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Finishing Tips & Project Help from Your Friendly Lumber Supplier

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We took to the shop to find the most succulent cherry finish that will make your project stand out from the crowd.

Cherry is a peculiar wood. Unlike the distinct pale white of maple, or the rich dark of walnut, cherry exists in a constant state of flux. You’ll see muted pale fresh planed boards, light-to-medium golden aged boards, and even rich brownish-red well-aged projects.

That wide range of color is all thanks to cherry’s sponge-like effect with the sun. That’s to say, fresh sawn cherry might surprise you just how pale it is, while a 5 year old cherry dresser would hardly resemble the same wood. That’s why more customers are caught off guard seeing pale cherry, than woodworkers getting splinters from Wenge.

Natural Cherry Wood Boards

This color variation isn’t a bad thing though. While cherry may be pale when fresh cut, choosing how to age and finish your project can greatly affect the color down the road.

So what approach should you take with your next cherry project? We took to the shop and applied a few of our favorite finishes to help you decide.

Cherry Wood Finishes
  1. Boiled Linseed Oil
    • PROs –  Provides a warm or aged, reddish look on cherry; can be top coated with a clear finish to improve protection; simple wipe-on/off application.
    • Cons – Not durable by itself; long dry time; caustic odor; soaked rags are hazardous until dry; dense cherry grain tends to blotch.
  2. Tung Oil Varnish Blend
    • PROs – Gives a similar look as boiled linseed oil, but the varnish adds a tough protective coating if enough coats are applied; reduced blotching; simple wipe-on/off application
    • Cons – long dry time; caustic odor; oaked rags are hazardous until dry; dense cherry grain blotches a little.
  3. General Finishes Arm-R-Seal
    • PROs – Virtually crystal clear color; easy wipe-on application; build multiple coats for a tough coating; flat, satin, semi, or gloss sheens are available; easy to repair down the road.
    • Cons – Multiple coats required for good protection.
  4. Clear Dewaxed Shellac
    • PROs – Gives cherry a natural look; dries crystal clear; any finish can be applied over it for a tougher top coat; easy to apply.
    • Cons – Not a durable finish by itself.
  5. Clear Dewaxed Shellac w/ Dark Brown Glaze
    • PROs – Reduces the contrast between heartwood and sapwood; can be (should be) top coated with a more durable clear finish if desired; allows the grain and character of cherry to show.
    • Cons – Requires additional work.


Marketing Manage – Woodworkers Source
We’re a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees.
Corey oversees marketing in store and online for Woodworkers Source. He’s a sucker for dark hardwoods like Walnut and Wenge, yet has a soft spot for Canarywood.


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