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Darkening Cherry
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Cherry is an extremely popular wood among woodworkers and among people who just like nice looking furniture and cabinets.  Unfortunately, cherry lumber straight from the lumber yard lacks the beautiful, deep reddish-brown color that it's famous for.  Instead, when it's "fresh," cherry has an almost salmon tone that looks anemic to most eyes.  It only darkens with age.

As you might expect, many woodworkers don't want to sit around and wait for their cherry stock to darken naturally; they want to know how they can speed up the process.  Below,  Rob Johnstone and Michael Dresdner consider one of  the more inventive methods for darkening cherry the fast way.

Q. Ok this might sound dumb, but can you use a tanning bed to darken cherry? It's late so be kind if I'm having brain drain.

A. Rob Johnstone :"I haven't a clue - but yes, it sure sounds dumb!"

A. Michael Dresdner: "Yes -- you can also use your old black lights from those halcyon days of Day-Glo posters. Better yet, if you know someone who is using UV cured finishes, the chamber will quickly deepen cherry."

From the Woodworker's Journal eZine 2002 archives

Another easy way to solve the pale cherry problem is to give the wood a light coat of cherry wood stain before applying the final clear finish.  Variations of this method have been a favorite of the commercial cabinet and furniture industry for years.

If you choose this solution, use a high quality wood stain and consider using a pre-stain conditioner beforehand.  Untreated cherry tends to stain-up a little blotchy.  The conditioner will help even out the stain's appearance. It will also inhibit absorption of the stain somewhat and help you keep from blotting out any of the often striking grain pattern of the wood.

posted on July 19, 2006 by Rockler
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4 thoughts on “Darkening Cherry”

  • I was just reading the July 19,20o6 posted by Blog on how to darken cherry under a tanning bed or black light, would this work on black walnut too?

  • Blog Editor

    My understanding is that walnut is not strongly affected by light, but will actually lighten slightly over time. <br /><br />Please add a comment if you have more or other information...

  • Chris

    Does this really work? I am going to sell my house in a month and I need to quickly remove a light spot where the rug was!

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team February 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Yes, it does work and may be worth a try. Unfortunately, getting the lighter floor to blend seamlessly into the darker color is likely to pose a significant challenge. Sanding and refinishing will do the trick, but we understand if that's not the answer you're looking for.

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