The Best Finish for Cherry Wood

Cherry wood, a hardwood species native to North America, is a favorite among woodworkers and furniture makers. Its rich, reddish-brown hue, straight grain, and smooth texture make it a standout choice for crafting everything from cabinets to musical instruments. The wood’s natural luster and fine grain allow it to take a finish exceptionally well, enhancing its inherent beauty.

Cherry wood is also known for its unique aging process, often called “patina.” Over time, exposure to light deepens its color, transforming it from a light pinkish-brown to a darker, richer red. This characteristic, coupled with its strength and stability, makes cherry wood a sought-after material in the woodworking industry.

The Importance of Finishing Cherry Wood

Finishing cherry wood is not just a final touch; it’s a crucial step in the woodworking process. A good finish protects the wood from damage, enhances its appearance, and extends its lifespan.

Protection is the primary reason for finishing cherry wood. A finish is a barrier against environmental factors such as moisture, heat, and UV rays, which can cause the wood to warp, crack, or fade. It also protects the wood from everyday wear and tear, helping it withstand scratches and spills.

Enhancing the wood’s appearance is another significant benefit of finishing. A well-applied finish can accentuate the wood’s grain, deepen its color, and add a beautiful sheen. It can also help to even out the color variations common in cherry wood, creating a more uniform look.

Lastly, a good finish contributes to the longevity of cherry wood pieces. By protecting the wood and enhancing its natural properties, a finish can help your cherry wood furniture or project look beautiful for years, even decades, to come.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the different types of finishes available for cherry wood and how to choose the best one for your project. Stay tuned!

Different Types of Finishes for Cherry Wood

Choosing the right finish for cherry wood can be like picking the perfect topping for your favorite dessert. It’s all about enhancing the natural flavor, or in this case, the natural beauty of the wood. Several finishes are suitable for cherry wood, each with unique benefits and drawbacks. Let’s explore some of the most popular ones: oil, stain, varnish, lacquer, and wax.

Oil Finish for Cherry Wood

Oil finishes like linseed and tung oil are popular for cherry wood. They penetrate deep into the wood, enhancing its grain and giving it a warm, rich glow. The best oil for cherry wood? That’s subjective and depends on the look you’re going for. Linseed oil darkens the wood, while tung oil gives it a more golden hue.

But what about mineral oil? Can you use mineral oil on cherry wood? Absolutely! Mineral oil is a great option if you’re looking for a food-safe finish for items like cutting boards or salad bowls. However, remember that it doesn’t harden like other oils, so it requires more frequent reapplication.

Stain Finish for Cherry Wood

Staining cherry wood can be a bit tricky due to its tight grain and natural color variations. However, a stain can give your cherry wood project a completely new look with the right technique. The question is, what stain looks best on cherry wood? A light, natural stain can enhance the wood’s rich red tones, while a darker stain can give it a more dramatic, antique look. It’s all about personal preference.

Varnish Finish for Cherry Wood

Varnish is a durable finish that provides excellent protection against moisture and wear. It’s a blend of oil and resin that dries to a hard, glossy finish, making it a good choice for furniture and other high-use items. Applying varnish to cherry wood can enhance its natural luster and make the grain pop. However, applying evenly can be challenging, so it’s best suited for those with some finishing experience.

Lacquer Finish for Cherry Wood

Lacquer is another durable finish that’s often used on cherry wood. It dries quickly, provides a high-gloss finish, and is easy to apply with a spray gun. Lacquer can give cherry wood a sleek, modern look, but it doesn’t penetrate the wood as deeply as oil or varnish. This means it may not enhance the grain as much but provides excellent surface protection.

Wax Finish for Cherry Wood

Last but not least, we have wax. Wax finishes are easy to apply, giving cherry wood a soft, natural sheen. They’re not as durable as some of the other finishes we’ve discussed, but they’re great for enhancing the wood’s texture and providing a bit of surface protection. Plus, wax finishes are easy to maintain and can be reapplied as needed to keep your cherry wood looking its best.

How to Finish Cherry Wood

Finishing cherry wood is an art that requires patience, precision, and a bit of elbow grease. But the result? A stunning piece of woodwork that showcases the natural beauty of cherry wood. So, how do you finish cherry wood? Let’s break it down step by step.

