favorite is satin lacquer because it is so easy to use and dries so fast you can do four or five coats in a day. I’ve mentioned it in other places on here, but my recipe for the spraying lacquer is 50% lacquer, 25% lacquer thinner and 25% acetone.

Whatever you decide on, do some tests on scrap and see what works best for you.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1662 days

#6 posted 12-03-2016 11:47 PM

My favorite dye for cherry is JE Moser’s Dark Wine Cherry. Waterlox satin over that.

View mrbob's profile


182 posts in 1483 days

#7 posted 12-04-2016 01:09 AM

Just remember, and I forgot to mention it in my first post, cherry darkens in the fist year on its own no matter what finish is on it, nature of the beast, so get the color tone you want but a bit lighter then what you want, it will be there in a year on its own.

View Aj2's profile


3495 posts in 2712 days

#8 posted 12-04-2016 01:26 AM

Tried and true varnish oil is my favorite finish for Cherry.


-- Aj

View SteveMcG's profile


2 posts in 1453 days

#9 posted 12-04-2016 01:43 AM

For me, AJ2 almost has it right. Tung oil on Cherry is my preference. Especially good for a stationery/ desk-type object. As others have noted, if you like your cherry today… you may not in a month. it will deepen. My opinion is, just let it do it’s thing. The real question for me is whether the 6 year old will appreciate it.

Here’s a fun thing for the child—take a piece of scrap the day you make the box, Show her that it looks just like the wood her box is made of. Have the child wrap it in tin foil—make it fun… bury it in the yard like a time capsule or something… or in the back of your closet. Make a special date 3 or 6 months out, open the ‘time capsule’, and show her the visible color change. Seeing this helped my daughters appreciate the cherry rocking horse I built for them just a little more.

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 3607 days

#10 posted 12-04-2016 01:46 AM

Boiled linseed oil with wipe on Poly worked well for me and real easy to apply

I good coat of BLO let sit for 20 minutes and wipe any excess

2 coats of wipe on poly. Let dry between coats for 2 hours and buff out with brown paper bag.

-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View drcodfish's profile


124 posts in 1866 days

#11 posted 12-04-2016 03:55 AM

Thanks for all the advice, I really appreciate it. I know that Cherry darkens with age but wonder how much I can expect with this board. I got it at a mom n’ pop local hardware/lumber store, mostly patronized by contractors.

They always carry a selection of domestic and imported specialty woods, but that sector is not a big part of their business so this board I bought is bone dry, and I am sure it has been sitting in their rack for probably a year or longer. I wiped part of it down with mineral spirits and took some pics but my camera is too high resolution to post pics. I will post them to my flickr account and post the link here later this evening.

You have all given me some great ideas, I have some amber shellac, some red/brown transtint dye, and a selection of Poly finishes as well as waterlox.

I am a ways from finishing so plenty of time for thinking and testing.

I don’t expect the 6 year old to appreciate this box nearly as much as the young lady of 19 or 20 will, assuming it survives for 10+ years. I’m using box joints for the carcass and pretty stout hinges for the lid so it has a chance, plus her dad (my son) is a carpenter. I have a couple projects he made in High School, (a cutting board and a pullman porter stool) which I will be ‘handing down’ to him in a coupe years

By the way Alongiron that cherry table is exquisite, a project way over my skill level but that color is about what I hope to achieve.

thanks all.

-- Dr C

View mrbob's profile


182 posts in 1483 days

#12 posted 12-04-2016 05:33 AM

drcodfish,you got it handled, you just needed some reassurance!!!

View DMC1903's profile


285 posts in 3241 days

#13 posted 12-04-2016 06:14 AM

Generally I let the sun naturally darken the wood ,than use some dewaxed shellac followed by numerous coats of Arm-a-seal satin. Finish. There are Many ways to finish cherry, I try to keep it simple.

View drcodfish's profile


124 posts in 1866 days

#14 posted 12-08-2016 03:55 AM

Well that took longer than I expected. I got locked out of my flickr account. Here is a link to the Cherry Box album. Just a board at this point, but it is next on the project list as soon as I finish off the hickory box.

-- Dr C

View dalepage's profile


387 posts in 1754 days

#15 posted 12-10-2016 12:58 AM

I oil the cherry items I make. None of that aging stuff for me. I want the dark red now and I get it with Watco, but I use Medium Walnut instead of Cherry. Makes a nice, warm color.

-- Dale

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