Staining Cherry

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Forum topic by NedG posted 05-25-2012 01:05 PM 5438 views 1 time favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 3230 days

05-25-2012 01:05 PM

I just made some cherry picture frames and stained them with a Min Wax product, the typical yellow-can stuff. The result ended up in the scrap pile, as the cherry became blotched and looks really, really, bad.

What went wrong?

I have often used no stain on cherry, only a clear finish, but that tends to be gray and dull. Time doesn’t work well as it takes, well, a long time.

So, what to do? Is there a not too complicated method of getting a rich finish that doesn’t hid the grain? I’ve researched the old posts and am befuddled.

Thanks very much!


25 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 3202 days

#1 posted 05-25-2012 01:15 PM

This is the only comment you’ll need, order a couple jars of this and you’ll never throw away another piece of blotched wood, I promise.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 3285 days

#2 posted 05-25-2012 01:16 PM

I’m surprised to hear you don’t like the results of clear coating cherry. It usually looks very nice when it’s done, and over time the wood darkens and looks terrific. Personally I never stain cherry; always prefer it natural, but each to their own.

Yes, cherry can blotch. There are some specific products out there to control blotching that you apply before the stain to regulate absorption. You can also use a spit coat of shellac. A 1lb cut will usually do it. Apply and let dry then stain on top of it. You can then use whatever topcoat you like, everything is compatible with shellac.

-- John

View ajosephg's profile


1890 posts in 4477 days

#3 posted 05-25-2012 01:59 PM

I have never stained cherry either, and have never ever had blotching when using minwax polyu solvent based varnish.

-- Joe

View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 3678 days

#4 posted 05-25-2012 09:47 PM

Why would anyone want to stain cherry?

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected ! RIP 09/08/2018

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 4462 days

#5 posted 05-25-2012 10:12 PM

Cherry is the only wood species I sell in our kitchen jobs when the customer insists they want a stain finish. So typically we do walnut and hickory natural but whenever someone wants stain finish, I go with Cherry. Certainly I have done Cherry with just a natural coat and it turns out very nice, however my experience has been that Cherry stains very nicely without much extra effort.

I do not utilize any pre stain conditioners and still get a nice finish. Cherry simply needs to be sanded properly while utilizing grits in progression. I do not go over 150 grit and have had some good results going to just 120 grit. I do think pre stain conditioners will work well, but proper sanding technique is your best friend whenever it comes to stain finish results.

And to those who wonder why anyone would ever stain Cherry? Whenever I have a paying customer who demands a certain finish I cannot achieve with natural finishes, I quickly run, not walk, to Cherry. I can make Cherry look stunning with many stain grade finishes.

-- .

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4904 days

#6 posted 05-25-2012 11:46 PM

I must admit to being in the “other” camp on this one … I use a fair amount of Cherry, and I always color it … stain/dye/lye … I just find it boring in it’s natural state of color. I personally find it hard to believe how many folks actually prefer to leave it natural. I believe some are simply apprehensive about dealing with it’s propensity to blotch horribly. The nasty salmon-pink shade does eventually turn to something more attractive (what isn’t ?), but, I find I can hasten and improve on the process by judicious use of colorant.

I have found Charles Neil’s Blotch Control to be a mandatory first step in my finish application … it not only guarantees zero blotching … it also negates the need to cull out otherwise beautiful Cherry due to sapwood. I can make the most use out of stock containing sapwood so it basically offsets the price of the product. His product makes sapwood simply disappear, so there is no reason to work around it or try to hide it.

I have, on occasion had blotching occur with just the application of poly … ANYTHING that contains oils or resins can cause blotching to occur, even if you’re not adding color … it’s all in how the irregular grain accepts the finish.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View NedG's profile


56 posts in 3230 days

#7 posted 05-26-2012 12:34 AM

Thanks to all that responded to my inquiry about blotching cherry stains. As a result, I looked into Charles Neil’s product and ordered some today. I, as most of you, prefer stained cherry rather than natural stain; I just don’t have the time to let nature (sunlight) do it’s work, and I find unstained cherry with a clear finish to be dull and lifeless. Thanks again. —- Ned

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 3270 days

#8 posted 05-26-2012 06:14 AM

Gemini makes an annyline dye and wiping stain that works verry well on cherry, you may see a bit of blotch with the dye, but the wiping stain takes care of it, gives the finish a real “depth” to it. You will have to go to gemini’s site to find a dealer near by that sells it however, cause they are one of those company that licenses only a few stores per area to sell this kind of product, BUT I believe they also manufacture it for sherwin williams as well, but you’ll likely have to order it from them to.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 4786 days

#9 posted 05-26-2012 12:48 PM

Thanks for the upshot guys here is a blog I wrote that may help understand prestains a little more

you can also email me if needed [email protected]

View SteveTaylor's profile


18 posts in 3120 days

#10 posted 05-26-2012 03:42 PM

I working on a desk clock using cherry, and playing around with coloring (not meaning to offend the purists who prefer au natural, but I’m still learning and you can’t learn without risking failure…lol). I mixed a 1b cut clear shellac with a few drops of medium maple transtint dye. Sanded most off to even out the blotching that did happen, but left the color in the grain. The 2 coats of BLO. The results were pretty good, I think. A little more oak than cherry, but nice just the same.

-- "I learn more from my mistakes than my I learn quite often."

View a1Jim's profile


118144 posts in 4493 days

#11 posted 05-26-2012 04:03 PM

I don’t think you will get any better information than what Charles link states ,I agree with Russ and Ned that Charles blotch control is the best solution for blotching woods.


View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 3270 days

#12 posted 05-26-2012 06:29 PM

True Jim.

But if you have to buy blotch control from the box stores, use the cabbot, NOT the minwax, that stuff is just ineffective.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View a1Jim's profile


118144 posts in 4493 days

#13 posted 05-28-2012 05:41 AM

If your talking about Charles Neil’s Blotch control , you buy it from Charles not at a box store and it is not a Minwax product.


View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4401 days

#14 posted 05-28-2012 06:14 AM

Not plugging Rocklers, but their General Finishes Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner works well. I believe most of these conditioners are diluted varnish. Like jmos, I use a washcoat of shellac more often than a store-bought conditioner. You could probably dilute varnish 3:1 with mineral spirits and get the same effect as store-bought. Actually I like some blotching in cherry, not overly blotched, but some is attractive. I like freckles and wine stains too. It’s an acquired taste…

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View OpaTom's profile


3 posts in 3280 days

#15 posted 05-28-2012 06:26 AM

Stick it out in the Sun for a few days!!!!!

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