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how to finish new cherry cabinets

Posted by vlcsdps97 (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 25, 09 at 6:35

Hello everyone. My wife and I are having our new cherry cabinets built by capenters who live in the local Amish community. We have great faith in the cabinet builders, although (due to saw dust, etc) we do not feel comfortable having the new cabinets "finished" at their location. Although I am willing (and able w/ some prior guidance) to do the "finishing" myself, the thought of doing so is intimidating. My wife and I had chosen a medium tone chery finish in many of the commercial brochues. Any guidance and honest / constructive opinions will be GREATLY apppeciated.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Among the chatter in the link is a good procedure for cherry.

I would avoid a "stain" as cherry can be prone to blotching with pigmented stains. It has such a beautiful natural color on its own that is difficult to replicate with stuff from a can.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cherry finish

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Thank you vey much for the reply and helpful link. I appeciate it vey much. The more I learn the more I believe natural is the best way to go.

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Finishing *is* hard and time-consuming. Some people like that and others hate it. Don't go into this project thinking you'll be done in a weekend or two.

Most woodworkers that also apply finishes have a clean room that keeps wood dust off the finish. Do you have any reason to suspect that your craftsmen won't do a good finish, other than the idea that their surroundings are dusty? Can you speak to other customers or see samples of their finishing work?

Good luck!

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Deft Clear Wood Finish is now even marked as 'Brushing Lacquer.'

It is actually easy to apply, and easy to repair (or fix the occasional 'oops' during finishing.

It dries to dust free in a very few minutes (sometimes fast enough to even need more retarder).

It is an 'outdoor' application product.
Lacquer fumes are potent and penetrating.

It will take at least 2-3 coats depending on the look you are after.

If you use the full gloss it can easily be reduced after complete drying to a lower gloss level (the semi cannot be raised to a higher gloss though).

It has a very slight yellow cast that looks good on cherry and other darker woods.

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

You are aware that the cherry is going to darken naturally, over time? No matter what finish you apply.

That Deft brickeyee wrote about sounds good---but you will need a dust/bug free outside enclosure---and a good filter mask.

I'd be much more inclined to have the craftsmen who make the cabinets do the finifhing---they will have/know of the correct procedure.

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Regular lacquer, like Deft, is fine for interior woodworking like bookshelves, dressers, etc. But it will not stand up to water over time. Deft is not a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

"But it will not stand up to water over time. Deft is not a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms."

Lacquer is fine for even kitchen cabinets if you put enough coats on to make a good film.

If the film is not thick enough water WILL find its way through the defects in the finish and cause peeling.

I usually use Deft in my garage with the door open.
The very short drying time to dust free allows it to be used without a lot of protection.

Sometimes I even save larger projects for winter.
The cold eliminates any chance of insects, and also extends the drying time without having to add retarder.

In hot weather lacquer is almost as hard to apply as shellac.
It dries almost instantly and requires careful brush technique to apply a decent finish.
Going back over an area does NOT work.

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Dude, You are spamming whether or not you will admit it. If you stop putting your website link as a sig in every post you make, it would go a long way toward establishing yourself as a helpful poster instead of a shill.

To the OP: my favorite finish for cherry is a lye stained finish. It gives cherry instant age in a way that isn't blotchy, and has amazing depth. It chemically changes the color of the wood fibers, so there is no pigment of any kind to prevent the play of light across the wood. It is a very "alive" finish. It emphasizes the grain rather than clouding it with stain. Unfortunately, it's very high-labor project. But worth the result IMO.
The frames of this cabinet are cherry stained with lye. (panels are maple)

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

Casey, quit making us jealous with your stunning woodwork.

Seriously, though, are you willing to share your lye recipe?

Thanks in advance,


RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

You need to find lye. Used to be able to buy at hardware store, but no more. It's chemical name is sodium hydroxide. Drano was made with lye with colorant and aluminum flakes added, so that was no good. Straight red devil lye was what I used. Mix into a few gallons of water, apply lye with a nylon brush. Cherry turns very dark on contact. After a few moments, neutralize the caustic with an acid. I used white vinegar (this is truly kitchen science!). Then rinse with water. The wood needs to fully dry back out. When dry, you can sand or scrape the surface back to smooth. I then oiled and shellacked. This was done on the faceframe after assembly, but the door had to be done unassembled, because I did not want the maple to be lye-d.
If you neutralize, any finish should be OK. This cabinet was built in '97, and the original finish is as you see it (picture taken May 08).


RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

bobsyouruncle provided a link with excellent advice. It sounds overwhelming, but read through it a couple of times and you'll see it is not that tough.
To simplify things and achieve a consistent finish, I mix the boiled (NOT RAW) linseed oil with 3 parts mineral spirits. I slop it on, let it dry, then repeat - twice again if the wood soaks it up. When dry, I buff off the residue using a cloth slightly damp with mineral spirits.
You can get a great looking finish by varnishing (real varnish, high gloss, not polyurethane) and then rubbing down the dry finish with the finest steel wool available dampened with the linseed oil/mineral spirits mixture. It gives a soft finish and allows the beginner to rub-out minor runs.
I would be very cautious about having the woodworker apply the finish. Make sure you see samples of his finishes before letting him do it. You can end up with a spray-on color and polyurethane.
If you do it yourself, get a bunch of scraps from the woodworker and practice first.

what did you decide?

Just curious what you decided to do with your cabinets? Lots of advise here.

RE: how to finish new cherry cabinets

I'm interested, too! :)

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