Norm Abram's favorite finish for Cherry

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Forum topic by teenagewoodworker posted 04-14-2008 11:52 PM 40870 views 7 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4742 days

04-14-2008 11:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question cherry finishing

I saw a New Yankee Workshop episode about a month ago where he made something out of cherry and he did a beautiful finish on it. I think that this is it but i just wanted to check and see if anyone could recall it:

amber shellac

dark mahogany stain


Just wanted to see it anyone could recall this finish so i can make sure that i have the right one (if i even do). I want to build something out of cherry and i want it to be darker to match the woodwork in my room. i chose cherry because that is the only hardwood at my lumber yard besides mahogany which is too expensive, maple which won’t stain well, poplar … no, or oak and i don’t want to go on a pore filling expedition right now. so any help would be appreciated.

14 replies so far

View BarryW's profile


1016 posts in 4880 days

#1 posted 04-15-2008 12:09 AM

He made a large mahogany table and used (I think) the finishes you are talking about….was it the table? I have most of the shows recorded on my DVR and could review it for you. Let me know. (When I saw this show I knew I couldn’t even afford the wood to make such a table let alone follow the instructions…and this show is for the average guy? he must have used thousands of dollars in mahogany…thousands.)

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4795 days

#2 posted 04-15-2008 12:14 AM

This isn’t necessarily the only finishing process that Norm has used on cherry but here is one sequence:

- apply an amber stain, dry
- wipe on thin coat of sealer, dry
- knock down with 3/0 steel wool
- apply glaze: brown mahogany pigment in dispersion oil
wipe off excess with fresh rag going along the grain
dry overnight
- knock down again with 4/0 steel wool
- apply several coats of wipe on satin polyurethane, drying between each coat

This is an attempt to mimic aged cherry.

Another recommended process that Norm has used on his show is simply putting on Danish oil and letting the cherry age naturally.

I generally wipe on Danish oil, let it cure and top coat with poly. If I want to add an amber coloring to the cherry I will put on a 2 lb cut of amber shellac before adding the topcoat.

Hope this helps.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4742 days

#3 posted 04-15-2008 12:23 AM

Hey barry i think that i was a table now that you mentioned it. i thought that it was cherry but it might have been mahogany though.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4742 days

#4 posted 04-15-2008 12:30 AM

thanks to you too Scott. i think that i will go with that finish. we have cherry cabinets in my kitchen and they aren’t that old but i really like that look of them and a little browner from aging (what the finish should do) will be perfect for me. thanks!

View lew's profile


13273 posts in 4729 days

#5 posted 04-15-2008 01:05 AM


Scott has it nailed. I recently watched the episode on a corner chair and this is what he used:

- Light brown stain, let it dry

- Coat of shellac, dry, knock down with steel wool

- Brown Mahognay gel Stain, wipe off to blend, dry

- Several coats of Poly


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4859 days

#6 posted 04-15-2008 04:56 PM

You can darken/age cherry in the sun and just use clear finish on it. Link to info: YOU’ll PROBABLY HAVE TO CUT AND PASTE THE LINK or just go to and look it up under the finishing blog.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 4965 days

#7 posted 04-15-2008 11:03 PM

Great post and great info guy’s!

Especially since finishing is not one of my strong skills. This will be marked as one of my favorites.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Joey's profile


276 posts in 4789 days

#8 posted 04-16-2008 02:20 AM

I work with cherry all the time. The easiest way to “age” it and get the darker reds and browns is just to leave it out in the good old sunshile until it gets to the color you want. Just make sure you turn it every so often so it gets an even tan. I’ve always heard that 8 hours of direct sunlight is about 1 years age.

-- Joey, Magee, Ms

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4742 days

#9 posted 04-16-2008 03:00 AM

thanks for the advice everyone. I think that the best way to age it would be to leave it out in the sun. Thanks for the tips!

View Karson's profile


35269 posts in 5374 days

#10 posted 04-16-2008 03:23 AM

good luck.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 4674 days

#11 posted 04-16-2008 06:16 PM

I’ve often used 2 parts boiled linseed oil to 1 part turpentine, wiping a couple of coats on, then adding the clear coat of your choice: a high quality (Epiphanies) spar varnish or poly. I have a shaker end table finished in this manner a couple of years ago (I’ll post photos after I borrow a digital camera) and it has darkened very nicely. The sun will, in fact, do the job better than any stain can, because the grain and any flaming looks much deeper. On the other hand, if you leave a little sapwood in there (as I did because I was stingy with my expensive wood) it can rather scream at you. Word to the wise.

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View HarleySoftailDeuce's profile


320 posts in 4393 days

#12 posted 07-27-2009 07:13 PM

I’m building kitchen cabinets as my first woodworking project, and am not sure how to finish the cherry face frames and doors. Anyone have recommendations?


-- Paul, Bristol,Rhode Island

View GuyK's profile


356 posts in 5053 days

#13 posted 07-27-2009 07:56 PM

My favorite Cherry finish.

First use a mix of 50% Zinners Sealcoat with 50% Denatured Acohol ( this will stop the bloching assoiciated with cherry ). Sand after dry with 320 grit ( hand sand preferred )
Then apply General Finishes Black Cherry. I know some don’t like to stain cherry, but this stain gives a near instant aged look and is it easy to control the color.
Then apply the topcoat of your choice.
I have also seen Norm use a poly stain mix on Cherry. ( the Martha Washington Candle Table )

-- Guy Kroll

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 4965 days

#14 posted 08-13-2009 10:09 PM

For aging cherry you can slap on some potassium dichromate – boom – instant age.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

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