Cherry Wood Finish

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Forum topic by Kevin posted 03-27-2013 01:45 PM 2205 views 2 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kevin's profile


466 posts in 3256 days

03-27-2013 01:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cherry wood finish shellac

I’ve been researching on how to work with cherry and control the blotches and it seems many different opinions are on how to accomplish this. It seems one good choice is to use BullsEye Seal Coat and apply a glaze over it. Going that route what is the best way to put the final seals on? I have also looked at BullsEye Amber Shellac, but I’m confused on how this would work with controlling the blotching? I do sorta like the warm glow the amber gives most of the time.

How is the bullseye amber shellac usually used?
Is the sealcoat with glaze a good way to control blotching and what to apply after the stain to finish it?



-- Williamsburg, KY

30 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3209 days

#1 posted 03-27-2013 01:52 PM


Yes, it’s a good way to go about it, but understand that cherry will darken and change over time. Many people just finish cherry quite naturally and allow it to do its thing. That’s the best approach, IMHO.

I like Zinsser Sealcoat (dewaxed shellac) for most everything. I recommend that for your project as a washcoat. Afterward, you can adjust the hue with stain or dye. With amber shellac, there is much thought that the wax might cause adhesion problems, though its debatable. For that reason, I typically would only use amber shellac as the finish, with nothing on top. It really needs nothing else, unless its something you might set a drink on.

With the Sealcoat, I will often finish with a water-borne poly.

-- jay,

View Kevin's profile


466 posts in 3256 days

#2 posted 03-27-2013 02:03 PM

I do enjoy the beauty of natural cherry and believe it gets better with age also :) That is an approach i’d like to do also is to just let it do it’s thing, but control the blotching.

So in order to get that natural finish sealcoat with water based poly?

The amber shellac just use for a final finish and if so what would typically be used if using the amber as the final finish?

I’ll be using this on scrap pieces of cherry that I have around the house before I actually start on my bookshelves :)

Thanks again,


-- Williamsburg, KY

View ChefHDAN's profile


1070 posts in 2900 days

#3 posted 03-27-2013 04:05 PM

I work with alot of cherry it’s pretty easy to get here locally, I use 2 to 3 applications of BLO then at least a week of cure then spray a waterbased poly over, check the hall table in my projects, it’s darkening into a beautiful finish. be sure to follow proper safety with the BLO and spread those cloths out to dry though

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View skipj's profile


97 posts in 2323 days

#4 posted 03-27-2013 04:08 PM

You should check out this .( to cherry section. A lot of good info.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2299 days

#5 posted 03-27-2013 04:14 PM

You can thank me later

This Charles Neil stuff is awesome.


View Kevin's profile


466 posts in 3256 days

#6 posted 03-27-2013 04:28 PM

Thanks for all the info :) I’m eager to start working!


-- Williamsburg, KY

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3209 days

#7 posted 03-27-2013 04:33 PM

Kevin…shellac IS a finish. So if you use amber shellac, I wouldn’t finish over the top of it. If you need the finish properties of a poly finish or a lacquer, then I would simulate the amber color using dyes…using waxed shellac under those finishes could cause adhesion issues.

I would use the Sealcoat (which is dewaxed shellac) mixed with a little dye to get the amber color, then top with the varnish or lacquer…if that is what I needed. Alternatively, using an oil can give the warmth of the amber color, followed by any finish of your choosing.

Typically, the choice of film finish depends on the purpose. For most things, shellac is really all you need, but you wouldn’t use it typically on things where you’d set a drink, because you can get water rings and a spilled alcoholic drink could dissolve the finish…(shellac uses alcohol as a solvent).

Varnish and lacquer have a huge marketing influence, so people have been conditioned to think that shellac isn’t an effective finish. That would be erroneous.

-- jay,

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2536 days

#8 posted 03-27-2013 04:57 PM

I’ll just piggy back on this question. Do you shellac afficianados prefer brushing or spraying shellac from a can?

-- Brian Timmons -

View Kevin's profile


466 posts in 3256 days

#9 posted 03-27-2013 04:58 PM

Hey Cosmic,

Makes perfect sense now! Thanks for that clarification :)


-- Williamsburg, KY

View pintodeluxe's profile


5723 posts in 2864 days

#10 posted 03-27-2013 05:00 PM

3:2 denatured alcohol to shellac seal coat makes a great pre-stain conditioner. I spray it with a gravity feed HVLP gun.

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

View Miles King's profile

Miles King

28 posts in 2743 days

#11 posted 03-27-2013 06:07 PM

Kevin: Blotching occurs when the wood fibers are parallel to the board’s surface in one area and adjacent areas have wood fibers at a steeper angle to the surface exposing various amounts of end grain characteristics. In other words the wood fibers weave up and down through the board’s length producing some areas with wood fibers that are parallel to the surface and some areas with some with various amounts of end grain exposed. It is those end grain wood fibers that soak up more finish material than the straight or parallel fibers producing that “blotching” effect. Also straight grain fibers reflect light differentially than end grain does. Of course this blotching is the major contribution to the beauty of cherry showing off the wood’s grain and patterns. Sometimes the “blotching” produces pleasing results and sometimes not so pleasing. I’ve tried sever methods such as conditions and shellac but have always been dissatisfied with the results so I’ve learned to accept the blotching and the finish has almost always improved with age. Of course it is always in the eye of the beholder and since I don’t like the stained dark cherry I like the more natural finish I just use a transparent finish and let the cherry age to a natural patina.

-- Miles

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2234 days

#12 posted 03-27-2013 06:27 PM

I prefer wiping thinned shellac with a rag over brushing. You get a much more even surface. Spraying shellac is the best, but I don’t like setting everything up for a quick coat. It’s also a little fussy to get the right pressure and volume to keep the atomized shellac from drying before it hits the wood.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View jasoncarpentry's profile


142 posts in 2705 days

#13 posted 03-27-2013 06:47 PM

Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m in the habit of using Minwax polyurethane on EVERYTHING I do, including cherry. I usually use satin, and start out with a few coats of 50% poly and 50% mineral spirits, applied w/ a clean rag (usually I just leave the rag in the jar and put on an air-tight lid). This creates what’s known as a “wiping varnish.” I use several coats (sometimes I lose count), w/ a light 000 or 0000 steel-wool rub between coats. Usually this is enough; i.e., a full-strength layer of poly isn’t needed, and can give the wood a “plastic” look, which I don’t like.

Just my $0.02.

-- Jim in Tennessee

View Kevin's profile


466 posts in 3256 days

#14 posted 03-27-2013 07:49 PM

Appreciate all the info and techniques everyone has given.


-- Williamsburg, KY

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2412 days

#15 posted 03-27-2013 08:46 PM

As you see, there’s a dedicated band of shellac lovers fighting the dreaded cherry blotch. Well, I’m here to tell you that it ain’t necessary. When I work cherry, or anything else for that matter, shellac never plays a role. My film finish of choice is solvent lacquer, which I apply straight to the raw wood. So, forget the shellac, and use waterborne or oil poly if brushing, or lacquer if spraying.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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