Help - my cherry faded in too much sunlight!

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Forum topic by MattinCincy posted 12-26-2009 12:59 AM 6709 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MattinCincy's profile


128 posts in 3180 days

12-26-2009 12:59 AM

I was hoping to get some help here – many years ago I built a small cabinet from solid cherry and finished it with Maloof’s oil/poly and oil/wax system and it turned out beautifully, gracefully aging to a nice dark color. About a year ago I had to move the piece and placed it in front of a south facing window. Within months, the top of the cabinet began to lighten and fade, and now it looks totally washed out – almost like it was bleached! I had heard that this can happen, but I never heard if it can be reversed. Does anyone know what I can do?

Thanks in advance!

-- Wag more, bark less.

19 replies so far

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3552 days

#1 posted 12-26-2009 02:56 AM

Cherry will darken from uv exposure, not lighten. This is why you should not leave a cherry piece in one location for long while in direct sunlight.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3849 days

#2 posted 12-26-2009 04:39 AM

Matt, the idea that the wood is bleached surprises me. How about posting some pictures of the cabinet.

I have never heard of cherry being bleached by exposure to sunlight. As Julian commented exposure to light darkens cherry rather than bleaching it. Just guessing I would suspect that the color change you are seeing is a change in the finish rather than the wood.

In looking at the msds for the Maloof Oil/Wax finish it is not recommeded for areas that will get exposure to heat or moisture. It is possible that what you are seeing is a reaction of the wax finish to the heat from sitting in the sun.

Basically the Maloof oil/wax formula is just equal parts of BLO and raw tung oil with small amounts of carnuba and bees wax added. This should be readily removed with mineral spirits. I would suggest if you want to try this to do so in an inconspicious area first and see if it improves the look of the cabinet.

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

View a1Jim's profile


117126 posts in 3604 days

#3 posted 12-26-2009 05:25 AM

I’m with the rest of the gang cherry darkens in sun light are you sure this was not walnut because it does lighten.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3913 days

#4 posted 12-26-2009 05:29 AM

Me too…..Wild Black Cherry grown in the USA will darken with exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

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

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4428 days

#5 posted 12-26-2009 05:31 AM

I’m not sure what you are experiencing, but it goes against what I’ve experienced with cherry. and it aging in color. I guess I’d also consider the finish and what might have happened there.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View MattinCincy's profile


128 posts in 3180 days

#6 posted 12-27-2009 03:19 AM

Thanks, guys. I know that cherry darkens with age and UV exposure – this piece darkened beautifully over many years before this happened. Granted, the decision to put it in direct southern exposure light probably wasn’t te best idea, but I didn’t expect this. I’ll try to post some pics that show what I mean.

Scott B. – I didn’t consider the Maloof finish as a culprit – I might try removing the finish on the piece and refinishing with new oil – that might work. Thanks!

-- Wag more, bark less.

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3218 days

#7 posted 12-27-2009 06:59 AM

Yes i’d like to see the pictures and here the responce from more experienced wood workers.
How the color of wood changes over time is of great intrest to me.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3868 days

#8 posted 12-28-2009 09:25 AM

Like Jim said it really sounds like Walnut

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View 747DRVR's profile


199 posts in 3384 days

#9 posted 12-28-2009 02:32 PM

You mentioned an oil/wax system.I am not sure what that means but I would try and remove the wax and apply a new coat.I dont find a problem leaving cherry exposed to sunlight for a long period of time as long as you have nothing sitting on top of the cabinet and it can get equal light on all visible sides

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4115 days

#10 posted 12-28-2009 03:23 PM

I agree with the others about cherry darkening in sunlight.

If it really is cherry, after you remove the finish that is on it you can spray it will diluted lye. Just a spray bottle with some diluted Drano. Just make sure you do it in an open area and wear a respirator.

Makes a beautiful mellow color that IMHO comes after 10-15 years of exposure.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4033 days

#11 posted 12-28-2009 03:50 PM

I’m not so sure its the UV from sunlight but more likely just the air exposure that is responsible for cherry darkening. The way to test it is to use a bleaching process (which is what sunlight is) on the cherry and see if it darkens it…My guess is that it will lighten.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View amcharn's profile


5 posts in 3104 days

#12 posted 12-29-2009 06:28 PM

Could the fading be due to the old finish drying out from the sun exposure. The wood itself, as everyone has said, will darken. I have a walnut sofa table that has been hit with sunlight in one corner for years, and “looks” lighter in that area because the oil finish is completely dried out.

-- Al, Indiana

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4341 days

#13 posted 12-29-2009 06:34 PM

Could you have used the sap wood of cherry for the top? When I’ve used knotty cherry I get some very white boards. I’m not sure if the sap wood would react the same as the heart wood.

View joesf's profile


25 posts in 1916 days

#14 posted 03-09-2014 12:55 AM

Cherry will bleach if left in a window with intense sunlight. It happened to a small table I built some time ago which consisted of some sap wood and mostly heart wood. The salmon color of the heart wood bleached out as did the sap wood. It was one of the first projects I finished and not knowing anything I put the “Good Stuff” on it. It looked great . The sap wood was a nice brown and the heart wood a deeper brown. Then one day a lamp on the table got moved and I realized the table really faded. The legs facing the window were bleached light while the sides away kept their darker color. But was is in front of a 12 foot by 6 foot window so it got a real lot of intense sun.
I just stripped the while thing and have placed the top in the window to dry to get rid of the dark circle from the lamp. It is getting lighter and some of the bleached spots seem to maybe be tinted a little brown but really not getting darker.
So yes too much sun will bleach cherry Especially if it has the good stuff on it and it stays that way when the product is removed. At least for now.

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4428 days

#15 posted 03-09-2014 03:13 AM

I’ve had a piece of cherry in the windshield of my car for about 2 years. (Someday I’ll take it and finish the toy) It has had no finish applied and it is quite bleached out.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

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