Spraying Cherry with dye, how to deal with maple inlay?

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Forum topic by diito posted 06-13-2014 03:20 AM 1206 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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30 posts in 1588 days

06-13-2014 03:20 AM

I’m in the process of planning out a new dresser build. The whole thing will be made out of cherry, with simple flat drawer fronts. I’ve never done an inlay before and I was planning on dressing things up a lot by adding a maple border around the inside of the drawer fronts. As it sits now the cherry just isn’t dark enough (yet) for the look I want. The maple inlay I want natural. I’d planned on using some pre-conditioner on the cherry and then hitting it with a light coat of water base dye to darken it up a little. The question I have is how do I avoid coloring the maple inlay too?

Do I just not spray the drawer fronts and instead tape it off the and carefully apply by the dye by hand? Is there some way to dye the cherry and then add the inlay later? Should I just not dye at all and expose the cherry to some form of UV light (natural or blacklights?) to get the color contrast and deeper aged cherry look I want?

10 replies so far

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1517 days

#1 posted 06-13-2014 04:45 AM

Clearly you know that cherry darkens with age and, after artificially darkening with dye, will still continue to darken. Some time down the road it may end up too dark.

..But, if you’re convinced you need to dye the cherry, I believe you’ll have to dye it before you add the maple. You must sand everything before dying, of course, and be careful to protect the surface from scratches because you won’t be able to sand it afterward .. the same with the maple. It’s a dicey undertaking but it can be done. with care. I’ve done it and it makes things a bit easier if the cherry and the maple are not the same surface level.

View jtm's profile


230 posts in 1632 days

#2 posted 06-13-2014 07:18 AM

Just a thought (and I’ve never done this, so take that into consideration).

Why not leave the inlay just a little proud of the cherry. Then spray the entire thing with dye.

Next, mask off the cherry surrounding the inlay (the proud maple should give you a nice clean edge to butt the tape up against).

Now sand down the maple inlay flush with the cherry. The tape should protect the cherry, and the sanding should remove the dye from the maple. (for the record, dye doesn’t penetrate all that deeply. I’d suggest dyeing and sanding a scrap piece of maple to see how proud you need to leave it to be able to sand it all off).

Hope this helps.

View JAAune's profile


1798 posts in 2313 days

#3 posted 06-13-2014 01:14 PM

An alternative is to prefinish the inlay before gluing it in.

Using sunlight to darken the cherry sounds like a good plan.

-- See my work at and

View ChefHDAN's profile


1062 posts in 2845 days

#4 posted 06-13-2014 01:45 PM

Ditto, this is an old pic of an inlay in cherry; I did all the inlay work and final sanded then did 3 applications of BLO, and then finished with a water based poly. It has darkened quite a bit over time, and I had no issues with the BLO changing the color of the inlay.

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

View Earlextech's profile


1161 posts in 2686 days

#5 posted 06-13-2014 01:50 PM

Stick it in the sun, the maple won’t change but the cherry sure will.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1517 days

#6 posted 06-13-2014 02:03 PM

Re : “Stick it in the sun, the maple won’t change but the cherry sure will.”

It might not be a bad idea to test this out with your maple first. I have had maple that darkened significantly and then some didn’t. I don’t know if the darkening was due to light or oxydation, but probably light. The same finish was used for all.

View BilltheDiver's profile


253 posts in 2881 days

#7 posted 06-13-2014 02:51 PM

I agree that adding the inlay after dying would be best. Also I dyed a cherry tall shaker clock at my wife’s request, and I suggest using a denatured alcohol base rather than water to avoid raising the grain. It worked well for me.

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

View nicksmurf111's profile


367 posts in 1446 days

#8 posted 06-13-2014 03:33 PM

Stick it in the sun for a couple days.

-- Nicholas

View pintodeluxe's profile


5654 posts in 2809 days

#9 posted 06-13-2014 05:41 PM

Not to throw another wrinkle into the situation, but the type of cherry affects how much it will darken. Black cherry will get almost walnut dark with age, sour cherry doesn’t darken nearly as much.

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

View bondogaposis's profile


4723 posts in 2347 days

#10 posted 06-13-2014 06:10 PM

Do the inlay after dying, problem solved. However I really think dying cherry is unnecessary, you’re adding a bunch of extra work and potential problems w/ blotching etc. with dyeing. It’s a problem that doesn’t need solving, time will give you the best look.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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