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  • Finishing Cherry

    I’m just completing a Cherry nightstand. Soon I will be confronted with my weakness: finishing. I hate when hours of woodworking descends to mediocrity during the last steps. Any words of wisdom and/or experience?

  • #2
    This is a formula used by Don Kondra contributing editor of Canadian Home Workshop and it works great...
    25% pure tung oil, 25% spar (exterior) varnish, 50% paint thinner. 4 - 6 drops of Japan drier/cup of mix.

    Only mix as much as you expect to use in three days, it will harden even in a tightly closed glass container. The Japan drier is a catalyst to ensure two dissimilar products will dry..

    25% pure tung oil, 25% spar (exterior) varnish, 50% paint thinner. 4 - 6 drops of Japan drier/cup of mix.

    This is a combination of pure tung oil to enhance the grain and spar varnish for the durability. The added bonus of this finish is it goes on like an oil, that is you wipe it on and off with the same rag. No drips or brush marks, quick to apply and it dries dust free in twenty minutes or so. That's not much time for dust to land on the project if you don't have a dedicated finish area. And it takes up to a week to fully harden so sanding between coats is simply a matter of a quick rub with scotchbrite pads.

    I usually apply four coats to legs, aprons, etc and at least six on table tops. The coats go on fairly thin so I quit when it looks and feels "right". I normally apply one coat in the morning and another at the end of the day.

    When I feel I am done I leave it dry for two days and give it a light sanding with 600 grit. Then I take a rag slightly dampened with paint thinner and quickly wipe with the grain. This will "melt" any sanding scratches.

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    • #3
      My preference for cherry is something with tung oil....whether you mix a cocktail of your own as described by Wayne, or purhase a brand name mix from Formby's, Behr or other. One of the aspect I like about an oiled surface is that it gives a very natural looking protection you can refresh it easily from time to time.

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      • #4
        I've used equal amounts of tung oil, BLO, varnish, and mineral spirits mixed together. Works great. Put on each coat thin and wipe off just before it gets tacky. Put on as many coats as you have patience for. Use superfine steel wool to smooth out after the last coat and then wax. This makes a nice finish
        DO NOT put this on the inside of the nightstand, you will never get rid of the smell.
        www.TheWoodCellar.com

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        • #5
          Here's a link to a finish that a lot of the members of WWA use on cherry to prevent blotching. I have tried it and was happy with the results.

          http://woodworkstuff.net/KfinRude.html

          Bob R

          Edited to add:

          AND WELCOME TO THE FORUM!! Sorry I didn't notice that this was your first post.

          [ 08-16-2005, 05:05 PM: Message edited by: Bob R ]

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          • #6
            If you sand cherry fine enough you do not need shellac to avoid splotching. I sand to 400 grit and then burnish the wood before the first coat of finish. I have never had splotching.
            I would try both ways on some scrap and see what you prefer.
            www.TheWoodCellar.com

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            • #7
              Thanks to all who have shared their knowledge with me so far. I truly appreciate it. One of my concerns (and I apologize for not mentioning it in my first post) is acquiring a level of consistency between multiple pieces. I’ll be starting a bed when this nightstand is finished and am planning on making a chest of drawers in the future. Having mentioned that, do you think sealing with shellac among projects will provide greater uniformity? I can (and will) test many scraps before finishing the project, but your experiences and suggestions are all I have to go on for future consistency.

              Thanks again,
              Chris

              And Bob – thanks for the welcome. I’ve been hanging in the shadows for a month or so and decided that this seems like a productive and positive forum.

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              • #8
                Chris,

                The shellac will help some with the consistency although 2 bigger factors will probably be the color of the cherry when you buy it and the amount of time between projects. Cherry will darken with age. It may help to pre-darken your later projects by setting the cherry in the sun for a while.

                Bob R

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                • #9
                  If possible buy all the wood at once. Cherry darkens with age and exposure to sunlight. Depending how long the time span between pieces is, there's likely to be a difference in darkness for a while, but I suspect the later pieces will catch up fairly soon. You can always put them in the sun for a few hours to season them.

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                  • #10
                    My concern stems from my source of lumber. Most of my current project’s wood came from a single board (okay, now let’s see if I can insert an image):



                    The cherry that I purchased to complete the project started lighter, but darkened amazingly fast in the sunlight. However, it has a significantly different “feel” to it when I work it. That is the point when I started worrying about equal absorption of a penetrating stain between parts within the nightstand. Perhaps I should be satisfied with an even, unblotched finish and let time (and sunlight) even out the color differences between the projects.

                    Regardless, the suggestions will give me an opportunity to try a few new techniques and (hopefully) begin to address my weakness: finishing.

                    Now I just need to find someplace to store about 150 bd ft of cherry where my wife won't see it.

                    [ 08-18-2005, 03:50 PM: Message edited by: cjh20 ]

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                    • #11
                      cjh20

                      The wood you chose looks great! I have worked a bit with cherry in my humble litle garage/workshop. I made 2 night tables, 2 dressers and a queen sized bed. In particular, the bed had some sapwood I had to deal with. I did not want to trim it off since there was some rather striking curl in the grain pattern that I wished to retain.
                      So, what I did was I applied an analine dye to the cherry then applied a light gel stain over top the dye. The color of the dye had the effect of darkening (with a red tone) the cherry and the gel stain gave me the exact color I was looking for. It also evened the sap/heart wood difference. I had absolutely no problems with splotching. The 'purist' in me had a problem with applying stain (or dye for that matter) over such beautiful wood, but my customer/wife was after a specific color to match our other furniture. I then applied my finish and I was pleased. My wife must have liked it as well, because she let me bring them into the house!

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                      • #12
                        Thanks for all the help....
                        I hope this photo isn't too big:



                        [ 09-02-2005, 09:14 PM: Message edited by: cjh20 ]

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                        • #13
                          Very nice work. Good finish.
                          www.TheWoodCellar.com

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                          • #14
                            Chris,

                            Looks great! How did you finish it?

                            Bob R

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                            • #15
                              I suppose the finishing started with hours sanding and using cabinet scrapers. Then used 1# cut of shellac (following Bob’s site). From there things varied by part. Most of the exterior was the tung oil/varnish/thinner suggested by Wayne. The interior was just Watco Danish oil (just as easy, not seen and less smell: thanks for the warning Rafael). The drawer front and top ended up being made from Makore. For those I used pure tung oil and multiple coats of lacquer. The oil/urethane mix would act like tung oil (imagine that!) and after several coats, not accept anymore. I was worried about the durability of the top, so decided on a lacquer top coat, but couldn’t use a urethane mix with lacquer on top, so went with just tung oil. Overall, it was a great learning experience. Also my first set of dovetails.

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