Staining a cherry wood mantelpiece
I have recently had a mantel made from a nice piece of cherry and now need to stain it. I have read that cherry doesn't take stain very evenly. Are gel stains the best? I would like it to be on the darker mahogany but not too dark and I wanted it to have an aged look (semigloss poly to finish?) that's durable and not tricky to apply as it's a fiddly piece with several different parts.
The carpenter that made it also used some sort of epoxy to smooth out some minor imperfections which have now been sanded smooth. Will they take stain diferently? I'm concerned about an uneven finish.
Lastly, does the degree of sanding impact the degree of absorption of the stain and if so what is the ideal grit to use?
Thanks very much in advance for your words of wisdom!