Finishing cherry

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Forum topic by spooled posted 09-20-2012 09:14 PM 1839 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View spooled's profile


27 posts in 3065 days

09-20-2012 09:14 PM

I am building a bed out of cherry. I need to match another nightstand finish which is quite a bit darker. I tried some Varathane traditional cherry on scraps and noticed it is not nearly dark enough and also i see the blotchiness. how can I prevent this? I have added some walnut stain on top of the cherry stain and that gets it closer to the color i want. I plan to use a satin varnish for the top coat.

-- Charlie,Treasure coast

9 replies so far

View killerb's profile


150 posts in 2427 days

#1 posted 09-21-2012 12:06 AM

Dyes are your friend. Look up water base dyes. Charles Neil has lots of good dvds on finishing. There are ways to deal with the blotching. He has a good blotch control product. Dyes will get you very close to what you want. Practice on scrap. Do your full finish schedule on scrap. That way you will know exactly what you have to do. There is no fast way to finish well. Take yourtime and work though the steps. It really pays off.bob

-- Bob

View MNgary's profile


301 posts in 2446 days

#2 posted 09-21-2012 07:10 PM

Usiing an oil-based stain such as Minwax, try mixing 1 part walnut stain with 2 parts red mahogany. Also, use a laid-up approach when applying rather than wiping the stain. To get a slightly warmer look, color the cherry using a yellow, water-based aniline dye before applying the stain.

After doing the above on pieces of scrap you can adjust the ratio for a more red or a brown-toned appearance.

As an alternative, just dye yellow and lay up a couple coats of mahogany without the walnut stain and see what looks closer to your night stand.

By laid-up I mean putting 2 or 3 coats of wiping stain on and letting each thoroughly dry without wiping. I have done this numerous times on cherry.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3590 days

#3 posted 09-21-2012 08:14 PM

Keep in mind that cherry darkens with age/exposure to light. IAW if you match it now, it will be darker than the other piece in several months.

Did you build the other piece? If so finish this one exactly the same as you did the first piece and it will darken to match as time goes by.

-- Joe

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3187 days

#4 posted 09-21-2012 08:19 PM

I too use dyes for this. I like wax-free blonde shellac (Zinnser Seal-Coat). You can get a good match pretty fast in small quanity, then mix more given those ratios. After that, spray it on. The nice part about that is that you can control the intensity of the color by how many coats you spray on.

This method also helps a ton with the blotching, since spraying doesn’t force anything into the wood as much as brushing or rubbing. Still, if you decide on a stain – or if you don’t spray it – then you can always washcoat the wood before you color it. A pre-conditioner is good, and I’ve heard that Charles Neil’s version is the best. I just use the Zinnser, thinned 1:1 with denatured alcohol.

-- jay,

View spooled's profile


27 posts in 3065 days

#5 posted 09-21-2012 09:51 PM

Thanks for all the info. I have sprayed stain before with good results but since this bed project has lots of small pieces i decided to wipe a stain on. I have never used dyes but may give it a try. Thanks for turning me on to Charles Neil I just spent 1 1/2 hrs watching some of his stuff. Talk about getting side tracked. I think I will try some of his conditioner since the cherry I am using blotches so bad. I didn’t understand about the shellac, are you mixing dyes with the shellac and applying? I appreciate all the help as I don’t want to ruin all the work I have invested in this bed.

-- Charlie,Treasure coast

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2428 days

#6 posted 09-21-2012 10:05 PM

For staining cherry I ran across an elderly gentleman that convinced me to dilute one part of Zinnser Seal-Coat with three parts of alcohol (result is a very thin shellac). Let this dry at least an hour and rub down with #00 steel wool or green 3M pad. Follow with the selected Minwax stain of your choice (or mixture thereof). Seal with Seal Coat, rub down with 00 steel wool (or 400 – 600 grit sandpaper) then apply polyurethane followed by wax (applied with 0000 steel wool) and buff. This finish works really well for me with little to no blotching.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View pintodeluxe's profile


5706 posts in 2842 days

#7 posted 09-21-2012 10:36 PM

Start with a washcoat of 2 parts Zinssner Bulleseye Seal Coat : 3 parts denatured alcohol. This is the minimum concentration of shellac that will prevent blotching. After the washcoat is dry, stain it with oil based stain (I used Varathane Americn Walnut).
Let dry 24 hrs minimum, and finally coat with lacquer of your choice of topcoat. As you can see, a nice dark tone can be achieved with this method.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3187 days

#8 posted 09-21-2012 11:39 PM


Yes, dyes mixed with the shellac. It’s a good way to add color when you don’t want heavy saturation of the wood. Stains can oversaturate without a good wash coat, which causes the blotching. I have more experience with this on pine and fir than I do cherry, but they are all culprits in that regard. I prefer this method because I can also use the same mix as a toner, to highlight areas of color after the base coat(s) are down. In doing that, I will often spray it first, rub on some stain like you would a “glaze,” and then tone with more dyed shellac. Custom kitchen cabinets are often done this way.

Aniline Dyes can also be used in water with good results, though that will raise the grain of the wood if you don’t first apply a good wash coat.

Shellac, especially dewaxed like in the Zinnser, is pretty much the MVP of finishing products. It’s great for pre-conditioning (wash coating), it universally works between coats of different stains and finishes (protects from incompatiblities), it works as a good medium for color (as above), and it even provides a good film finish for certain low-wear applications.

When you spray, the grain is somewhat concealed. If you need to show more of the grain then you can wash coat it, follow with stain or dye-mix wiped on, and then follow with more shellac and/or your choice of film finish, like poly.

-- jay,

View spooled's profile


27 posts in 3065 days

#9 posted 09-22-2012 02:08 PM

Thanks for all the help from everybody. I am now armed with enough ammunition to venture into dyes and wash coat formulas. I will do a lot of testing with scrap!

-- Charlie,Treasure coast

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