Finishing Cherry

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Forum topic by moke posted 01-23-2020 06:36 PM 907 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2125 posts in 4114 days

01-23-2020 06:36 PM

I have some curly cherry that I’m using for a couple jewelry boxes and a small cabinet. I’m looking for the rich red finish for one and open for suggestions on the other. I was thinking of mission style for the cabinet. I have really only used aniline dye for tinting waterbased poly, would some folks share their mixing formulas for colors please. I was planning on using trans-tint.
Thanks in advance.

-- Mike

14 replies so far

View avsmusic1's profile


682 posts in 2023 days

#1 posted 01-23-2020 06:49 PM

you definitely want to add color?
On curly cherry I’d be inclined to leave it in the sun for a while in lieu of artificial colors

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3245 posts in 4781 days

#2 posted 01-23-2020 06:51 PM

I guess I’m wondering why you want to change the color of Cherry? It normally darkens with time to a rich reddish brown color. I have used a light application of a “cherry” colored stain (solvent base) to unify the initial variations of the natural cherry wood color on a new project and then allowed nature to do the rest…darken.

For a rich redish finish I would look for a Mahogany stain color. I recently used Behlen’s Solar-Lux stain in Red Mahogany on some Oak and got what I would call a rich red color.

Good luck

-- Les B, Oregon

View SMP's profile


5073 posts in 1243 days

#3 posted 01-23-2020 06:58 PM

Check out this post on sun tanning cherry with and without finish. Its pretty cool. I did my own experiments and ended up using BLO and suntanning for a few days then topcoat.

Or did you mean that discount store fake red color?

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2125 posts in 4114 days

#4 posted 01-23-2020 07:06 PM

Thanks guys, I knew that Cherry darkens…..(I’m an oak-walnut sort of guy) but I thought it took a long time…like a year? I would also like to poly it for duability.

-- Mike

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682 posts in 2023 days

#5 posted 01-23-2020 07:33 PM

in the summer sun i’ve seen differences in hours

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402 posts in 1150 days

#6 posted 01-23-2020 07:55 PM

If you decide to proceed with TransTint, here’s a suggestion. Cherry is prone to “blotching” when stained or finished. The blotching is caused by the grain in different areas of the surface absorbing the stain or finish unequally, with some areas absorbing more and turning darker than others. My recommendation is to apply a wash coat of 1# cut shellac before you apply any stain or finish. You can get a 1# cut easily by diluting Zinnser’s Seal Coat 50/50 with denatured alcohol. It’s a very thin coat of shellac that quickly soaks deep into and seals the wood fibers. When it’s dry (it dries very fast), sand it evenly and lightly with 320 grit paper. This opens the very top wood fibers and allows them to accept small amounts of stain. Then apply the TransTint very lightly. I’d mix the transient with water or alcohol. You can repeat applications until you get the color you want. The stain may raise the grain again, so you probably want to sand lightly again to knock the fuzz off before you apply your finish. This method allows the wood to accept enough dye to change the color and highlight the curly grain without blotching. I recommend you try this recipe on some sample pieces first. Experimenting on your finished workpiece is a shortcut to disaster and heartbreak.

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5073 posts in 1243 days

#7 posted 01-23-2020 08:38 PM

Thanks guys, I knew that Cherry darkens…..(I m an oak-walnut sort of guy) but I thought it took a long time…like a year? I would also like to poly it for duability.

- moke

Depends on sun. Thats kind of the double benefit of pre suntanning it. If you don’t, and lets say you make a big sideboard or hutch etc. And its placed somewhere near a window. The part that gets sunlight will darken faster than the rest. Then you may have some line or triangle or some other shape that is darker than the rest. I had a board in my garage in a rack that got sun through the little garage door windows certain times of the day. I noticed a patch darkening so i purposely left it and watched it get worse and worse. A year later it was quite a bit darker and continued until I finally used it a couple years later.

View dbw's profile


661 posts in 2974 days

#8 posted 01-23-2020 08:44 PM

I believe baking soda dissolved in water will age wood. I can’t remember the exact formula. It’s either 1 tsp or 1 tbs in 20 oz of water. Apply it with a brush or foam pad and let it dry. I must admit suntanning is easier and no chemicals.

-- Woodworking is like a vicious cycle. The more tools you buy the more you find to buy.

