Cherry wood is a popular hardwood for furniture makers and woodworkers due to its rich color and smooth grain.
The key to unlocking the full potential of this beautiful hardwood lies in the finishing process, which can transform a simple piece of cherry wood into a stunning masterpiece.
Several factors come into play when deciding on a finish for your cherry wood project, including the final look you aim for, the wood’s exposure to wear and tear, and the environment where the finished piece will reside.
It is also crucial to consider the unique characteristics of cherry wood itself, such as the sapwood being pale and creamy, the heartwood being rich, reddish-brown, and the curly figures – wavy patterns in the grain.
Characteristics of Cherry Wood
Cherry wood is a bit of a chameleon. Its color can vary dramatically from one board to another, and it undergoes a fascinating transformation as it ages.
Cherry Wood Color Varies from One Board to Another
Just like snowflakes, no two boards of cherry wood are exactly alike. Some might be a light, pinkish-brown, while others are a deep, rich red. This variation adds to the wood’s charm and ensures that every piece you create is unique.
Cherry Wood Changes Color with Age
Cherry wood is like a fine wine – it gets better with age. Over time, exposure to light causes the wood to darken, transforming from a light, pinkish hue to a deep, rich red. This natural aging process, known as patination, adds depth and character to the wood.
Recognizing the Differences between Sapwood and Heartwood
Understanding the differences between sapwood and heartwood is crucial when working with cherry wood. The sapwood is lighter and less durable, while the heartwood is darker and more decay-resistant. Knowing these differences can help you choose the right part of the wood for your project and apply the finish in a way that enhances these natural variations.
Preparing Cherry Wood for Finishing
The journey to a beautifully finished piece of cherry wood furniture begins long before the first coat of finish is applied. It starts with careful preparation, which includes sanding, staining, and understanding the unique aging process of cherry wood.
Sanding and Staining Cherry Wood
Sanding is the first step in preparing cherry wood for finishing. It smooths the surface, removes imperfections, and opens up the wood’s pores to accept the stain more evenly. Start with a coarse-grit sandpaper and gradually work up to a fine-grit for a smooth, flawless surface.
Staining cherry wood can be tricky due to its tendency to absorb stain unevenly, resulting in blotchy patches. To avoid this, consider using a gel stain, which sits on the surface of the wood rather than soaking in, providing a more uniform color.
Pre-Staining Cherry Wood
Pre-staining, or conditioning, is another technique to help achieve a more even stain on cherry wood. A pre-stain conditioner is applied to the wood before staining, which helps to seal the wood’s pores and reduce blotchiness. It’s like priming a wall before painting – it creates a smooth, even base for the stain to adhere to.
Aging Cherry Wood Quickly
If you’re after the rich, dark color of aged cherry wood but don’t have the luxury of time, there are ways to speed up the process. One method is exposing the wood to sunlight, accelerating the natural darkening process.
Another option is to use a chemical aging solution, which reacts with the tannins in the wood to darken it. However, these methods should be used cautiously, as they can alter the wood’s natural grain and texture.
Naturally Darkening Cherry Wood
If you prefer a more natural approach, you can simply let nature take its course. Over time, cherry wood will darken on its own due to exposure to light and air. This process, known as oxidation, brings out the wood’s deep, rich tones and enhances its natural beauty. It’s a slow process, but the results are worth the wait.
Preventing Cherry Wood from Darkening
On the flip side, you might want to preserve the wood’s lighter color. You can apply a UV-resistant finish to slow the darkening process in this case. This type of finish blocks the UV rays that cause the wood to darken, helping to maintain its original color for longer.
Popular Cherry Wood Finishes
Choosing the right finish for cherry wood can feel daunting, given the many options available. But fear not, for we’re here to guide you through some of the most popular choices, each with unique benefits and charm.
Best Wood Finishes for Cherry Wood
When it comes to cherry wood, not all finishes are created equal. Some enhance the wood’s natural beauty, while others offer superior protection. The best finish for your project depends on your specific needs and the look you’re aiming for.
A natural finish allows the true beauty of cherry wood to shine through. It enhances the wood’s color and grain without altering its natural appearance.
Cherry Wood with Natural Stain
A natural stain on cherry wood enhances its warm, reddish tones and brings out the intricate patterns in the grain. It’s like putting a spotlight on the wood’s natural beauty.
Best Natural Finish for Cherry Wood
One of the best natural finishes for cherry wood is a clear polyurethane. It offers excellent protection and durability, while allowing the wood’s natural color and grain to shine through.
Danish oil is a popular choice for finishing cherry wood. It penetrates deep into the wood, providing protection from within and enhancing its natural color and grain.
Benefits of Danish Oil on Cherry Wood
Danish oil brings out the best in cherry wood. It enhances the wood’s natural color, highlights its grain, and provides a durable, water-resistant finish.
Finishing Cherry Wood with Danish Oil
Applying Danish oil to cherry wood is a straightforward process. Apply a generous amount of oil, let it soak in, then wipe off the excess. The result is a rich, lustrous finish that enhances the wood’s natural beauty.
