Staining a cherry wood mantelpiece

plantboy1December 27, 2009

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!

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I cringed twice as I was reading your post.

The first was when you wrote about staining the cherry dark. Cherry darkens naturally without staining. It seems to me to be a waste of cherry to stain it dark, when a much less expensive wood could be stained dark and look better.

The second cringe was about the epoxy. Stain only works on pourous materials. Epoxy is not porous, meaning the stain will not be absorbed at all on the epoxy.

The sanding question was a good question as sanding has a great impact on staining. Most recommendations are to sand to no more than 150 grit before applying stain. Reason being that sanding with finer grits burnishes the surface and actually impedes stain absorbtion.

I have never used gel stains simply because gel stains are more paint than stain. It may be the only recourse you have left if you wish to artificially darked your mantel.

Actually, using a shellac finish(amber) would 'age' the look better than poly.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 10:46AM
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Thanks for the response. I don't want to stain it 'dark' I realise that it darkens with age but was wondering which stain might give me a flame mahogany look or a tone that wasn't too light as all the other woods in the room are medium to dark. I have also read that cherry doesn't take stain very evenly so if not gel stains then what is best?

I also 'cringed' about the epoxy as I suspected it wouldn't absorb stain as well. Hence my post. Do I need to remove the epoxy and if so how and what do I replace it with?

Looking for constructive solutions.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 2:51PM
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A good finish for cherry:
1. A generous application of boiled linseed oil, applied, let sit for 20-30 minutes then wipe off all excess. Let cure for a few days.

2. An application of garnet shellac, wiped or sprayed on. Let dry 30 minutes or more.

3. Several coats of alkyd (non-polyurethane) varnish, a day apart and sanded lightly in between.

4. Give it time and light exposure to develop a patina and chatoyance unrivaled by trying to stain with a consumer-grade produce. Using this schedule will be far superior to anything you have in mind in your post.

You not not need a "poly" on a mantle. Poly's main feature is abrasion resistance (as on floors).

Yes, the degree of sanding does make a difference in staining. Most canned stains contain pigment that is fine particles suspended in the solution of thinner and binder. These lodge in irregularities in the wood surface. You can figure out the rest -- if you sand to the point where you are polishing the wood, there is little place for the particles to land.

As far as "some sort of epoxy," there are numerous products, but none will take stain just like the wood (if at all).

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 10:07PM
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What Bobs nephew said.

Just make sure the BLO(linseed oil) is fresh. Buying it from a paint store(real one like Sherwin Williams)helps make sure it is freah.

BLO over the shelf life often never dries.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 1:31AM
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