Finish for Cherry Desk top - Router Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 05:08 AM Thread Starter
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Default Finish for Cherry Desk top

I'm near completion of a desk - cypress structure, cherry top. When finishing projects, I like to use mineral oil or boiled linseed oil. They bring out colors nicely and are very easy to use. I know that they give different results with different woods. This is the first time that I am using cherry. What finish would you recommend for the cherry top? I'm not concerned about alcohol marks, I can be pretty disciplined about water marks from hot or cold drinks (but spills can happen) so main issue is wear and tear of moving things around on the desk. I'd also like to minimize darkening over time.
Ideas and experience?
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 05:31 AM
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I won't recommend a finish, it's your project, so I figure the finish choice is up to you. I have a small book case of solid cherry that I made in 1954. Finish was varnish. This has held up very well. However, the wood has darkened over time, as cherry is wont to do. I don't think you can prevent darkening.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 07:13 AM
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There is no real way to stop the darkening of cherry, just the nature of the beast. You can slow down the process by keeping your work out of direct sunlight.

Cherry is prone to blotching. The darkening or clouding up of the softer tissues in the wood when a stain/finish is applied. A quality blotch control, pre-conditioner is strongly suggested prior to any staining/finishing. Charles Neil makes the product I use. Easy to apply with great results. It works as advertised. Not sure what you may have available where your at.


Do a youtube search on "blotch control" to learn more about it. Something well worth learning about.
I"m not a big fan of staining unless it is necessary. I like to let the natural beauty of the wood speak for itself. If you do stain, experiment on several pieces of the same wood you are using to get a real feel for what the end result will be.
While you may be diligent about avoiding water marks, the potential exists. As well as dings and scratches. For a table or desk top at a minimum I'd suggest a good Laquer schedule topcoat. Easy to apply, easy to maintain and repair if necessary. A polyurethane is much more durable and an excellent choice for high traffic items. A bit more difficult to touch up but provides excellent protection. Both of these can be brought up to a high gloss finish if desired. A little more work/time but man, well worth the effort!

A de-waxed shellac is another option you might consider. Easy to apply, maximizes transparency when using blonde or platinum blonde shellacs.

Before deciding on what course you want to take, EXPERIMENT first.

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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by TwoSkies57 View Post
There is no real way to stop the darkening of cherry, just the nature of the beast. You can slow down the process by keeping your work out of direct sunlight.

Cherry is prone to blotching. The darkening or clouding up of the softer tissues in the wood when a stain/finish is applied. A quality blotch control, pre-conditioner is strongly suggested prior to any staining/finishing. Charles Neil makes the product I use. Easy to apply with great results. It works as advertised. Not sure what you may have available where your at.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfCYMdrP8rM

Do a youtube search on "blotch control" to learn more about it. Something well worth learning about.
I"m not a big fan of staining unless it is necessary. I like to let the natural beauty of the wood speak for itself. If you do stain, experiment on several pieces of the same wood you are using to get a real feel for what the end result will be.
While you may be diligent about avoiding water marks, the potential exists. As well as dings and scratches. For a table or desk top at a minimum I'd suggest a good Laquer schedule topcoat. Easy to apply, easy to maintain and repair if necessary. A polyurethane is much more durable and an excellent choice for high traffic items. A bit more difficult to touch up but provides excellent protection. Both of these can be brought up to a high gloss finish if desired. A little more work/time but man, well worth the effort!

A de-waxed shellac is another option you might consider. Easy to apply, maximizes transparency when using blonde or platinum blonde shellacs.

Before deciding on what course you want to take, EXPERIMENT first.
I used the Charles Neil preconditioner on western maple to prevent blotching and it did an excellent job.
On cherry I use Shellac sealer and then clear acrylic finish. It will darken with age to a beautiful mellow brown.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 09:01 AM
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I think something that gets as much use as a desk top needs a varnish finish. I use a lot of cherry and I've had good luck with Waterlox Original. It is made with real tung oil, which gives an oiled look to the wood. I thin the first couple of coats with mineral spirits to get it deeper in the wood and bring out the grain. If the final finish is too shiny, top off with Waterlox Satin.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 09:22 AM
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Aside from the blotching and protective coatings issues, try Mohawk's 'Radiant Series stains...the 'Chianti' is drop-dead gorgeous!
Designer Stains Radiant Series - Mohawk Finishing
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 01:20 PM
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My favorite finis of all time is 50% Turpentine and 50% Boiled Linseed Oil. I learned about this finish in High School about 50 years ago and still use it to this day. Nothing will bring out the grain like this finish. The Turpentine keeps the stickiness out of the Linseed Oil and allows you to put a clear varnish finish on it

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 04:30 PM Thread Starter
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And here I thought that I was asking a simple question. Should have known better - no simple answers in woodworking, that's part of the fun.
Thanks for all the input.
Please help me focus. I do not intend to use a stain - just want to bring out the grain and color of the cherry and protect it. Is blotching still an issue using mineral oil or boiled linseed? Would tung oil give significantly different result? Is blotching a problem with shellac - well-thinned blond? I've used water-based acrylic lacquer on other projects - how wll it fare with cherry?
I know that the bottom line is to experiment- just want limit the choices with forum members' knowledge and experience.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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I appreciate the recommendations of brand names, but they are not commonly available in Israel (I haven't seen them, but then again haven't looked specifically for them).
Going back over your answers, I am thinking of putting a few together:
1. 2-3 coats of 50-50 turpentine-mineral oil mixture (would tung oil be better?)
2. a coat or two of tung oil(?)
3. a couple of coats of water-based acrylic lacquer.
4. wax (beeswax/carnauba/turpentine)
Does this make sense?
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2017, 07:19 PM
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Hank.. given what your thinking...

IMHO PURE tung oil is the way to go..... Tung oil doesn't really "dry", it actually "cures". six of one, half dozen of the other I suppose. But you can build up a finish with Pure Tung oil. Just give plenty of time to cure between applications. Follow mfg's. instructions closely! Usually a week between coats is safe. PTO is kind of like polyurethane when applying multiple coats. One coat builds atop of the previous coat. Kind of like having two distinct layers. Whereas a lacquer melds with the previous coat. Here two applications will give you what amounts to a single layer. Type of application can vary from right out of the can to diluting the first coat with mineral spirits/turpentine and then applying successfully 'purer' applications (less thinner). Sanding lightly between coats.
Be careful sanding between coats of PTO. You can sand too far. When you do, you get what is known as ghosting or witness lines. This happens when you sand thru the upper layer and into the layer below.

by now, you should be getting the idea. Do your homework. Bob Flexner wrote what I consider one of the best books of finishing: "Flexner on Finishing"...its a good read, not overtly scientific, rather a more practical approach to numerous types of finishes. A little history and alot of how-to. A book you will reference to for years to come.

A good high grade furniture wax for a top coat will work fine. Carnuba is good stuff, but costly when compared to others. Minwax Regular finishing wax and clear Briwax are two good choices I like, Claphams Beeswax is good stuff but ore suited for food grade applications IMO...

OH, btw.. yep... use a blotch control/pre-conditioner!

It ain't rocket science, but you do have to follow a specific schedule to achieve the best possible finish, regardless of what you do. Spend a little time and do some reading up on what you want to do. Gather your materials together and get some leftover scraps from your desk to experiment with. Cut up some test squares and have at it.

Got any questions along the way, dont' hesitate to ask. Alot of folks around here know how to throw down a great finish. Their more than happy to share their knowledge with you.

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