Boiled Linseed Oil
Boiled linseed oil is another excellent option for finishing cherry wood. It penetrates the wood, providing deep, long-lasting protection.
Application of Boiled Linseed Oil on Cherry Wood
Applying boiled linseed oil to cherry wood is a simple process. Apply a thin coat of oil, let it soak in, then wipe off any excess. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired finish.
Pros and Cons of Using Linseed Oil
While linseed oil provides excellent protection and enhances the wood’s natural beauty, it does have a few drawbacks. It takes a long time to dry and can darken the wood significantly. However, this may be a plus for those who appreciate a rich, dark finish.
Tung Oil for Finishing Cherry Wood
Tung oil is a traditional finish that offers a beautiful, hand-rubbed look. It penetrates the wood, providing durable protection and enhancing its natural color and grain.
Benefits of Tung Oil on Cherry Wood
Tung oil highlights cherry wood’s rich, warm tones and its beautiful grain. It also provides a durable, water-resistant finish that’s easy to maintain.
Finishing Cherry Wood with Tung Oil
Applying tung oil to cherry wood is more labor-intensive than other finishes. It involves applying multiple thin coats, allowing each one to dry before applying the next. But the result is a beautiful, hand-rubbed finish worth the effort.
Tung Oil Varnish Blend
A tung oil varnish blend combines the benefits of tung oil with the durability of varnish. It’s an excellent choice for projects requiring a tough, protective finish, such as tablets and countertops.
Mineral oil is a simple, non-toxic finish safe for food contact. It’s a great choice for cherry wood items that come into contact with food, like cutting boards and salad bowls.
Benefits of Mineral Oil on Cherry Wood
Mineral oil enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood without altering its color. It provides a soft, natural sheen and offers basic protection against moisture.
Application of Mineral Oil
Applying mineral oil to cherry wood is as easy as it gets. Apply a generous amount of oil, let it soak in, then wipe off the excess. Repeat this process periodically to keep your cherry wood looking its best.
Alternative Finishes for Cherry Wood
While traditional finishes like oil and varnish have their place, a whole world of alternative finishes can give your cherry wood project a unique look and feel. Let’s explore some of these options.
Clear Dewaxed Shellac
Shellac is a versatile finish that’s been used for centuries. It dries quickly, is easy to apply, and gives a beautiful, glossy finish.
Benefits of Shellac on Cherry Wood
Shellac enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood, highlighting its rich color and intricate grain. It also provides a durable finish that’s resistant to water and alcohol.
Application of Clear Dewaxed Shellac
Applying clear dewaxed shellac to cherry wood is a straightforward process. Brush or wipe on a thin coat, let it dry, then sand lightly. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired level of finish.
Clear Dewaxed Shellac with Dark Brown Glaze
Consider applying a dark brown glaze to your shellac finish for a richer color.
Benefits and Appearance of Dark Brown Glaze
A dark brown glaze can add depth and complexity to your cherry wood project. It enhances the wood’s natural color variations and can give the piece an aged or antique look.
Applying Dark Brown Glaze Over Shellac
To apply a dark brown glaze over shellac, first ensure the shellac is fully dry. Then, brush on a thin coat of glaze, working it into the wood’s grain. Wipe off the excess glaze, let it dry, then apply a final coat of shellac to seal in the color.
Lacquer is a high-gloss finish that’s durable and easy to apply. It’s a great choice for cherry wood projects that require a tough, protective finish.
Benefits of Lacquer on Cherry Wood
Lacquer enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood, providing a high-gloss finish that highlights the wood’s color and grain. It’s also highly durable, making it a good choice for furniture and other high-use items.
Sealing Wood with Lacquer
Sealing cherry wood with lacquer is a simple process. Apply a thin coat of lacquer using a brush or spray gun, let it dry, then sand lightly. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired level of finish.
Teak oil is a long-lasting finish penetrating deep into the wood, providing protection from within.
Benefits of Teak Oil on Cherry Wood
Teak oil enhances cherry wood’s natural color and grain, giving it a warm, rich glow. It also provides excellent protection against moisture and UV rays, making it a good choice for outdoor furniture.
Application of Teak Oil
Applying teak oil to cherry wood is a simple process. Apply a generous amount of oil, let it soak in, then wipe off the excess. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired level of finish.
Staining Cherry Wood
Staining is a powerful tool in the woodworker’s arsenal. It can transform the look of cherry wood, accentuating its natural beauty or giving it a completely different color. Let’s explore some popular staining options for cherry wood.
Staining Cherry Wood Dark
Staining cherry wood dark can give it a rich, luxurious look. It accentuates the wood’s natural grain and can make it look more expensive and exotic.
You might opt for a gel stain to achieve a dark stain, which provides a more uniform color and is less likely to result in blotchy patches. Apply the stain with a brush or cloth, let it sit for a few minutes to penetrate the wood, then wipe off the excess. Repeat the process until you achieve the desired darkness.
Staining Cherry Wood Grey
Grey is a trendy color in home decor, and staining cherry wood grey can give it a modern, stylish look. It’s a great way to update furniture or add a contemporary touch to your woodworking project.