Preparing Cherry Wood for Finishing

Before you even consider applying a finish, you must prepare the wood. This means sanding. Is cherry wood easy to sand? Absolutely! Cherry wood’s fine grain and smooth texture make it a joy to work with. Start with a coarse-grit sandpaper to level the surface, then gradually work up to a fine-grit paper for a smooth finish. Remember to always sand along the grain to avoid scratches.

Applying the Finish

Now, onto the fun part: applying the finish. The process will vary depending on the finish type, but let’s discuss how to finish cherry wood with tung oil, as it’s a popular choice.

  1. Clean the Wood: Wipe the wood with a damp cloth to remove dust or debris from sanding. Let it dry completely.
  2. Apply the Tung Oil: Using a clean, lint-free cloth, apply a thin layer of tung oil to the wood. Work in small sections, rubbing the oil into the wood along the grain.
  3. Let it Soak: Allow the oil to soak into the wood for 15-30 minutes, then wipe off any excess with a clean cloth.
  4. Repeat: For a deeper finish, you can apply additional coats. Just let the oil dry for at least 24 hours between coats.

Curing and Aftercare

Once you’ve applied your finish, it’s not quite time to kick back and admire your work. Most finishes need to cure, or harden, before the wood is ready for use. The curing time will depend on the type of finish, but for tung oil, you’re looking at about 7-10 days.

Aftercare is also crucial to keep your cherry wood looking its best. Regular dusting with a soft cloth can help maintain the finish, and spills should be wiped up immediately to prevent staining. With proper care, your cherry wood piece can stay beautiful for years.

In conclusion, finishing cherry wood may require some time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it. Whether you’re a seasoned woodworker or a DIY enthusiast, you can achieve a professional-looking finish on your cherry wood projects with the right tools and techniques. Happy woodworking!

Common Mistakes When Finishing Cherry Wood and How to Avoid Them

Finishing cherry wood can be a rewarding experience, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Here are some common mistakes woodworkers make and how you can avoid them:

Rushing the Sanding Process: Sanding is crucial for a smooth finish. If you rush this step or skip it altogether, your finish may look uneven or blotchy. Take your time with sanding, starting with a coarse-grit sandpaper and gradually moving to a finer grit for a smooth surface.

Not Testing the Finish: Cherry wood can vary in color, and a finish that looks great on one piece might not work well on another. Always test the finish on a scrap piece of wood before applying it to your project.

Applying Too Much Finish: More is not always better for wood finishes. Applying too much can lead to a sticky surface and longer drying times. It’s better to apply several thin coats, allowing each one to dry before applying the next.

Cherry Wood Finish Reviews

There are numerous cherry wood finish products on the market, each with its unique properties. Here are a few top picks:

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat: This topcoat penetrates deep into the wood, providing a durable finish that’s perfect for high-use items like tables and cabinets. It enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood and is easy to apply.

Minwax Antique Oil Finish: This finish gives cherry wood a warm, antique look. It’s easy to apply and dries to a hard, durable surface.

Watco Danish Oil Finish: This oil finish penetrates deep into the wood, enhancing the grain and giving cherry wood a rich, natural glow. It’s easy to apply and provides a durable finish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best durable finish for cherry?
Varnish and lacquer are both excellent choices for a durable finish. They provide a hard, protective surface that can withstand daily use.

How do you treat cherry wood furniture?
Regular dusting with a soft cloth can help maintain the finish. Spills should be wiped up immediately to prevent staining.

How to darken cherry wood?
Cherry wood naturally darkens over time when exposed to light. You can also use a dark stain or oil to darken the wood.

What is a natural finish for cherry wood?
Oil finishes, like linseed oil or tung oil, provide a natural finish that enhances the wood’s grain and color. They penetrate deep into the wood, providing protection and a warm, natural glow.


Finishing cherry wood may seem daunting, but you can achieve a professional-looking result with the right tools and techniques. Remember to take your time with sanding, test your finish, and apply it in thin, even coats. And don’t forget to choose a finish that enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood and provides the durability you need for your project.

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