Tips #1: Suntan your cherry; make your own buttons

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Blog entry by Al Navas posted 07-04-2008 02:08 PM 3136 reads 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Tips series Part 2: Suntan your cherry, #2 »

From my blog: Total video length: 22 min, 51 sec.

In this episode I show:

  • Why you should give cherry a good suntan, followed by a gorgeous and easy finish,


  • How to make your own buttons, to attach a stool top or a table top to the base

Why suntan cherry?
I love working with cherry, because it machines beautifully, and it is plentiful here in the Mid-West. But it also takes on a gorgeous color as it ages -even if it takes a long time to develop the deep color we normally associate with antique pieces. However, we can help help Nature do its thing on cherry, by simply exposing our work piece to the sun for a several hours over the span of several days. Follow that with a nice protective finish, and you have a wonderful piece to show!

Make your own buttons
I did not have figure 8s to attach the top to the base of the little stool I made for Sierra. But I was anxious to let her use it as soon as I completed it, so her instructor could assess whether the 16-inch height was suitable. If it was, it would allow her to spend 30 minutes during her lesson as comfortable as possible. What to do to attach the stool top to the base, while allowing for the cross-grain expansion of the top without problems? Make my own buttons! In this episode I show the machining of the buttons with tongue & groove router bits, and discuss the advantages of using height-matched bits to do the job easily, and quickly.

I wish everyone a wonderful 4th of July. And may everyone have a safe Independence day with your families and loved ones!


Contrast between cherry with a sun tan, and recently-sanded cherry:


Buttons to attach stool top to the base:

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

10 comments so far

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3865 days

#1 posted 07-04-2008 02:50 PM

Hi Al, great ideas. I just watched your website video. Coincidentally, I’ve also been using “suntanning” on a few projects. Most recently on the double dovetail box for which I just recently posted an LJ blog. My garage is my shop and sometimes I work in the driveway. The top of this box is cebil and as I was working on it (in my driveway, on my tablesaw) I noticed it changing color after I took a break for lunch…and I liked the color better…so I “suntanned” it after finish sanding, before applying finish. It’s a pretty cool technique. I also noticed this effect on some purpleheart I used in another box project when it turned grey after a fresh cut….the sunlight accelerated restoring the purple color.

Also I’ll have to keep your button process in mind the next time I have a need for movement in the top. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

-- Martin, Kansas

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3964 days

#2 posted 07-04-2008 02:52 PM

This is a nice tip on the cherry, Al. It takes about a week to get a nice “suntan” but the end result is a warm rich color that can’t be duplicated with stains/dyes that well worth the effort as can be seen in your photos.

Thanks for the post.

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

View steveosshop's profile


230 posts in 3768 days

#3 posted 07-04-2008 03:40 PM

I never new that you could “suntan” cherry. Cool. Thanx. I might have to try that on the next project I do in cherry.

-- Steve-o

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4038 days

#4 posted 07-04-2008 11:16 PM

Whenever I can get back into the shop, my first project is to make a cabinet for a friend. It’s going to be solid cherry that I plan to suntan before applying a finish. I also plan to attach the top with buttons. I’ve not seen that done with cabinets much, but it makes sense to me.

thanks for the post Al.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4017 days

#5 posted 07-04-2008 11:18 PM

Martin, Scott,

Thanks! I am glad you have confirmed that you also like the cherry sith a suntan on it.

And for Steve,

It IS worth trying, as it one of the easiest ways of aging cherry in a hurry. All it takes is a few days, a few hours each day, and you will be all set. Try to avoid bird poop, or you will have a clean-up prior to applying the protective finish ;-)

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4017 days

#6 posted 07-05-2008 04:51 AM


That is great news – and you are expanding your experience! I just know you will do a terrific job on that new cherry cabinet, and I look forward to your posts about it.

P.S.: I missed your post, as we might have been typing at the same time…

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3941 days

#7 posted 07-23-2008 05:38 PM

Interesting post

-- making sawdust....

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3896 days

#8 posted 07-23-2008 06:46 PM

Thanks for letting me know about this process, I have a cherry project that is third on y to do list.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 3858 days

#9 posted 08-10-2008 02:13 AM

very interesting the blog

-- jeanmarc manosque france

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4056 days

#10 posted 08-17-2008 02:23 AM

Interesting about the suntanning of cherry though I have noticed cherry darkening as I have used it for garden tool handles which obviously spends time outdoors.

I’ve always been using home made buttons for table top attachment. It’s the only technique I was taught 25 years ago when I took woodworking courses for a certificate program in Ottawa, Canada. I think you’ll find this on all quality furniture as it’s the best technique for accommodating solid wood table top movement. I’ve always cut a groove on the inside of the aprons with a router and cut the buttons on the table saw in long strips and then cut them to length. I was taught to put the tongue on the button just a little shorter than the distance from the tabletop to the groove, this way when you tighten the screw on the button, it pulls the tabletop down on to the apron. Sorry, you may have done this but I didn’t wait for the end of the video just because of download size issues on my end.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

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