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Forum topic by steveinaz posted 06-17-2017 12:23 AM 1043 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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49 posts in 1780 days

06-17-2017 12:23 AM

My first mistake was choosing cherry for this project. I had anticipated some blotching, but was overwhelmed mid stream through finishing. My wife wanted a dark finish. I laid down a water based dye (Java), then a spit coat of shellac and lastly a oil based stain (Jacobean). I hoped the dye and then stain would even out the appearance. The legs, rails and shelf were acceptable but the top, yikes. I sanded off most of what I had laid down and didn’t know where to go next. Do I need to go down so there is no evidence of stain or dye? Should I build the finish up the same way ( Dye, shellac, stain)? This is where I am now. The lower shelf, while blotchy, is better than what the top looked like. All suggestions appreciated.

-- Steve in AZ

11 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3974 days

#1 posted 06-17-2017 12:44 AM

Next time you want a dark finish build it out of Walnut.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4253 days

#2 posted 06-17-2017 12:48 AM

the shellac under the stain doesn’t make
sense to me.

I’ve had my most pleasing results darkening
wood using oil-based dyes.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1525 days

#3 posted 06-17-2017 05:29 PM


If by chance you only finished the top side surface of the top and left the bottom side of the top unfinished, you could flip the top over and start again.

But since I doubt this is an option, experimenting with some sample boards might be a good idea to keep from making the top worse. The first step would be to apply finish to scrap cherry just as you did with the top. Then remove the finish just as you did with the top. Once you reached the point where the cherry sample boards look like the top, you can try some different methods to get to a look that is acceptable. Since there may be several failures on your way to getting the right look, making plenty of sample boards could come in handy.

One of the sample boards could be sanded until you are back to bear wood with few traces of dye/stain remaining. This will give you an idea of how much sanding would be required on the top and whether continued sanding of the top is even viable.

If you try applying some more dye and/or stain, applying it to bear wood (before shellac), as Loren suggests, might produce better results, but I am not sure why one would use both dye and stain.

I am by no means a finishing expert and hopefully someone will correct me if I am wrong. I would think that if you lightly sanded one sample board at a rough grit (maybe 120 grit), you could open up the wood grain so that it will accept more dye/stain. But then once the dye/stain has dried, further light sanding through the grits would be needed before top coating, losing some color along the way. Alternatively, wet sanding the dye/stain through the grits would not only help retain some dye/stain, but may even enhance the appearance. Either way, some color may be lost, more from the stain than the dye. Anyway, on a sample board, it may be worth a try.

View Rich's profile (online now)


5137 posts in 1195 days

#4 posted 06-17-2017 06:00 PM

Since there may be several failures on your way to getting the right look, making plenty of sample boards could come in handy.

This is the number one rule of finishing. Never start on your final piece. Also, when you do your sample boards, keep notes, either by numbering the boards and noting the details on paper, or by writing on the back of them. Every detail of every step should be written down. You’ll appreciate the effort spent when you move on to your final piece.

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

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3576 days

#5 posted 06-17-2017 06:26 PM

I don’t understand the dye/shellac/stain thing either.
Is that a proceedure you read about, or developed yourself, or what?

To me cherry, when it darkens on its own, is beautiful.
The dark cherry seen on commercial furniture is a stain/dye mixed with lacquer or other film finish. Simply hides the wood with a color coat.

View Andybb's profile (online now)


2367 posts in 1209 days

#6 posted 06-17-2017 07:28 PM

I think the blotchyness happened with the first step of the w/b dye interacting with the bare wood. Haven’t done much cherry work but with pine I might have tried using 2 coats of a w/b sanding sealer sanded to 120 as the very first layer to combat the blotch, then used the dye. I think to get any really different results you are going to have to get down below the shellac to allow any dye/stain to penetrate the wood evenly. So either keep sanding until you get to bare wood with a consistent color or as someone suggested, flip that baby over. (although, if you’re like me you chose that side to be the top for a reason). The water based dye I think allowed the shellac to penetrate to an inconsistent level since it didn’t really seal it so don’t be shy about using a course grain (80 grit?) to bring it down. The final coat of stain probably isn’t getting down to the wood with the shellac on top so you’re really trying to stain shellac.

Like Rich said, start with scrap. What did you do differently on the lower shelf? Maybe try BLO or Tung oil instead of dye to just bring out the natural cherry color after sanding it down to bare wood, then a top coat of shellac, poly or whatever?? But if the dye is the color you really want I might consider mixing that into a w/b finish coat like Varathane or one of the other popular w/b top coats thus eliminating a step.

Don’t know if that helps but that is what my intuition tells me based on me screwing up my own stuff then trying to fix it.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View OSU55's profile


2503 posts in 2595 days

#7 posted 06-19-2017 08:05 PM

Info on preventing blotching. If you want the dark areas lighter, then yes you will need to sand ( plane or scrape would be better) most all of the color out and then condition the wood. Apply your dye to properly conditioned wood. To darken/even out the dye, tint thin shellac (1/2-3/4 # cut) and spray over the dye. You can spray a 1-1/2# thin coat for sealing/sanding back some to prep for the ob stain. As others said test the entire process on scrap before touching the project. In this case, color some scrap, several pieces, the same way you did the top, and start from there.

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3904 days

#8 posted 06-19-2017 08:16 PM

I would scrape, plane, or sand down to bare wood and start over, honestly. If she wants dark color, cherry is not the wood of choice.

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1381 days

#9 posted 06-19-2017 08:18 PM

water based and oil based and dye and shellac. you went a little loco here.

View steveinaz's profile


49 posts in 1780 days

#10 posted 06-19-2017 10:10 PM

Thanks for the comments.

-- Steve in AZ

View bondogaposis's profile


5605 posts in 2957 days

#11 posted 06-19-2017 10:26 PM

Why stain cherry at all? It develops a beautiful color and patina in a fairly short time.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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