Make oak look more like cherry?

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Forum topic by interpim posted 04-14-2012 06:03 PM 3140 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1170 posts in 3693 days

04-14-2012 06:03 PM

I have been commissioned to build a small craft table for someone I work with, and She wants it to have a Cherry finish. We have agreed that the best bet is to use plywood for the carcass and top to cut down on overall costs. She has also mentioned she absolutely hates pine, and wants it with something else.

I don’t want to spend more that $45 a sheet for the plywood, so I was thinking of using the 3/4” oak plywood.

There in lies the problem. How do I finish Oak plywood with solid wood banding to look like cherry? Or is there an alternative to get a better looking finish that is more like cherry. Solid wood is going to be cost prohibitive.

-- San Diego, CA

12 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8539 posts in 2812 days

#1 posted 04-14-2012 09:55 PM

Another LJ had the same question. HTH, good luck on that.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5148 posts in 4195 days

#2 posted 04-14-2012 10:00 PM

Ain’t gonna happen ‘cause of the grain of the oak. Color is another issue. I suggest that SHE pick the color stain that SHE likes. Then proceed.


View BilltheDiver's profile


260 posts in 3120 days

#3 posted 04-14-2012 10:02 PM

I would suggest birch plywood instead of oak. Cherry plywood is available, but does cost more.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View knotscott's profile


8174 posts in 3611 days

#4 posted 04-14-2012 10:27 PM

I think the suggestion for birch ply makes more sense than oak ply to look like cherry. If you do opt for oak, I’d use a grain filler and gel stain to tone down the contrast of the oak grain.

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

View Scot's profile


344 posts in 3631 days

#5 posted 04-14-2012 11:27 PM

How about a cherry veneer ?

-- If the old masters had power tools, they would have used them. So get off your damn High Horse.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3303 days

#6 posted 04-14-2012 11:32 PM

Can you get Alder ply? It’s as close to Cherry as you can get.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3430 days

#7 posted 04-15-2012 12:04 AM

I agree with Sawkerf. Try to find some alder PW?

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View MichaelR's profile


42 posts in 2664 days

#8 posted 04-15-2012 02:24 AM

I’ve had a lot of success using Maple ply. Where I’m at it’s close to Oak in cost. To get an aged Cherry look I use a Dark Mahogany stain. And if you’re lucky Maple will give you that realistic blotchy stained look just like real Cherry.

View pmayer's profile


1032 posts in 3300 days

#9 posted 04-15-2012 02:48 AM

I agree with Michael. I would use maple. Then take a piece of natural cherry down to a good paint store and have them custom tint a stain to match the color of cherry. If the store does this well, it will fool just about everyone. Sherwin Williams offers this service for free in my area.

-- PaulMayer,

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3883 days

#10 posted 04-15-2012 03:47 AM

I’d go with birch. Have her pay you to do a finish test if she has
a need to be picky about finishes and price at the same time.

Maple closely resembles cherry in terms of grain structure, but
you may want to assess if your client can tell the difference.
She may just think pine looks cheap (it does) no matter what
finish you put on it.

You can get plastic laminate and melamine with a photographed
stained cherry grain on it. Edge band with plastic cherry
banding in the same shade and you may meet the client’s
needs. Consider all the time you’d save on messing with
a finishing schedule to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
trying to fake cherry in a cheaper wood. It’s your time.

There are some water-based stains on the market that behave
more like water-seal than conventional wood stains. They
penetrate wood fibers but a lot of the color stays on the
surface more like a thinned-out paint. This allows you to
basically create a faux layer between the wood and the
top coat. These stains are often sold as a solution to staining
pine. I had some Varathane stuff of this sort and it worked
really nicely on alder… but I am not sure they sell it anymore
under that label. I don’t use stains much. I prefer dyes.
I also don’t get into situations where I am tilting at windmills
to try to please a client with champagne taste and a
beer budget.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3693 days

#11 posted 04-15-2012 04:32 AM

I disagree with you on the pine looking cheap Loren. Pine can look really good if it is done right.

As far as the finish or wood goes, it isn’t so much that it has to be oak… It’s I am on a fairly strict timeline since she is leaving in a few weeks. Where I am, the availability of ply/solid wood outside of your borgs is fairly limited, and I haven’t been able to find cherry plywood and solid wood close by. I am more looking for quick not necessarily cheap. I am leaning toward birch plywood, her main concern wasn’t pine looking cheap, but the softness of it.

-- San Diego, CA

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3883 days

#12 posted 04-15-2012 04:42 AM

Then buy cherry ply if price is not the issue. Plenty of access
to anything you want in So. California. The area is dripping with
money and the suppliers are in the B2B phone book under
“lumber” and “plywood”. Go to the library and you’ll find them.

People ask me all the time if they can have work that looks
like fine walnut without the cost. The answer is no. Same
with cherry. Only cherry has the magnificence of cherry.

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