To stain cherry wood grey, you’ll need a grey wood stain. Apply it in the same way as a dark stain, but be sure to wipe off the excess quickly to prevent the color from becoming too dark.
Staining Cherry Wood Lighter
While cherry wood naturally darkens over time, you might prefer a lighter color. In this case, a light stain can help maintain the wood’s lighter tones and slow the darkening process.
To stain cherry wood lighter, choose a light-colored stain, such as a natural or golden oak. Let the stain penetrate the wood, then wipe off the excess. The result is a lighter, brighter piece of cherry wood.
Best Wood to Stain to Look Like Cherry
If you love the look of cherry wood but are working with a different type of wood, a cherry wood stain can give your project the warm, rich tones of cherry.
The best woods to stain to look like cherry are those with a similar grain pattern, such as birch or maple. Apply a cherry wood stain following the same process as above, and voila – you have a piece of wood that looks remarkably like cherry.
Protective Finishes for Cherry Wood
While the beauty of cherry wood is undeniable, it’s the finish that truly makes or breaks a woodworking project. A good finish enhances the wood’s natural beauty and protects against wear and tear. Let’s explore some of the best protective finishes for cherry wood.
Finishing with Paste Wax
Paste wax is a classic finish used by woodworkers for centuries. It provides a soft, hand-rubbed sheen that enhances the wood’s natural beauty.
Benefits of Paste Wax for Cherry Wood
Paste wax is easy to apply, provides a durable finish, and can be buffed to a high shine. It also enhances the wood’s natural color and grain, giving your cherry wood project a warm, rich glow.
Application of Paste Wax
Applying paste wax to cherry wood is a simple process. Apply a thin layer of wax with a soft cloth, let it dry, then buff it with a clean cloth. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired level of shine.
General Finishes Arm-R-Seal
Arm-R-Seal is a high-quality, oil-based topcoat with a strong, durable finish. It’s an excellent choice for cherry wood projects that require a tough, protective finish.
Benefits of Using Arm-R-Seal on Cherry Wood
Arm-R-Seal enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood, providing a warm, rich finish that’s resistant to water and wear. It’s also easy to apply and dries to a smooth, durable finish.
To apply Arm-R-Seal to cherry wood, brush or wipe on a thin coat, let it dry, then lightly sand. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired level of finish.
Hope’s Tung Oil
Hope’s Tung Oil is a high-quality, pure tung oil with a beautiful, hand-rubbed finish.
Benefits and Application of Hope’s Tung Oil
Hope’s Tung Oil penetrates deep into the wood, providing durable protection from within. It also enhances the wood’s natural color and grain, giving your cherry wood project a warm, rich glow. To apply, wipe on a thin coat of oil, let it soak in, then wipe off the excess.
Use Shellac and Wax for a Foolproof Finish on Cherry Wood
For a foolproof finish that’s easy to apply and provides excellent protection, consider using a combination of shellac and wax.
Pros and Cons of Shellac and Wax
Shellac provides a beautiful, high-gloss finish and is easy to apply. Wax provides additional protection and can be buffed to a high shine. However, this combination may not be as durable as other finishes and may require more frequent maintenance.
Steps for Applying Shellac and Wax Finish
To apply a shellac and wax finish to cherry wood, first, apply a coat of shellac and let it dry. Then, apply a thin layer of wax, let it dry, and buff it to a high shine. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired level of finish.
Cherry Wood in Furniture and Cabinetry
Cherry wood is popular for furniture and cabinetry due to its strength, durability, and beautiful grain. However, the finish you choose can significantly impact your cherry wood pieces’ final look and longevity.
Finishing Cherry Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are subjected to a lot of wear and tear, so it’s crucial to choose a finish that’s durable and easy to clean. A high-quality oil-based finish or a clear polyurethane finish can provide excellent protection while enhancing the wood’s natural beauty. Remember, the finish should be applied in thin, even coats, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next.
Choosing a Finish for Cherry Furniture
The finish you choose can dramatically alter the piece’s look for cherry furniture. A clear finish will highlight the wood’s natural color and grain, while a dark stain can give the piece a more formal, sophisticated look. Consider the style of the piece and the room’s decor when choosing a finish.
Best Protectants for Cherry Wood
Protecting your cherry wood furniture and cabinets from damage is crucial to maintaining their beauty and longevity.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Protectant
When choosing a protectant for cherry wood, consider the piece’s use, environment, and the look you’re aiming for. A high-use piece like a kitchen table may require a more durable protectant than a decorative item.
Top Protectants for Cherry Wood
Some top protectants for cherry wood include oil-based finishes, clear polyurethane, and wax. Oil-based finishes penetrate the wood, protecting it within, while polyurethane provides a hard, protective surface layer. Wax can be used alone or in combination with another finish to provide an extra layer of protection.
Choosing the right finish for your cherry wood project is essential to enhance its natural beauty and provide protection against wear and tear. Consider the wood’s characteristics, the piece’s use, and the look you’re aiming for.
To maintain and protect your cherry wood pieces, clean them regularly with a soft, damp cloth and avoid using harsh chemicals.
With the right finish and proper care, your cherry wood furniture and cabinets can remain beautiful and functional for many years.