Darkening cherry

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Forum topic by Robert posted 01-02-2021 10:55 AM 622 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Robert's profile (online now)


4437 posts in 2488 days

01-02-2021 10:55 AM

I recently heard about potassium dichromate.

I have intentionally dyed cherry, but there the splotching issue.

I’m going to build using some light cherry I want to darken and not wait.

I’ve also considered some tinted shellac, and shaded oil such as Waterlox.

What’s your preference.

$3.60 is a good price for any cherry but I found these in the stack.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

14 replies so far

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4137 posts in 2502 days

#1 posted 01-02-2021 11:53 AM

Nice figure on those boards. :-)

Depends on how dark you want, and how dark wood can get?

Never tried potassium dichromate as plenty of UV light available in Arizona. :)
Usually decide how to color cherry, after placing some in direct sun for couple days to ~ 1week.

Have seen cherry that barely darkens even after sitting in direct Arizona summer sun for a week; while other boards get darker than walnut (like this maple/cherry panel with only ARS aged 3 days)?

For light to medium cherry color addition, ruby/garnet shellac is good finish.

For medium Cherry color on light lumber, I use Behlen’s Solar Lux cherry dye stain (or Mohawk Ultra Penetrating cherry, same thing) as listed in this project.

For darker cherry color: use 1lb cut of ruby/garnet shellac as seal coat, then mix 2 parts Cherry, 1 part Dark Walnut, and 1/2 part Dark Red Mahogany Ultra Penetrating dye stain for color.
This blend is about as dark I like to go? When this is used on mix of naturally dark and light lumber, will dilute blend 50% on darker lumber, use full strength on light lumber; or it gets too dark after some UV exposure.

as always, YMMV.

Best Luck

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

View Peteybadboy's profile


3063 posts in 2957 days

#2 posted 01-02-2021 12:25 PM

I have used Transtint dye.

-- Petey

View MPython's profile


336 posts in 820 days

#3 posted 01-02-2021 01:49 PM

Potassium dichromate is a very dangerous chemical. If you decide to use it, do some research and make sure you know what you’re doing first.

View cracknpop's profile


492 posts in 3356 days

#4 posted 01-02-2021 02:28 PM

I tried potassium dichromate on some cherry and there was still some blotchiness. I also just wasn’t thrilled with the finished color.
If blotching/splotching is your big concern, watch Charles Neil’s videos on controlling blotch and his Blotch Control. It is one of those products that does what it says it will do. Using it with your dye stain will make that cherry pop.

On this blanket chest, look at the pic with the lid open and see the blotching on the inside compared to outside. Followed Charles’ instructions.

-- Rick - I know I am not perfect, but I will keep pressing on toward the goal of becoming all I am called to be.

View EarlS's profile


4303 posts in 3355 days

#5 posted 01-02-2021 02:45 PM

If blotching is an issue, use a sealer first. I use Seal-A-Cell, then cherry stain, before finishing with Arm-R-Seal. The end result is very close to the color you get after a couple weeks in the sun.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View AMZ's profile


287 posts in 397 days

#6 posted 01-02-2021 02:50 PM

If blotching is an issue, use a sealer first. I use Seal-A-Cell, then cherry stain, before finishing with Arm-R-Seal. The end result is very close to the color you get after a couple weeks in the sun.

- EarlS

Same here. I also put pieces out in the sun for a few days.

Cherry darkens with age, so I prefer to avoid dyes and stains. I’ve used shellac, with good results, but my best results have been with Seal-A-Cell.

View Robert's profile (online now)


4437 posts in 2488 days

#7 posted 01-02-2021 02:59 PM

I should have looked it up, but pot dichromate is definitely out.

I’m going to try sealing with Seal A Cell and also shellac, then dye and see what happens.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View OSU55's profile


2738 posts in 2997 days

#8 posted 01-02-2021 03:53 PM

My blog on dealing with blotching. I use dyes, oil and water based, depending on the project, for cherry or any wood. Cherry tends to turn dark rust. Find some pics or age some then try to match. I have projects here on LJs some detail the finishing process.

View SMP's profile (online now)


3429 posts in 913 days

#9 posted 01-02-2021 04:02 PM

After reading this article, what I normally do is apply BLO, then give it a tan for a couple days. If i want to add a little more red/depth to it, finish with garnet shellac. Good read here though on the various effects of different finishes and sun:

View mdhills's profile


63 posts in 3640 days

#10 posted 01-02-2021 04:13 PM

Have you tried putting outside in sunlight?
This gets it pretty rapidly from the pale fresh-cut look to a rich color.
(although not as dark as some of the other methods)


View newwoodbutcher's profile


849 posts in 3857 days

#11 posted 01-05-2021 06:25 AM

I use potassium dichromate on Mahogany and cherry often. If you apply it outside, wear a mask and gloves and let it dry before bringing it into your shop (20 min?) it’s safe enough. The results can be dazzling. I experiment with scrap pieces of the project at 3-4 strengths all the way through the finishing process till the blotches are gone or it reaches the color I want it to be. My most common cherry recipe is 1 tsp of potassium dichromatep per quart of water sometimes 1 1/2 tsp followed by three to five coats of Liberon Furniture Oil rubbed on with 0000 steel wool and wiped dry with blue shop towels. It pops the figure and makes the project age significantly right from the start. I made a king sized bed with a curly cherry headboard panel 5-6 years ago and it still looks great. I think the darkening mutes the botching Cherry is famous for.

-- Ken

View Robert's profile (online now)


4437 posts in 2488 days

#12 posted 01-05-2021 02:09 PM

No way I’m going the sunlight route. Its kiln dried, but I’m just not taking a chance laying any kind of wood in the sun for 2-3 hours. The UV light is interesting, tho.

I’ll start with a coat of garnet shellac and experiment from there whether any dyeing is even necessary. I’m going to be resawing for bent lamination, so I’ll have plenty of material to play with.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View CL810's profile


4107 posts in 3995 days

#13 posted 01-21-2021 01:00 AM

i had great success with lye. Check out this end table I used it on.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View Jeff Vicenzi's profile

Jeff Vicenzi

63 posts in 397 days

#14 posted 01-27-2021 10:33 PM

I have frequently dyed cherry with water soluble dyes from Lockwood. You can make it quite dark if you want (or any shade in between). You will get less blotching if you first wet the wood with water just prior to applying the dye. Potassium dichromate is pretty toxic, so be careful with it.

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