Refinishing a Chilean Cherry Table

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Forum topic by jckkcj posted 01-27-2010 09:56 AM 1881 views 0 times favorited 1 reply Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 3040 days

01-27-2010 09:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question cherry finishing


I have spent the last 2 hours on this forum looking and lusting after some of the creations you’ve made. I’ve remodeled kitchens, rebuilt engines and relandscaped yards, but you have shown me that beauty can be pulled out of a 2×4 that I normally throw in the fire bin and built furniture I never thought possible. I fear the requests my wife would make of me if she saw this site! Enough said.

Recently I acquired a table from my in-laws, they got it from a furniture store called Restoration Hardware. The table is supposedly made of Chilean Cherry, but I can’t find anything online about Chilean Cherry other than flooring. The table was in horrible shape with water damage, iron damage, and knife marks. I stripped it using a belt sander and then smoothed it out with a palm sander and 120 grit. It’s smooth, but without a planer, it’s somewhat wavy.

If you could help with the following questions I would greatly appreciate it:
1. The wood is awfully soft and I have 4 kids. Is it better to use a wood hardner and/or multiple layers of polyurethane? How many coats are normally required to keep the kids from leaving too many marks. I know someone will get a fork on it sooner or later, but I don’t need a pencil leaving dents while they do their homework. I would like the grain to be as visible as possible, to pop.
2. The stain is called tobacco, but I can’t find it anywhere. Any ideas?
3. Is 120 grit enough for the finish?
4. Is it really cherry?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks again,




1 reply so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3820 days

#1 posted 01-27-2010 02:33 PM

Jason, as far as your questions go:

1. Chilean cherry has approximately the same hardess as American Cherry which has been used for hundreds of years in tables and other furniture. It has a Janka hardness of 990. Here is a listing that gives examples of various woods and their hardness index. You can get harder woods for a table than this species but an increase in hardness translates into more difficulty with milling operations and harder woods tend to be more “brittle”.

As far as finishing the table goes, if I were doing this I would use polyurethane as a topcoat. Three to four full coats should be enough to provide plenty of surface protection. For instance, I have brazillian cherry treads on the steps going to the lower level. I put 4 coats of polyurethane on them over 10 years ago. They still look as good today as they did when they were installed despite getting plenty of traffic on a daily basis.

To “pop” the grain I generally start first with an application of boiled linseed oil. I then seal it with a coat 2# shellac and then complete the finishing routine with a topcoat of polyurethane on all surfaces of the project.

2. Tobacco is a deep brown color. This can be achieved with a number of different sources. I normally do not stain cherry and prefer to let it age naturally but, if I were going to do so, I would use trans tint dyes to color the wood since it will have a tendancy to blotch.

3. 120 grit is only the start of the sanding process. For soft woods that I am going to stain I will stop at 150 grit but for woods that are going to be left with a natural finish I will sand to 180 grit.

4. It is cherry. The answer is a qualified yes. It behaves very similar to American cherry but they are different species. It has a similar properties as native american cherry.

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

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