Staining Poplar to Resemble Cherry

      Building with Cherry to begin with would be easier. But here is advice on staining Poplar for a Cherry look. September 25, 2014

Tomorrow I have a bed frame coming into my shop made out of poplar (supposedly all white to blond) that the customer wants stained to match their clear satin CV finished cherry casework. In preparation I spent the last three hours of my work day dyeing and staining a blond and green with umber streaks piece of poplar and getting nowhere. So the question is; does anybody have a dye, stain, tone/shade schedule for doing this?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
One of the tricks here is do they want it like fresh cherry, or ten year old cherry? The older shade will be much easier of course. Just thinking out loud, sorry can't help with an exact schedule. I'm thinking you will want to start with dyes, but it's going to be tough to get that salmon/green tint of fresh cherry. Maybe some really light toner after the base dye to kill some of the sharp tone of the dye.

From Contributor G

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Always cracks me up when people ask you to do this. Usually thinking they are going to be saving money. Never realizing the labor going into this far outweighs the price of having it built in cherry in the first place. Since poplar's grain is similar to cherry already put a clear coat over the whole thing. Mix up a cherry toner, again, at whatever age you want for the wood to look. Pink-ish if new and orange-ish if aged. Spray on the toner to the desired opacity and then clear coat. Don't try to stain or dye the poplar, it'll just blotch.

From contributor M:
Before you go through a painstaking process of sealing, toning, shading, etc. try Sherwin Williams classic fruitwood wiping stain (Sherwood). I've matched some cherry very well with just the stain. It's the only one I've found that doesn't blotch and gives a nice color to poplar.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all again. I ended up using Contributor Gs method and it worked out well (customer thought I walked on water, I saw room for improvement in my work). I hope there isn't a next time but if there is I may go with a pale grey almost white toner first just to even things out and hopefully neutralize the green before applying the cinnamon toner.

From Contributor G

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We will always see a way to improve our work. If you are good, that is the nature of your beast. I'm glad it worked out for you.

From contributor R:
The best bet is to spec poplar without streaks (you can do this with a slight upcharge). Then you don't have to deal with brown, black or green streaks which need to either be bleached out or base color painted and then faux grained. I have done many of these jobs and always spray on a dye stain first to get the base color of the cherry. If you seal and tone where ever there is a scratch it will be white. If you apply a base stain first it will not be so obvious and much easier to touch up. Since the poplar is very prone to blotching or burning the trick is to not spray the stain on so wet that it puddles just a nice even application.

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