View Mr_Pink's profile


197 posts in 1709 days

#9 posted 01-24-2020 02:12 AM

If your sun exposure is unreliable, you can also buy a UV bulb sold for pet reptiles. It won’t darken as quickly as the summer sun, but you can leave it on around the clock, with no concern about the weather.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


5164 posts in 2832 days

#10 posted 01-24-2020 02:56 AM

+1 use sunshine if you can.
Just note that not all cherry lumber will darken the same amount.

BTW – Adding color to chery lumber is very personal and provocative topic. LOL
I like both, with and without added color. But SWMBO prefers darker color.

A lot depends on the wood tone to start?

Have posted my cherry finishing schedules in my cherry projects.
Here is one where I add some color and hide sap wood that may be of interest:

FWIW – schedule is always same basic process:
- blotch control with 1/2 cut of shellac.
- add color as desired by SWMBO or customer
- top coat with poly on things that need kid proofed, or spray pre-cat lacquer on small boxes/cabinets

I have used everything from 25-50% diluted coat of Behlen’s/Mohawk Ultra dye stain Cherry color to using
50-70% cut of light or dark Red Mahogany for that instant 10 year aged cherry look matching old cabinets.

Have achieved same colors using Transtint using: medium Brown for slight age, and using various ratios mixed of brown mahogany with red mahogany for darker cherry color. Try 5:1 and 10:1 and adjust accordingly.

I use acetone/alcohol as my NGR solvent for both systems. Also tend to error on side of not enough color, .vs. too much. It is easier to add another coat, then it is to flood the surface with solvent and rub out too much color with fresh clean rags until it’s right.

Hope this helps?

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Bill_Steele's profile


779 posts in 3069 days

#11 posted 01-24-2020 03:00 PM

I’ve never dyed Cherry but I have had good luck so far by first applying cut de-waxed shellac or Minwax pre-stain conditioner then lightly sanding and then applying GF oil and poly (3-4 hand-rubbed coats).

View moke's profile


2125 posts in 4114 days

#12 posted 01-24-2020 08:35 PM

Thank you guys!
I never knew that you could pre-darken the boards… it as easy as you say….set them in the sun? Do they ever lighten up again, if it is in a darkened bedroom? Can I poly/shellac it to seal it?

If it doesn’t darken to the point I want it, I can stain, dye it to where I want it to be.
Thank you everyone for your help….

-- Mike

View Spotcheck's profile


38 posts in 3864 days

#13 posted 01-24-2020 11:31 PM


1. M Python et. al are dead nuts right. 1# cut shellac as first step. Diluted Z Seal coat is popular. I use ultra pale dewaxed from flakes. Doubt there is enough difference to worry about. But – if you use it often, the flakes is [are?] cheaper. Plus I make what I need for the project. Last week I made one entire cup :) The rest is in the freezer. With the #2 and the garnet. Shelf life for, like, ever AFAIK. Not so with partial can of Z .

2. Transtint is intended for tinting poly, etc. Don’t use it for applying dye directly. You want transfast – the powder version, which you mix with water for hand application [or DNA to spray]. The “tint” will lift when next coat is applied. the “fast” will not.

3. one or two light 1# coats of dewaxed shellac [which Z Seal Coat is] can be followed with transfast as the next coat. No fooling. Still dyes the wood. Then another shellac seal coat. Color locked in. Go to town on topcoats.

I am not dissing other brands of dye, nor blotch control, nor nothing. I only know what I know and have used for 20+ years, so I have no interest in experimenting.

View Rich's profile (online now)


7751 posts in 1927 days

#14 posted 01-24-2020 11:49 PM

2. Transtint is intended for tinting poly, etc. Don t use it for applying dye directly. You want transfast – the powder version, which you mix with water for hand application [or DNA to spray]. The “tint” will lift when next coat is applied. the “fast” will not.

- Spotcheck

That’s not a correct statement. You can use TransTint for any dye application. Check the late great Charles Neil’s writings. TransTint was one of his go-to dyes.

Here is an excerpt from his Custom Colors eBook:

A few notes about the dyes I use in these recipes.

General Finishes Dyes – I use these products as packaged.

TransTint Dyes – I utilized their 2 oz. bottle, to this I added 2 ounces of water. I found that “counting drops” to be quite cumbersome and unreliable so I decided to use an easier to control solution.

WD Lockwood Dyes – I mixed all of our dyes using one ounce of powder to 1 pint of water. Note: All of these dyes are metal complex.

Regarding hand application, I spray water based dyes all the time. Not sure why one would think that it can’t be sprayed.

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

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