In your opinion, what is the best way to apply finish to cherry?

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Forum topic by MDeSchepper posted 05-05-2010 05:26 AM 1803 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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37 posts in 3037 days

05-05-2010 05:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: cherry finishing question

In my blog I’ve been logging my progress on what I intend to be an heirloom baby crib for my son who is due in 5 weeks. I’ve made the entire thing from cherry and I have been debating on how to finish it. This is my first project ever with cherry so I am very inexperienced with this wood on finishing it. I am considering using a Danish Oil and letting it take its natural course in obtaining that aged cherry tint we’ve all become familiar with. My goal is to make sure it not only looks good now but I want this to last for many, many years to come and hopefully be passed down through generations. I am hoping that those of you who have more experience than I do can lend some helpful advice. Thanks in advance!

-- Mark DeSchepper -- The things I make may be for gifts for others, but making them is a gift to myself.

19 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117062 posts in 3541 days

#1 posted 05-05-2010 05:31 AM

Many would say the best finish for cherry is no finish at all. Just let time work it’s magic

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View michelletwo's profile


2727 posts in 2980 days

#2 posted 05-05-2010 10:57 AM

Cherry is my favorite, so I’ve made a lot of furniture with it. I concur, the best finish it really no finish at all..if you want the color to be older & mellower, set the piece in the will change to deeper color fairly quickly. If you want a tough finish varnish/poly work just fine, or your oil if you want to clean the furniture more often to keep it looking bright

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Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3786 days

#3 posted 05-05-2010 12:43 PM

I would have to agree that my favorite finish for cherry is simply a clear topcoat and let Mother Nature take her course on coloring the cherryt. My normal routine for cherry is to wipe on a base of boiled linseed oil to enhance the grain and then topcoat with oil base poly.

Danish oil is ok, and I have used it in the past, but I tend to avoid the Watco brand which is composed of raw linseed oil. Linseed oil will provide no surface protection for the wood and will take a lifetime to cure. The General Finishes line contains boiled linseed oil (blo) and will work much better since blo will cure in a matter of 2 to 3 days.

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

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4541 posts in 3039 days

#4 posted 05-05-2010 04:19 PM

I would be a little concerned that someday your baby may be licking this wood. Opinions vary about what is harmful and what is not. If you are concerned about this, I would recommend shellac. Its the only finish that I absolutely know is safe. Unfortunately, it is not very durable so you may find yourself re-finishing it in a few years.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4092 days

#5 posted 05-05-2010 05:08 PM

Why is shellac absolutely safe?

-- 温故知新

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37 posts in 3037 days

#6 posted 05-05-2010 07:38 PM

I can not express how much I love this site. Thanks for all of the feedback. I agree with the opinions on what is safe and not safe. It seems there are as many opinions as there are people on those topics. I looked into the Watco and you are 100% right, it is raw linseed oil. Any additional feedback is appreciated as I know many others debate on the best way to “finish” off their project.

-- Mark DeSchepper -- The things I make may be for gifts for others, but making them is a gift to myself.

View FatScratch's profile


189 posts in 3267 days

#7 posted 05-05-2010 09:40 PM


Would you elaborate on why you think shellac is unsafe? Your posts regarding chemicals and finishes are usually thorough and well thought out. Shellac is traditionally cited as very safe and is used on all sorts of food products, pill coatings, etc. I really want to know if you know something I/other LJs don’t about the “safety” of shellac.

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3163 days

#8 posted 05-05-2010 10:18 PM

Boiled linseed oil, sometimes contains chemicals to speed the curing process, these are not safe around a baby. I am a big believer in Shellac, you can even use an orange or amber color, to enrichen the grain and color. You can even go so far as to go through the french polish process, but I tend to just put mineral oil on it, let that dry for a couple days, then a couple coats of shellac, then wet sand with mineral oil, wipe it down, then another coat of shellac. With 5 or six coats, it should be plenty tough.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3446 days

#9 posted 05-05-2010 10:22 PM

I say go with a clear finish. It’s hard to say how a newborn will react to it’s surroundings. I know that a lot of cribs that you buy are finished with laqures or a type of poly for duability, if you’re going that route, I’d make sure it’s non-toxic and that it’s finished with a enough time for any VOC’s to escape before placing your child in it. Oils might be the best way to go, they can be rather durable (if you have the time to apply enough coats) and are very easy to touch up if needed.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3692 days

#10 posted 05-05-2010 10:49 PM

I’m under the impression there is almost no finish that will hold up to a teething child. I’d go with whatever you think will be easiest to refinish down the road. That has me saying a simple amber shellac.

View MOJOE's profile


548 posts in 3233 days

#11 posted 05-06-2010 01:17 AM

I used de-waxed shellac with a few drops of transtint medium brown dye on some darker colored birch…....made it silky smooth to the touch, and deepened the tone just a little bit…..I really like how it turned out. Something I did, was to try some different things on some of my crib cut-offs.

-- Measuring twice and cutting once only works if you read the tape correctly!

View lobro4's profile


203 posts in 3177 days

#12 posted 05-06-2010 04:39 AM

As for the safety of finishes… the discussion all starts and ends with lead. The good thing is that only commercial painters with a license can get lead based paint. BLO, and any other oil that cures for that matter, once it dries, is safe. THe metal driers do not contain lead. The same goes for lacquer and any polyurethane you want to apply. Lastly is shellac. You can eat it! In fact, if you take an enteric coated medication, it is coated with shellac. Some candy is even coated with it. So… once dried and cured, finishes we use in wordworking are inert.

-- Rock Chalk Jayhawk Go KU!!

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2640 posts in 2936 days

#13 posted 05-06-2010 04:58 AM

I’d vote for the Shellac route. It will protect the crib from drool and other baby fluids, and any teeth marks or toy dents will not turn white like poly would. It is so easy to repair shellac, which to me more than make up for its lack of protection. (dewaxed shellac is a lot more durable than people give it credit for)

-- Galootish log blog,

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3340 days

#14 posted 05-06-2010 01:00 PM

Hand applied thinned tung oil.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4092 days

#15 posted 05-06-2010 10:58 PM


Some water is drinkable. Therefore, all water is drinkable.
What’s wrong with this assumption?

There is such a thing as medicinal arsenic. Does that mean that ALL arsenic is safe for consumption?

Food-grade shellac and pharmaceutical-grade shellac are held to a much higher standard of purity then the stuff we buy in the can at the hardware store.

-- 温故知新

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