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Mix up about 2 teaspoons of Red Devil lye in half a pint of hot water. Not boiling, but as hot as it comes out of the tap. Note here that you should ALWAYS ADD the LYE TO the WATER, never add the water to the lye! Otherwise it can boil back in your face. It should further ALWAYS be MIXED and STORED in GLASS - never in plastic (it can melt when the lye heats the water) or metal (the lye can react violently with a variety of different metals).
Remember - lye is highly caustic. Rubber gloves are a great idea, and never never never touch any part of your face until your hands are well-rinsed afterwards. Any other soft or sensitive parts of your body, either, or anybody else's, or any pet's. Smoking isn't a great idea while you're using lye - all you need is a good lye burn on your lip to get that lesson really clear.
The lye mixture can be wiped onto the cherry with a soft rag or brush. It should be applied as evenly as you can manage, and you should leave no wet pools - they'll darken more than other areas. Brush or wipe with smooth, even strokes. If you don't want it super-dark, apply it sparingly - you can always go back and apply more to darken it further. You can also get a lighter color by mixing less lye with the water - darker by using more. Experiment on a piece of scrap first so you can familiarize yourself with the depth and speed with which the cherry will darken. You'll be surprised the first time, because it happens so fast and can attain a very dark color if applied high-strength and wet. After only about half an hour, the color should have stabilized completely. At that point you can knock off the raised grain with 600-grit sandpaper and finish... unless you plan to reapply for a darker color.
Don't mix up more than about half a pint at a time; it goes a very, very long way. Be sure to label the outside of the jar with a Sharpie pen - mark the mixture rate and warnings about its causticity. Put the jar away when you're done with it; put it away on a high shelf where kids won't get into it and pets can't knock it over.
There is a method of coloring wood with ammonia. Instead of applying the ammonia to the wood, you expose the wood to ammonia fumes. You would need to constuct a chamber (generally sheets of plastic on a wood frame) to accomplish this. This method will work with cherry (any any other wood with tannin content), but it is most commonly used with white oak. Lye and potassium dichromate are the most common chemical approaches used to color cherry.