Brown Finish for Cherry Cabinets

Advice on a stain for Cherry that will darken the color but preserve the characteristic look of the grain. May 15, 2012

I have started a set of cherry cabinets. The customer wants them a pretty brown color Ė not a redish color. Can anyone tell me there is a color out there that will give me what I want or will I have to get something blended up?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor U:
I've just recently switched over to Sherwin Williams Sherwood stains and really like them. They have some stock colors that are a nice brown.

From contributor R:
Choose a stain that has a tint opposite red on the color wheel. I use something that is slightly green, like walnut, or do a very subtle green dye first. I also use aniline dyes in water, MeOH, or Acetone and spray a dilute coat initially and stain over. I also prefer to shoot dye stain on cherry since it will blotch easily.

From contributor S:
Sorry, but I have to ask the obvious here: Why did you pay extra for cherry if you didn't want it to look like cherry? You could have made it out of maple, and then stained it to whatever you wanted.

From the original questioner:
I am not trying to hide the cherry I have seen some beautiful brownish color cherry cabinets but don't know what color of stain they used. Besides, it makes the customer feel a little better knowing they paid a little more for the cherry.

From contributor H:
We just finished 30 8' passage doors and frame/casing in cherry. The customer also did not want red. Sanded to 150, gray/green wash stain, seven coats of the stain turned into shader. Killed the red for now (it will return) and it is very readable and works well with their cool toned house. We used a green dye with a Van Dyke dye to get the greed/grey mix. It looks great (at least the customer thinks so). It is a sin what we did to the cherry considering it will be red in a few months anyway.

From contributor M:
I second the Sherwood wiping stains. They work great on woods that have a tendency to blotch like cherry. Do not use Minwax to try and get your color on cherry. You have some odd customers "knowing they spent a little more on cherry" when you could probably achieve the same color (and look like cherry) on poplar or soft maple for 1/4 of the cost.

From contributor U:
It's obvious that cherry costs more and I have used soft maple and poplar to achieve a cherry (red) look. Make no mistake about it, the grain is not the same. Maple and poplar doesn't have the same grain and I've done cherry in a chocolate color and there is a different look to it. If you decide to use the Sherwood stain, I suggest you mix one part stain to three parts Tolulene and spray a good wet coat on it. Watch and don't spray so much that it puddles.

From the original questioner:
What is toluene?

From contributor U:
Tolulene is a solvent, it evaporates really fast. I would imagine itís something like Naptha. I don't know a whole lot about it but the Sherwood label says you can thin the stain with mineral spirits, Naptha, or Tolulene. My tech guy at the distributer said to not use mineral spirits because it was too oily, which I knew, and they don't carry Naptha, so Tolulene it was. By spraying the stain/Tolulene mix I was able to get the most even color that I have ever achieved. For the last 13 years I have only wiped stains but I'm definitely switching to the Sherwood and spraying.

From contributor R:
Toluene is a benzene derivative (CH3) and is less volatile than acetone and has been known to make people stupid. Neurodegenerative properties are known. The nice thing about acetone is it acts like both a polar and non-polar solvent and is very volatile.

From contributor M:
You can add Naphtha to just about any industrial oil based wiping stain and use it as a spray only stain. I do this with Valspar, MLC, and a locally made stain. Basically, if itís one of the "fast dry" stains (30 minutes), it can be done, but obviously experiment with a new brand before doing a complete project. Tolulene is a solvent that is typically used in lacquer thinners. Try and find some Naphtha, I have found it works a little better than the others.

From contributor P:
I always wipe my first coat of stain, and using a stain with a green cast will neutralize come of the red. I like to use a gel stain on cherry and maple particularly. Old Masters is my preferencee. After that if you want to darken the color or alter it, use a mist coat sprayed. Make samples and get signatures and dates.

From contributor E:
Have you thought of maybe blending a red/orange coat with a little fuchsia? That might be a way to reapply a fresh coat without having to completely reface the cabinets.